I really looked forward to this experience, As I entered I was not greeted but left alone in a small reception area for which seemed like quite a long time, I too was not asked any questions ab out my health or even my name ! I didn't feel confident when shown the actual room, it was a very dimly lit, hot and I mean hot, room with a shower and another door on the other side,one door had a flimsy lock on it and the other no lock at all.wasn't happy with that, considering you're going to get naked at some point. The lady showed me the float room which smelled very strongly of chlorine, that and the heat were already making me feel a little light headed. The floor was sloppy. and covered in salt. I was shown and told to shower before and after and to use ear plugs. Alone at last I got into the float room, the first thing I notice is it feels odd and takes a while to get used to, I put my ears plugs in and try the neck pillow and lie back into the nice warm water, the neck pillow is really hurting my neck and shoulders and I can't keep my ear plugs in, so try without, my neck and shoulders still ache and the ear plugs still won't stay in, I can hear traffic and someone walking about upstairs. I get up and have had enough, but keep trying as an hour is a long time. You lie there and bang into the sides which is not relaxing in the slightest.I couldn't relax due to the smell the heat and the fact that the whole room had a line of mould growing around the sides, put together with the inflatable headrest and the ridiculous ear plugs. The music starts at the end and then...the filter kicks in, boy if you were relaxing then you're sure to have a coronary when you hear that ! Be warned. I get out, shower and the floor is soaked, so if you're thinking of leaving warm and dry you won't, you'll leave, hot, damp and bright red. That was my experience.
~Float Away Your Stress~
I lead the type of life that people seem to consider should be quite stressful. I live away from home during the week, I travel and spend a lot of time on planes and in hotels and I work long hours. In the last year and a half I had treatment for a life-threatening illness and still kept working through it. On paper I would seem to be cruising for a heart-attack or a breakdown but I'm pretty sure that neither is on the cards because I am extraordinarily blessed with the gift of near-instant relaxation. I don't worry about much, I seldom have any trouble to sleep, and generally once I step out of the office and into my car, I leave my work well behind me. Perhaps it was naive of someone as laid back as me to book a 'relaxation' experience at Cherry Floatation and expect it to work wonders.
I joined GroupOn about 6 months ago and one of the earliest offers I bought was a voucher for a floatation tank experience. I paid something like £12 for a voucher with a value of £30. Unlike most GroupOn discounts, this one did seem to be genuine and not inflated in order to sell more. One of my absolutely favourite ways to spend time is lying in the bath. I love few things more than a hot deep bath, a good book and enough hot water to keep topping it up, ideally by turning on the hot tap with my toes. Given my love of hot water, I fully expected to love floatation. I'm also such a relaxed person that I'm quite capable of falling asleep in strange places and situations - surely lying in a hot salty bath was going to be close to heaven for me.
I should perhaps have realised that my subconscious mind maybe wasn't so sure about my purchase when the expiry date loomed and I still hadn't done anything about using my voucher. I called Cherry Floatation and they kindly agreed to let me go in the first week of January, even though the voucher had officially expired at the end of November. I knew that I needed to take a swimsuit and a towel - and that an open mind would probably come in handy too.
~Hunt down your Spa~
I set off with the post code of Cherry Floatation and my Tom Tom for an evening appointment. It's located in the village of Hawarden, a place I vaguely recognised when I passed the sports centre where I think my old hockey team sometimes had to play the locals many years ago. For those unfamiliar with the area, Hawarden is about six miles from Chester on the Welsh border.
I struggled over where to park my car since the area seemed to be quite residential and the surrounding streets all had signs saying parking was for residents only. There was a small alley beside the building but that seemed to be for the next-door dentist surgery and there were lots of rather ambiguous 'No Parking' signs. Eventually I left my car on the main road, parked half on the pavement behind a van which was similarly parked.
Once inside Cherry Floatation I found a reception area with a desk, sofa, and armchairs. I wasn't too sure what to do, whether I was supposed to hunt for a bell or just to sit patiently and wait. Another customer was waiting and told me how much she liked the floatation tanks but said she'd given her husband a voucher and he hadn't thought much of it. After a few minutes a lady in a beautician-style uniform turned up, checked who I was and then let me through to the floatation area. I was quite surprised to not be asked to fill in any forms or give details about any health issues. I have been to places that seem to be determined to know your whole life before they're willing to scrape some hard skin off your feet or wax your bikini line so this seemed rather unusual. What if I'd had to tell them I had leprosy or a pathological fear of enclosed spaces?
~What you can expect~
I was asked to leave my shoes on a shoe rack and then taken into a candle lit room where I could get ready to float. There was a shower in one corner, a sink beside it, a toilet hidden behind a wall and the door to the tank was in the corner. All of this space was mine for the next hour.
