The pod is white and sleek, like an AirPod sized for King Kong, and the water inside, rich with more than 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt. Float Seattle promises "relaxation, healing, personal growth" in return for a full hour inside the orb, 60 long minutes without the sensation of sound or surface.

Does it work? By the end of the session at the Greenwood location of this local chain, my answer is a definite...maybe.

Float Seattle launched in 2012, but flotation therapy dates back to the mid-twentieth century, when a neurophysiological researcher named John Lilly posited that suspending the body in supersaturated salt water could reveal brain activity without outside stimuli. (Lilly's Guardian obituary calls him a "veteran of thousands of drug-induced near-death experiences," but the popularity of his flotation system has proven much safer than his LSD experimentation.) Today Seattle has dedicated outposts like Float Seattle—where first-timers pay $45—and Urban Float, as well as individual float rooms in massage studios and spas.

Each session begins with a thorough shower and earplug insertion. Then it's into the pod, a $32,500 piece of hardware complete with an optional starry-night sky and a filtration system to cleanse water four times between users. With head room to spare, claustrophobia isn't inevitable—though larger, closet-sized versions at Seattle Float's South Lake Union and Greenlake outposts offer even more elbow room.

Floaters recline in just 10 inches of water, the buoyancy thanks to the massive amount of dissolved magnesium sulfate. "More salt than the Dead Sea," says Dean Parris, owner and facilities and operations manager of Float Seattle. Adrift in my pod, every twitch causes a drift toward the sides of the tub; prone to fidgeting, I feel like a manatee bobbing in a wading pool. Even in the dark, true sensory deprivation remains elusive.

Float Seattle's orbs missed their true calling as a set piece on the inevitable 2001: A Space Odyssey reboot.

"Everyone's hour is different," says the Float Seattle staffer during orientation. She also notes that it usually takes three or so sessions to get the hang of it, hence the studio's monthly memberships. But even without reaching a meditative state, a float session provides a novel experience: boredom. Not the ennui that comes from doomscrolling on a phone or flipping through Netflix offerings, but actual dead time devoid of tasks, entertainment, or even input on how much longer it will last.

Float Seattle also offers infrared saunas, which use light rather than hot rocks, a kind of floating pre-game. "It stimulates you at a cellular level, so you're heating up internally and get hot real fast," says Parris. "It excites the water molecules in your cells." It sounds like voluntarily becoming a human Hot Pocket, but the experience itself differs little from an old-fashioned sauna: warmth, sweat, loose limbs.

Paired together, a sauna and float session is undeniably relaxing, a forced ritual in unplugging. Science backs up the whole "healing" claim; a German trial published in 2021 showed that flotation-REST (restricted environmental stimulation therapy) had short-term effects on chronic pain versus a placebo group that got regular old rest.

That "personal growth" advertised on the door? Impossible to measure and hard to disprove—though during my own float hour I mentally outlined one work assignment and planned an upcoming beach vacation. I exited with a reset that felt akin to the afterglow of a good massage. After all, there are worse things than spending an hour as a listless manatee.

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