Floating is the hot wellbeing craze for 2017, or so the blissed-out founders of Floatworks in Vauxhall tell me, as I prepare to take my first salty plunge. The benefits look similar to those of yoga, meditation and mindfulness: stress relief, reduction in anxiety and pain etc. Basically it should leave me healthier, happier, fitter, more productive. Who doesn’t want that?
However, the idea of lying in a small, dark silent box for an hour makes me feel far from relaxed. Will it be claustrophobic? Will I have to confront my inner demons as I stare into the dark abyss? You guessed it, I’m not very good at chilling out.
But the guys at Floatworks are reassuring and the cocoon-like pods turn out to be way bigger than I expected (nine feet long by seven feet wide). My pod is in its own room, with a shower and I can get out at any time. The water is body temperature and contains 450kg of Epsom salt. That’s more dense than the Dead Sea, so it’s pretty much impossible not to float (another worry).
Once naked, except for earplugs and Vaseline on any cuts, I lie down and close the lid. There is 10 minutes of underwater intro music and after that it’s just startling silence. You can choose to have the light on or go for the pitch-black option. Once I establish where the panic button is, I go for the full sensory-deprivation vibe.
The feeling is surprisingly wonderful. My muscles totally relax and my whole body feels weightless. The hardest part is forcing my brain to slow down. I wouldn’t say I was 100 percent chilled out for 60 minutes but there were some nice moments of quiet calm.
Did I feel reborn when the light came on at the end? Nope. But I did feel different. My body felt good and my mind was marginally stiller. Like any form of meditation, you can’t expect to be good at it the first time, but I do think it could have a very positive cumulative effect. Especially for Londoners. Taking an hour to do absolutely nothing has go to be beneficial in itself.