Float or flounder – my experience in a pod

Janis Williams takes a selfie before an hour in the pod. Photo credit: Janis Williams

Much like a seasoned runner preparing for a marathon, I thought I was more than ready for a flotation therapy experience. I am a bath enthusiast, swimmer, yogi and adventure seeker. Nothing thrills me more than trying something new and checking it off my bucket list.

But nothing could have helped acclimate me for my first dip in the pod.

It sounds like the golden ticket for a busy student: a relaxing hour alone spent floating in water to de-stress the mind and eliminate any body aches and pains.

As soon as I entered the room, I was face-to-face with the enormous pod. The contraption looked much like the baby of a giant egg and jelly bean, on its side. When the pod door opened, it looked like the mouth of a hungry, futuristic whale, ready to engulf me.

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Toilet? Whale? Space pod? Get ready to float. Photo credit: Janis Williams

After a couple of selfies, I entered the pod. I sat down in the room-temperature water that came to midway up my stomach, about 6 to 8 inches deep, then reached up, grabbed the handle and pulled the pod door closed.

For the first ten minutes, there was calming music. I closed both the pod light and my eyes and released my mind to the sound of crashing waves. I have no idea where the sound was coming from but it was comforting.

I was completely alone.

It was an interesting feeling. I enjoyed the weightlessness. I smiled to myself thinking how I felt like a mermaid, in an MRI.

I practiced some yoga poses and made imaginary snow angels – perhaps water angels in this case?

I tried to take the time I had submerged to relax. Unwind. Rest. Deep breathe.

But the more I tried to turn my brain off, the more my mind resisted.

After my initial floating exploration, time passed like a tortoise in a race with itself. My marathon had slowed down and I was extremely restless. It was pitch black whether my eyes were opened or closed. I could hear every breathe, gulp, yawn and blink. The silence around me was deafening.

The longer I was incapsulated I could feel anxiety creeping in and the pod started to feel like a water coffin.

I felt like I was stuck in purgatory. The water was not hot or cold. Time stood still.

I felt as though I was being buried alive, in a psychological sense, and all I could do was reflect on my own humanity.

I had water in my ears and my head was heavy from the thick salt in my hair. My neck felt strained.

At about the 45 minute mark, exhausted from my new found claustrophobia, I sat up and opened my pod.

My marathon was over early but I was content with a simple participatory badge in this race. I had survived.

I took a quick de-salting shower afterwards and surprisingly did not experience any post-traumatic water stress.

Ironically, this journey of a human being in water actually made me feel like a fish out of water.

I am sure flotation therapy has many benefits for those suffering with chronic pain or injuries. After my float, my back, which is a constant issue for me, felt fine and my skin was softer than a baby’s. But I had also developed a steady and unpleasant headache which lasted 48 hours post-float.

‘Retired floater’ is now on my life list. I had hoped to enjoy the experience but I am at peace knowing I tried – and it’s simply not for me.