Personal · Relaxation · Stress Management

Review: Serene Dreams, Kearny, NJ

An isopod inside Serene Dreams in Kearny, NJ.

Some people meditate on cushions, some meditate on chairs, some during yoga sessions, but how about inside a sensory-deprivation chamber?

I promise it’s better than it sounds.

I like to call a spade a spade, but these sensory-deprivation chambers may be better known as flotation pods, isopods, or isolation tanks. Basically it’s a tub of warm salt water designed to make you float like a duck. After some poking around the internet, I found one near me and decided to try it out.

Why should I do it and how does it work?

Flotation pods simulate feelings of weightlessness and even body-less-ness due to the ultra-buoyancy of the water in the pod. “Floaters” use flotation/sensory-deprivation therapy to relieve pain, relieve stress or for meditative purposes. Inside the pod you’re cut off from sound, sight and sensation as you float weightless for up to 90 minutes at a time.

According to Serene Dreams’ website, flotation therapy addresses two dozen conditions, including stress, insomnia, muscle soreness, fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraines, anxiety, depression, injuries, pregnancy, ADD, ADHD, asthma, fatigue, chronic pain, addiction, hypertension, weight loss, back pain, muscle swelling, jet lag, hangovers, even PTSD. It’s not clear how every condition listed would benefit from flotation therapy, but that’s their claim.

The 12 inches of bathwater in the pod is heated to 98 degrees- the same as our body temperature- and literally saturated with Epsom salt. The buoyancy of the salt water makes it so even the most leaden of swimmers can’t possibly drown, or even sink below the surface. The closed build of the pod locks out the light and locks in the temperature to keep things from getting drafty while in nude- you’re encouraged to go nude. Don’t worry, you’re alone.

Water in the pod remains in the tank but is filtered after every client. I overstayed my welcome in the room long enough to hear the filter kick in. Showering before entering helps the filter work smarter too.

My experience

Of the dozen or so float parlors within driving distance, Serene Dreams was the nearest to me. I had previously looked into the therapy for meditative purposes and was super excited when I saw their Groupon offer. I read through their website, perused a few flotation therapy guru blogs to get the most out of my first visit, and it was off to the races.

Serene Dreams has two flotation rooms.

I had to book in advance by phone, which was no hassle at all, and one of the staff gave me a quick rundown on the use of the pod. I quickly realized the place was awfully small, with two private flotation rooms. It was also impeccably clean and well stocked with everything I needed.

Inside the flotation room was the pod itself, with its lid retracted and water sparkling with blue light. Beyond that was a shower stall with body wash, shampoo and conditioner. You’re expected to wash up before and after to help keep the water clean. Why after? You’ll see.

I washed up and descended into the pod, putting in my supplied sterilized earplugs a little too late. With my head tilted back into the water and ears submerged I could hear soothing ocean sounds, but only while in the water. They faded after about 10 minutes, and in the rendered darkness (I turned off the pod lights and shut the lid for the full experience) my attention drifted to my body gently bobbing in the water as it reacted to my small movements.

This shower head is amazing.

I became quickly aware of just how many small movements I was making, because the water magnified every one of them. I found myself gripping the sides of the tank and trying to steady myself. Eventually I won. Or learned to stay still. Or both.

At about 20 minutes into my 60 minute session, I began to drift off. Not to sleep, but my mind finally began to quiet.

Nothing spectacular happened, but I slowly lost sensation of my body. I was just consciousness floating in darkness.

And then my nose got itchy.

Joking aside, the session seemed to go on forever and at the same time when the beach sounds returned to wake me, I felt it was too soon. I had grown to like floating during my short tenure in the pod.

When you finally do go topside, your body feels incredibly heavy, especially your hair, if you wear it long. Somehow it sopped up all that salt and became incredibly coarse and heavy. Off to the shower with their beautiful multi-setting Pirch shower head. Seriously, try all the settings.

After I toweled off, dressed and gathered my things, I headed out to the communal bath area to freshen up. There was lotion (you’re going to want it after all that drying salt), mouthwash, Q-tips and even contact solution. By this point I was noticing a slight nauseating headache. It got worse later on and it felt like the kind you get after being in the beating sun all day.

Reading up on it now, nausea is typical for a first-time floater. Looks like I’ll have to try it again to be sure.

The verdict

Would go again, but I’d start out better hydrated and hopefully get past the headache. I’d put those ear plugs in first thing too. I’d like to tackle a more meditative approach next time, rather than “wait and see.” To do that, I have to brush up on my practice in general first!

First timer tips

  • Definitely put your earplugs in before you do your pre-soak shower. Do shower, by the way. I forgot and after my ear canals were already wet I felt like I couldn’t get a good seal on my plugs.
  • Don’t sample the water. It’s basically communal bath water, not to mention it has a distinctly perfumed taste if you happen to get a bit in your mouth. Yuck.
  • I join hundreds of other floaters in this next one; don’t touch your face while in the float tank. If you happen to get some water in your eyes (ouch), reach for a spray bottle of fresh water on hand to flush it away.
  • Do not shave that day, or the night prior if you can help it. If you do, you’ll know every single nick you gave yourself with that razor the moment you get in the tank.
  • Long haired folks, bring a brush, flip flops and your own towel. Serene Dreams has everything else you could need.

Curious? Serene Dreams has a Groupon deal going on right now for up to 37 percent off. (not an affiliate link)

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