A LIFE LESS PHYSICAL

Floating for fibromyalgia: A review of Floatworks

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Have you ever floated before? I hadn’t, until last weekend when I made my way to Vauxhall at the ungodly hour of 5:15am to spend an hour in a float tank, courtesy of the new Floatworks centre.

For those who haven’t come across floating before, it really is as simple as it sounds. You spend an hour in a private tank, floating in the water with nothing but your thoughts. It’s believed that floating reduces stress, enhances your mood and relieves pain. In fact, fibromyalgia is actually referred to on the Floatworks website so I figured if I was going to float anywhere, this was the place to start.

The float tank in my very own private float room

Before I tell you about the float, I really need to tell you the lead up to the float and the insane levels of customer service I received from the Floatworks team. I am someone who gets frustrated by poor customer service and, even worse, poorly organised service, and so I am a loyal customer to companies whose attitudes and values reflect my own. But let me tell you, Floatworks have taken it up a notch. Or fifty notches.

I changed my appointment with them an embarrassing four times, and not once was I made to feel like an inconvenience. In fact, on arrival I was made to feel like an old friend – and not in a forced, annoying, creepy way like the people that greet you when you walk in to clothing stores. I received confirmation of my appointment via email, as well as a clear list of things to be aware of before the appointment. They explained that the session includes a private room with your float tank and shower, fluffy white towels, ear plugs, cold water, shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, as well as access to hairdryers, straighteners and the chill out room which offers a variety of herbal teas. I was sent a reminder two days before the appointment, and clear directions offering me a range of ways to access the venue. Honestly, for someone like me, this is admin heaven.

But I’m guessing that, unless you’re as over the top about organisation as I am, you’re probably more interested in the float than the pre-float emails. So did it live up to expectation?

The view from inside the tank

Yes and no. After a quick shower to start the session, I dried my face and climbed inside the tank, pulling the lid down over my head. There was beautiful, soothing music and the surrounding blue lighting meant I entered the tank feeling relaxed and calm. The water was warm and even if I wanted to, the balance of salts in the water (or whatever it is, I’m not a scientist) meant I couldn’t sink below the water level. I popped in my ear plugs and lay back to a feeling I can’t describe. It was strangely liberating. I felt lighter than air and it was everything I hoped it would be.

For the claustrophobics among us, please, fear not. The tank is spacious and you are in complete control, so if you decide you need to prop the tank open with a towel or open it completely, that’s absolutely fine. At one point I stretched out like a starfish to see how big the tank is; I’m 5′ 7″ (170cm) and if I stretched my hands and toes I could just reach all sides of the tank. I certainly didn’t feel cramped and I had enough room to bob about from side to side, feeling quite content.

The very glam facilities in the Hollywood room

So up to this point, it’s all going pretty well. The problem is that it lasted about 15 minutes. The plinky-plonk music fades away after 10 minutes so you’re left with nothing but your thoughts. For the experienced meditators in the tank that’s no problem at all, but for the likes of me – the woman who makes lists in her head in her spare time – it was a challenge. A challenge that I took head on and felt was going pretty well, until I realised I was basically writing this blog post in my head whilst lying in the tank. Once I’d written the blog post I started thinking about all the things I had to do that day, that week, that month. I also started to write my wedding speech, so not entirely relaxing.

Soon after realising I wasn’t a model floater, I tried to get back in the zone by bobbing about and enjoying the feel of the water. But again, bobbing isn’t floating and I made a bit of a splash, got some salt water in my eye and it all became a bit stressful. I had to remind myself I was not a toddler in a bath tub, but it seemed too late.

By the time the soothing music came back on to signal the end of the session, I had lost it. I’d lost whatever calm I’d felt 50 minutes previously, and I’d lost the desire to be in the tank because you know what? An hour is a long time. I was starting to feel a bit breathless and, dare I say it, a bit stressed. I felt relieved to step out of the tank, and welcomed the cooling shower. I then sat in the chill out room for 20 minutes with a cup of herbal tea – green tea, jasmine and rose with gingko biloba – and a book on artists’ impressions of the human body. Because, why not?

Positivitea tea is worth buying if only for the excellent pun, surely?

The visitors’ book was an interesting read too, and showed that many people had experienced something quite incredible during their hour in the tank. One person had left the page entirely blank except for writing, “I can feel again.” Another wrote a long passage about the meaning of life and his place in the universe, so it appears this floating malarkey has a pretty profound effect on people.

On the way out, I spoke to a member of staff about my experience. He smiled, but didn’t seem too surprised. He said some people find it very easy to float, whilst others find it takes practice. Some feel an instant change to their mental or physical wellbeing, whilst others need a few sessions to feel the difference. I had hoped I’d fit into the former category, but it was always going to be unlikely considering I never find these things easy. It took me about a year to feel enjoyment from Pilates. I did say that I found it much easier to relax when the music was playing, and he said he’d add a note to my file so that next time they don’t turn it off. I liked that.

Will there be a next time? Yes, without a doubt. I don’t feel like it was a waste of time and I feel like now that I know what to expect, I should find it easier to deal with. Plus, I know so many fibro sufferers who have felt the benefits of floating that I owe it to my body to give it another go. My mind will just have to get on board. Two days later, I haven’t felt any dramatic changes to my pain but I’m still in a flare so it’s tough to know anything at times like this.

If you fancy giving it a try and you’re in the UK, I strongly urge you to visit Floatworks. This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m not secretly floating in their bribery money, but I truly believe that when a company is as thoughtful and caring as they appear to be, they should be recommended. So check them out, the experience is nothing if not fascinating and I look forward to hearing how you get on. You can book online and they have an introductory offer of three floats for £100 which is pretty good. Other price plans and offers are available on their website.

Also, just so you’re aware, Brunswick House restaurant is just around the corner and it’s a great place for a post-float breakfast. Get involved.

Brunswick House yoghurt, granola and berries
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