Last Wednesday I went to Floatworks near London Bridge for my floatation tank experience. I'd been at the Hockney Exhibition at the Royal Academy beforehand and had a bit of rush across London to get there in time so wasn't feeling particularly relaxed when I arrived. The building looks like a warehouse and I wasn't sure how to get in. The door, when I found it, looked like a tradesmen's entrance on the side of the building and I had to ring the bell to get buzzed in.
I went down the not particularly enticing stairs to the dimly lit reception area. It had a fish tank and there was new age relaxation type music playing. Very cliched. As I sat waiting I thought about how depressing it would be to work down here in nice weather. I had to fill in a form and was given a pair of flip flops to wear.
After a few minutes I was called through. The rooms are private and each have a shower, a chair and a big egg shaped floatation tank in them. I was given instructions on how to use it - pretty simple really: button on right is emergency button; first button on left is for the light inside the tank; second button on left is to control the lid. There was also a spray bottle of fresh water on the inside of the tank in case I got salt water in my eyes. Luckily I didn't need it.
I was told to have a quick shower and in five minutes music would start playing and the lights in the room would go out. The shower had gel, shampoo and conditioner and I was provided with a towel. There was also vaseline in case I had any cuts (it's recommended to put vaseline over them to prevent stinging) and earplugs. These aren't for noise prevention, but to prevent too much salty water getting in your ears.
I got undressed and showered pretty quickly so I was in the tank before the lights went out. I got myself stretched out in the water and put the neck pillow under my neck. I checked out that I knew where the buttons were and that I knew how to control the lights and lid of the tank itself.
The music started low and got slightly louder as the lights dimmed. It plays for the first 10 minutes. Then there are 45 minutes of silence before a final 5 minutes of music to let you know your time is almost up. I turned the light out in the tank and lay in complete darkness listening to the music and trying to get comfy. Although I was floating I wasn't really letting all my muscles relax, particularly my neck muscles. I moved around a bit too. I'd only realise I'd moved when my head or feet would touch the end of the tank or I'd touch the sides.
I didn't put the lid down at first as it was completely dark anyway. But then the part of my body that was above the water line started to feel a bit cold, so I lowered the lid and warmed up straight away. It was a bit stuffy, but better than being cold.
I did manage to relax and felt quite drowsy but didn't actually nod off. When the music started to play again I was surprised that the 45 minutes were already over. I raised the lid and sat up. Then I lay down again, but this time without the neck pillow. It wasn't any better. If I was to do this again I don't know what I could do to help my neck feel comfortable.
I got out of the tank (easier said than done with such buoyant water) and back into the shower. As I was in the shower the tank lid closed and gurgling noises emanated from it - no doubt it was being cleaned ready for the next user. It took a while to feel that I'd got all the salt off my body and out of my hair. Once I was dry and dressed I went to another room where there are mirrors, hairdryers and spray deodorants. Then, apart from paying, my experience was over.
So what did I think of it and did it live up to my expectations? I think it was pretty much what I expected it to be. I enjoyed it as a one off experience but don't think it was any more relaxing than a spa pool, jacuzzi or steam room. For less than the £45 this cost me, I could have spent several hours in one of the spas in Baden Baden in Germany and would have left feeling much more relaxed than I did from here. I'm glad I've done it and sated my curiosity and I would recommend it as a chance to experience something a bit different. However, it's not something I'll likely do again (not unless it was a lot cheaper!) and even if money wasn't an issue it doesn't appeal as something to do on a regular basis.
One plus though, is that for several days afterwards my skin felt really soft. Even after I'd had other showers the effect still lasted.