Switch off and let go. Two really simple things, but for some reason, hard for most of us to actually do these days. So difficult in fact, that the health and wellness sector has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industry promising to soothe the over-worked masses with vitamin injections, super foods and a host of alternative therapies. But what if the solution was simply an hour of solitude? Could a true escape from external stimuli for one hour have you feeling rested, rejuvenated and more in touch with yourself?
Float Therapy or “ floating”, the latest craze in alternative relaxation therapies isn’t actually new. It has been around since the 1950’s but has rapidly picked up steam with the mainstream crowd all over the world lately. Studies have shown that float therapy has a host of benefits including deep muscle relaxation, enhanced sleep quality, chronic pain management, decreased stress and anxiety levels, and even increased focus for those who suffer from ADHD. Professional athletes, exhausted parents and high-powered CEO’s are all raving about the benefits of floating for your body and your mind.
Essentially float therapy takes place in a pod or chamber which is filled with about ten inches of water loaded with epsom salt. The water is at body temperature and the thousands of pounds of epsom salt create an environment of weightlessness allowing you to literally float. The quiet, dark chamber creates an environment free of all distractions, enabling the body and mind to relax, heal, focus, harness creativity and, for more experienced “ floaters”, to reach prolonged and deep meditative states and even problem solve.
Float therapy in Ho Chi Minh City
Float Saigon, located in District 2 opened its doors just five months ago and is the first to offer this alternative relaxation option in HCMC. A desire to unwind, decrease stress and tune inward is exactly what brought me here today. Like most working parents, I have exactly one gear, high speed. A genuine desire to slow down is the reason I’ve suddenly found myself alone in a room, staring at a sensory deprivation tank which I’m meant to get into and close the hatch, a choice I was seriously questioning at that moment. I’m not claustrophobic exactly, but I did not relish the thought of being alone in the dark in an enclosed space with only my thoughts for the next hour either. Before the actual floating session began, I sat down with Float Saigon’s owner Nguyen Trung Duc to get the low-down on this popular alternative therapy.
What did you do before opening Float Saigon?
I was a business consultant for a big Tech company in Vietnam and also worked with a tech startup before finding myself here, operating a float center.
How did you initially become interested in ” float” tanks?
Floating is a part of my personal development journey. I have always been interested in health and wellness. After having tried many methods, I believe that the balance between physical and mental health is of great importance. You can be very strong physically but mentally you may be having some trouble like depression. I was searching for new methods to improve mental and physical health and float therapy appeared to be a great combination for both.
What do you believe are the benefits of floating?
Physically, flotation therapy can give your body a deep calibration. The buoyancy of the salt water keeps your body afloat, decompresses your spine and relaxes your neck. The magic of epsom salt helps further relax your muscles so every inch of your body is fully relaxed. Floating can be really helpful with pain recovery for athletes and simply help adjust body posture for everyone. Mentally, float therapy is like a mini meditation retreat. The float tank allows you to go deep into practice due to the environment. There’s no light or sound, the water temperature matches that of your body and you will feel weightless. Your mind is freed from all of the distraction of the outside world and you can “ power down”. During this period of solitude and silence, you can tune inward and some ideas might come up, some problems might get resolved.
What can a client expect when they visit Float Saigon for the first time?
When you first visit Float Saigon, we will give you thorough guidance to ensure you make the most out of the session. There is no need to bring anything with you except a desire to experience a new form of relaxation. We do warn all new clients about the adjustment period. The first few minutes in the tank, some clients may feel itchy from the salt and slightly anxious if they are not used to the dark and quiet environment. But once they are able to let go of these thoughts, they can truly start to experience the gift of floating.
Do you have many regular clients and how many times a week does a regular ” floater” float?
We have some clients who have floated everyday for thirty days straight. Normally, a regular floater will float two or three times per week but clients will already feel the massive benefits tot heir health with floating just one time per week.
How do you feel floating has improved your life, health and wellness?
I think the core value of floating is not in the experience during the session itself but comes later. When you come to Float Saigon, it is important to know that you are not coming to enjoy a traditional spa session. You’re not entertaining yourself seeking surreal dreamy hallucinations. You’re not looking to feel body pleasures. Weighing the value of float against a massage, a nice meal, a joint or any other sort of sensory entertainment is like comparing apples and oranges. Though it can be pleasurable and relaxing, a float session should be treated as a therapeutic session for your body and your mind. Sometimes you face your fears and your trauma, other times you work through body pain and posture imbalances. Sessions can be un-pleasurable or even un-enjoyable sometimes. The real value is not in the experience of floating itself but the benefits you gain afterwards. There are a myriad of benefits that await clients who commit to floating as therapy or a medicine for their well-being.
What’s the longest time you have ever spent floating?
I’ve done five-hour sessions. This takes a bit of practice but I think anyone can do it. The idea of being alone in the dark for five hours might sound scary but once you’ve done it, you’ll gain a lot of insight about yourself.
How is floating different for a beginner than for a more experienced floater?
Floating like other things (resistance training, yoga, meditation) is best experienced and has greater benefits when done regularly. Floating most definitely has a learning curve and accumulation of benefits over time. The major learning curve is conquered within the first three floats (if completed within 4-6 weeks). As the float practice grows and evolves, one’s relationship to him or her self grows and evolves as well. Every float is different because every day you are different. Floating provides us with an environment to truly explore our current state of being. Disconnecting from everything, clearing the mind of fragmented thoughts and purging the body and central nervous system of stress can lead to much greater clarity and calmness, allowing a more authentic, grounded and stable version of ourselves to be present in the world, at work, and in our relationships.
Do you think floating is a fad or is it really going to take off in Vietnam?
I think it might take some time for Vietnamese people to actually understand the benefits of floating and start doing it regularly. It’s still considered something really novel in this country, but I believe floating will be the future of wellness.
Exactly sixty minutes after this conversation, I step out of the tank and re-enter the outside world. Duc was right about the adjustment period, the first ten minutes of the float, I felt itchy and anxious in the dark and small space; everything felt too quiet and I wanted to open the hatch again just as soon as I had closed it. But once I permitted myself to just let go, the experience became something much deeper. One hour later, I stepped out feeling more calm and way more tuned in. When I first entered the tank, everything felt too quiet but once I got out, everything felt too loud. The therapeutic value was undeniable however. Just one session taught me that resistance is futile. Why fight through sensations when you can just float? But don’t take my word for it. Go feel it for yourself!
Float Saigon is located at 47/1/8 Quoc Huong | Thao Dien, District 2, HCMC
Naomi Sutorius-Lavoie is a freelance writer based in HCMC, Vietnam.