Learning to let go

Spend time without sight, sound, and feeling again since leaving the womb

Being used to living in a crazy, busy city, I don’t even notice the noise that comes with it for weeks on end. And then suddenly I do. Out of nowhere every loud sound is too much. I feel it gnawing away at my mental health. So when I was offered the opportunity to experience complete sensory deprivation, I jumped at it.

To achieve this sensory deprivation, floating therapy was developed. It’s been around since 1954 and hasn’t changed much since. It’s a simple formula: a 10-inch layer of skin-temperature water filled with 900 lbs of Epsom salt in a sound and light proof environment. Lie down in the water and the salt makes you float effortlessly. You’re not touching anything and barely feel the water, you don’t hear or see anything either. A place to let your mind be still. Float Saigon offers such a place.

Float Saigon (47/1/1 Quoc Huong, Thao Dien, D2) is located off the busy streets. Pass the roasted goat hanging off the ceiling on your left and the chicken on your right and you’ve found the right street. I was greeted by Duc, a man with an ASMR-worthy voice. In a wonderfully calm and comforting manner he told me all about the benefits of floating and what to expect during my session. A session of 90 minutes no less.

Float Saigon offers two different floating experiences: the tank and the room. The tank, Duc explained, is a more intimate and personal experience. Some people say it makes them feel like they’re back in the womb. The room, on the other hand, is more suitable for people who are uncomfortable in small spaces. Floating in the room is often compared to floating in space. I was quite happy to hear that they had reserved the room for my very first floating experience. I might not be claustrophobic, but I’m still human.

Floating therapy is said to have a long list of both mental and physical benefits. Stress reduction through intense relaxation and a boost in creativity are the main psychological results. While it can take 30-45 minutes before the brain allows itself to quiet down, once it does you find yourself in a state somewhere between waking and sleeping. Which is even better than sleeping, according to Duc.

The physical benefits include: pain relieve, increased blood circulation and magnesium absorption thanks to the Epson salt. It does, however, turn your hair into a matted mess, but that is a small price to pay.

Duc also addressed some common concerns. The air in the room is a little thick, but there is no reason to be concerned about oxygen. He himself spent five hours in the room last week and there was plenty of oxygen. Five hours! No wonder this man seems so utterly and completely calm and at peace. He also ensured me that the salt in the water will keep you from rolling over or hitting the walls in any way.

My bag was placed in a locker and Duc led me upstairs to the room. I had brought my bathing suit for nothing; this was a naked event. We stepped into a lockable changing room with shower and an ensuite floating room. I would have 10 minutes to use the bathroom, take a shower and get comfortable in the water. Then music would play to signal the 90 minutes were starting. At the end of the session the music would start playing again and the water would start swirling. I was given a pair of ear plugs and Duc left me to it.

As can be expected, the thoughts were racing through my mind. “Am I doing this right?”, “Is it supposed to feel like this?” and “How should I describe this in the article?” were playing on loop for I don’t know how long. I had no idea how long because time does not exist in that little room.

After a while, my brain started to relax more. I found myself in the state Duc had mentioned, somewhere between waking and sleeping. I certainly still had thoughts but I felt more distant from them. As if they were playing like a movie in my mind. I realized all of this because muscle spasms in my left arm would jerk me out of it every now and again.

Full disclosure, I did not make it all the way till the end. I had made the rookie mistake of drinking four cups of tea that morning so even though I had visited the bathroom before I went in, my bladder was screaming for my attention. When I could not ignore it anymore I got out, took a shower and ran to the bathroom.

I made my way downstairs, curious to find out how long I had lasted. Only three minutes left on the clock. Just short of 90 minutes, not too bad. I was served a nice cup of tea and talked the whole thing over with Duc. He showed me a sketch book filled with colorful drawings by people trying to relay their own interpretation of the floating experience. There was a portrait of someone whose mind seemed to be filled with color and another who seemed to have had an out-of-body experience.

If Duc is any indication of what regular floating sessions can do for a human being, it should probably be mandatory. For now I’ll just have to float along on that one session.

Visit, www.facebook.com/floatsaigon for more info

Images by Vy Lam

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