For two years, FLOAT STL has given St. Louisans the opportunity to lay face up in closed tanks of water for 90 minutes.
That sounds nerve-wracking, or at least that is what Webster University adjunct professor of human rights Kelly McBride found out with her Keystone course when they went to FLOAT STL as a field assignment.
“The first day of school, I tell them about this, and they look at me like ‘are you crazy?’” McBride said.
McBride teaches Placelessness, a course designed in three modules. The first module, called “Placelessness and Self,” looks at how people define place, geography and one’s sense of place. McBride said the way people use their senses defines their sense of place. By floating, those senses are relieved, and McBride says the goal is to see what that result is.
“Coupled with the fact that there are a lot of therapeutic benefits from floating, students are stressed and I thought it would be the perfect activity for our class to do,” McBride said.
St. Louis gets floating
FLOAT STL specializes in floating, a type of sensory deprivation therapy that has people lie in tanks filled with skin-temperature water that contains Epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate. This salt is meant to relax the muscles and soothe the body externally and internally. The tanks are lightless and block out external sounds.
This practice helps to deprive the body of its senses, such as smell, sound and touch. While it may be scary to some, FLOAT STL co-founder Jacob Resch said it creates more of a meditative feeling.
“The salt water provides that super buoyant solution,” Resch said. “There’s no light, no sound, which. . . gives a reboot to the brain.”
The company stems from a passion between three people: Resch and his other co-founders Marcio Guzman and Kevin McCulloch. All three met while working at the Castlewood Eating Disorder Treatment Center, and each had a shared love of floating. They would take trips to Chicago to float, as there were no public float centers in Missouri at the time.
“We decided to make some moves to open our own float center,” Resch said.
Their business is the first float center of its kind to open in Missouri. Other floating centers have opened since. Waits to get in sometimes last a couple of weeks.
The three founders work to create a relaxing environment both in and outside the tanks. Once inside the building, no shoes are allowed. The lighting is warm and, most of the time, is either dim or not on at all. The big windows in the front let the natural light from outside seep into the building. The music is soft and soothing.
The lobby also adapts to how people feel. There is a corner dedicated to drawing. There is a meditation corner where people can sit on the floor and relax. There is also an open space for social interaction. Resch said the lobby provides a warm welcome to those coming in, but is also in tune with those coming out of their floats.
“Sometimes, people want to hang out and be in a community space,” Resch said. “Sometimes, people just want to be with the person they came with. Sometimes, people want to do art. It’s just trying to be adaptable and open to the experience.”
There are two types of tanks: the float pods and the float rooms, which resemble bath tubs. Each is located in a room where the floater is granted full privacy. The rooms come with a shower and essentials like shampoo, conditioner and body wash. It is advised that all clothes are taken off so there are no distractions.
Once people get in, they close the doors or pods completely, essentially isolating themselves. They lie face-up on their backs. The amount of salt used keeps people afloat, even if they fall asleep. After 90 minutes (signified by small signals like lights coming on or using water streams), floaters head back to the lobby and, if they wish, relax in the areas it provides.
“Sometimes, floating can be vulnerable,” Guzman said.
Guzman said all three of the co-founders feel responsible to help people relax before and after each float. They are always open to speaking with their patrons, making sure they have a safe environment to come back to after each float.
Lack of sense(s)
This experience encourages no distractions, which includes cell phones.
Senior clinical psychology major Indijana Dizdarevic said the biggest effect of her float was that she started to notice her physical tensions before settling into her thoughts. She said she eventually forgot about her thoughts all together. Once the light came on signaling the float’s end, she was wondering where the time went.
“It kind of feels like being lost, but not that fear sense of lost,” Dizdarevic said. “It’s that sense of actually getting to step away from things and actually being able to forget about everything else in your life.”
FLOAT STL has two locations: Midtown and Maryland Heights. They offer 90 minute floats at $65. Visit www.floatingstl.com to learn more.