A long hike in the forest. A good laugh with a friend. A fresh mani-pedi. All things you might enjoy from time to time that are good for the soul. Today I want to introduce another soul-lifting treat: flotation therapy. Last week my friend Sophie and I met up at Ottawa’s ISÖ Spa for a complimentary hour in two of the spa’s four float tanks. You strip down to your birthday suit and step into a space-agey pod filled with 1,000 litres of body-temperature salt water. (Warning: there may be naked pictures of Sophie in this next section.)
Then again, there might not. (And not that it would be a bad thing if there were, just maybe not suitable for children. ‘Tho I’m sure they’ve seen it all before. Now that I think of it, why don’t I post naked pictures of Sophie on here? And often! Hmmm. Something to consider.)
Flotation therapy is said to reduce stress and depression, increase clarity and creativity, and relieve chronic pain, among other benefits. It’s big in western Canada, and ISÖ Spa is Ottawa’s first location.
ISÖ Spa co-owner Jasson Grant gave us the lay of the land, showing us to our individual rooms and answering our questions. I’m anxious about trying pretty much anything new, but Jasson’s warm demeanor put me at ease. (As did reading everything on the website in advance — the FAQs are very thorough.)
The pods are a roomy 7.5 feet long, with 1,200 pounds of Epsom salts mixed into 10 inches of water. Each room has its own shower, towels, body, wash, shampoo and conditioner, along with earplugs and Q-tips. And blowdryers are available in separate rooms, so you don’t have to worry about leaving with wet hair or bringing your own. Honestly, they’ve thought of everything!
You can leave the lid completely open, close it altogether or have it somewhere in between and choose from a variety of light settings or complete darkness. There’s a call button inside the tank should you need anything (cheese tray excepted) and a pool noodle or inflatable pillow to help you get comfortable if necessary.
The whole idea is to relax (obvs). And the best way to do that, Jasson assured us, was to close the tank and float in total darkness and silence. (gulp)
Hushed sounds from the seashore play for the first few minutes in the pod before giving way to the quiet. I don’t have super-human hearing but even with the lid closed I could hear the ventilation faintly overhead. Which I found entirely comforting, but others may not even notice. (Maybe I do have super-human hearing!)
Jasson had told us the first 20 minutes would be the toughest in terms of trying to relax, and that was certainly true for me. While my body felt completely at ease — feeling weightless is awesome! — my mind wandered here and there. But they say it gets easier the more you do it, and I can see that for sure. The hour flew by and I felt better for it. I mean, I kicked myself a little for not being able to clear my mind, but I did feel more relaxed.
Also relaxing was feeling like I didn’t have to rush out of there. The separate rooms for drying your hair are brilliant (brilliant!), and you’re invited to sit a spell in the lounge afterwards with lemon water and herbal tea. It’s a beautiful space — clean but not clinical; fresh and modern and welcoming. (And a little birdie tells me they’re getting a levitating plant — that I’ve got to see!)
Well look who finally put some clothes on! That’s Sophie, enjoying some après-float refreshment.
Hour-long sessions are $60, $165 for three and $250 for five. Monthly memberships and 90-minute floats are also available. Any of which would make a soul-lifting treat and a fantastic gift. (I like to give pedicures to a couple of girlfriends for their birthdays and/or Christmas and will gift them a float session next time instead.)
I’ll be back to try it again. Have you ever tried flotation therapy? Is it something you think you’d enjoy?
ISÖ Spa comped me two floats (one for me and one for Sophie) in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own. Photo #2 shared here with permission from ISÖ Spa.