I was asked to take a shower before using the tank, and shown where to get some ear plugs which I subsequently forgot about (leading me to worry about having forgotten once I got into the tank). When the woman told me I had an hour my heart sank. I had psyched myself up for 30 minutes and knew that doing nothing for an hour would be tricky. I asked her what I should do if I got bored or didn't like it and she said that if that happened (she seemed to think it unlikely) I could get out, take a shower and let myself out. I'd prepaid with the voucher so I didn't need to see anyone when I had finished. She would be upstairs doing some other unnamed 'treatment' so I shouldn't expect to see her if I left early but she'd leave out some water for me.
I put my swim suit on, hopped into the shower and laid out my clothes for when I came out. Toiletries are provided so you don't need to bring your own unless you are particularly picky. As a result of leaving my shoes outside, I had soggy socks so I improvised a sock-dryer by dangling them off a wall-mounted candle sconce above the radiator. I was pretty sure that the relaxing after effects of a float would not be compatible with soggy socks. I hadn't expected to have the whole floatation suite to myself and that was quite a bonus since I was leaving my handbag and valuables outside the tank whilst I was floating.
If you are thinking of trying floatation, it's worth being aware that the super-concentrated salt solution is very harsh on any cuts or grazes. If you have such cuts, do tell the staff and they can give you Vaseline. If you often get 'swimmers ear' problems, be sure to use the ear plugs. And whatever you do, don't shave or wax any of your 'bits' before going for a float or you'll feel like you've had your skin peeled off and been rolled in salt. (Well that's my best guess anyway).
~Here we go!~
Once I was ready, I opened the door and stepped into the tank. I'd estimate that it's about 8 feet long and 4 to 5 feet wide. The ceiling is at normal room height and the water is ten inches (25 cm) deep. The water is lovely and warm but the fumes from the disinfectant are quite strong. I had commented that it smelled strongly of chlorine and had been told it was bromine - whatever it was, it wasn't particularly nice.
A small pillow similar to the ones some people use on planes was provided. I lay back and floated - that was all there was to it. I liked the warmth, I liked the floating, but I kept rotating and bumping into the walls. I waved my arms around a bit, looked at the blurred reflection of myself on the ceiling, and tried to just go to sleep. I hated the plinky plonky so-called relaxation music. It sounded like lift or supermarket music composed by a computer. I would have been happier with whales singing to each other or complete silence. After a while I yearned for Radio 4.
I had removed my watch before going into the tank so I had no idea how long I'd been in the tank. Once the novelty of floating around had started to dim, I was - sorry but there's no nice way to say this - bored silly. I was irritated by all the plastic surfaces, the fumes of the disinfectant and most of all the horrible music. I sat up a few times just to vary my position - heck at one point I decided to find out if it was possible to do sit ups in super-concentrated salt water. That's how bored I was.
I believe I lasted about 35 minutes before I cracked and got out of the tank. Going through my mind was the thought that if I didn't stay too long I could listen to The Archers in the car on the way home. In fact, that was the problem I had - too much stuff going through my mind. I'd just had a new car delivered earlier in the day and a few things were wrong with it that had wound me up a bit - I lay back and they buzzed around my brain in an entirely unhelpful way.
~After the Float~
Once I was showered and dressed (with my nice warm, dry socks on) I went back into the reception for a glass of water and a few minutes reading the folder that had been left out for me to look at. I don't use hair dryers but I didn't notice one so you might want to think of taking your own (or phoning to check if there is one - I often don't notice what's not relevant to me.
I didn't want to rush out straight away because I was feeling a little bit fuzzy headed and ever so slightly nauseous so I sat and drank my water and read the folder. My logical rational brain told me that the claims were a load of mumbo jumbo and that most of the described side effects would probably be things you could get just lying quietly in a darkened room. I didn't feel like I'd somehow opened up some deeper feeling of relaxation - more like an intense sense of boredom and desire to get out and DO something. The treatment is supposed to have fantastic benefits for people who are very stressed, have skin conditions (don't worry - the water is thoroughly filtered and cleaned between each treatment), high blood pressure, skeletal aches and pains and it's even supposed to help with depression. Perhaps that was my problem - I didn't HAVE a problem. The folder promised that effects are strongest if you have at least three treatments in a short time period. I pondered that was a very good way to part you from a lot of money very quickly. I'm just too cynical for alternative therapy!
I felt a bit weird for a few hours after my float. Not nice weird, but slightly fuzzy brained weird. I drove home very carefully as if I'd had a drink and was trying to compensate for what felt like they might be dulled reflexes. I'm glad I tried the floatation experience - for one thing it's another thing I can cross off my 'must try' list but I won't be rushing back. What floating taught me was useful though - that I am someone who relaxes by doing things and not by doing nothing. That was probably worth the price of admission! It explains partly why I'm so rubbish at being massaged or sitting in a sauna because I'd much prefer to be out doing something instead.
Floatation was not for me - but it must work for a lot of other people. Why not check out the claimed benefits - you can see lots of info on the Cherry Floatation website - and see if it sounds like it's for you. I'll stick to a nice bath with a book and the radio on or a walk in the fresh air!
88 The Highway