Whatever Floats Your Boat

by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace Daffron

In a world as fast-paced as ours, it can be hard to find time to relax. And when you finally get around to carving out time for yourself, it can be harder still to shut your brain off. “I’m too busy,” or “I can’t sit there and do nothing for that long,” are all too familiar excuses, but these are the people who need it the most.

At each year’s beginning, we all set new goals for ourselves. It’s a ritualistic thing: evaluating accomplishments, setting new goals. But within a few months, maybe even weeks, those resolutions and goals can seem just a little too far from reach. It can easily become discouraging. That’s why, this year, we encourage our readers to practice wellness. Health reaches into more aspects than just physicality, and it’s important to recognize that. With this fresh start, consider focusing on yourself, what makes you feel better. It may be floating in a salt tank, or practicing yoga.

Ashley Callery had a migraine for three and a half months – the type that’s debilitating and didn’t let her leave the house. Through that experience, she learned about floating: floating in a salt-dense bath tank. Fairly quickly, she decided she was going to open her own float center in Mississippi, though she had never experienced it before. In 2016, she and her husband attended a conference in Portland, Oregon, to learn about owning and operating a float center. While they were there, she finally floated for the first time.

“We met a lot of friends in the workshop, and they were like, ‘Wait a minute. You’re at this workshop to start your own float center, but you’ve never floated?’ And we were like, ‘No,’ but I just knew it was going to work,” she said. “So that last day of the workshop, these friends made us appointments all over Portland to go float. And it was just like, ‘OK, it’s even better than I thought.’”

The Float Tank has its own private room, which includes a shower area for clients to use before and after their sessions.

The pathway to opening her center was long and winding. Callery knew she wanted her center to be in Oxford where she lives, but Callery realized finding a space to rent and getting started to be an arduous process. Eventually, she was able to meet with a spa owner, who agreed to build a float room with Callery. The room is specifically built to be salt proof, along with double insulated walls to block out sound, and non-slip flooring. Callery ordered her tank, the Orion Suite from California Float Concepts. In December 2018, Oxford Afloat opened its doors.

The water and the room itself are kept at body temperature, which Callery said prevents chills and startling the body. The water in the tank is 10 inches deep, and holds 1,800 pounds of Epsom salt. That much salt makes the water very buoyant – so buoyant, in fact, that it prevents sinking. Epsom salt is antibacterial by nature, but Callery and the tank itself take extra precautions to keep it clean. The tank is self-cleaning, and uses UV lights, micron filters, and ozone (a sterilization technique) cleaning methods to eliminate any bacteria. The tank’s cleaning process, which involves eight cleaning cycles, takes 15 minutes between each float. Each day, Callery will also clean the tank with hydrogen peroxide.

A close-up image of the tank’s outer design; inside, clients will find different colors of LED lights to choose, or no lights at all.

The Results

Callery said each float is different, and it will feel different for each person. She said because of the water’s properties and temperature, it’s hard to tell where the body ends and where the water begins. Because of the salt content, the water feels almost silky.

“It’s so cool because you are so still,” she said. “And if you have all the lights out, some people say it’s like being in space. It makes you lose gravity. That’s a cool feeling, I think.”

Oxford Afloat provides different float accessories to help with distractions, like a floating neck pillow and earplugs. Callery says most people carry stress in their necks, so that area can be trickiest to relax while floating. For this, she suggests using the pillow, but it’s optional for each client.

The same goes for the earplugs. The point of floating is to experience sensory deprivation; sometimes the earplugs aid in this effort, though it heightens the sound of the body’s functions, which can distract some. Callery said each component is optional, and it is there to help clients find their own best methods of relaxation.

Since opening Oxford Afloat, Callery says she floats four to five times a week. Originally, she used the neck pillow and earplugs, and kept the LED lights on in the tank. Now, she leaves the neck pillow out, unplugs and turns the lights off. She laughed that she sometimes floats in order to take a nap and have down time.

“Everybody’s stressed out, and if you can’t turn your brain off,” she says, “you just can’t get calm.”

Aside from its calming properties, Callery says floating hosts a multitude of other benefits. Whether her clients are suffering from fibromyalgia, scoliosis or arthritis, she said her clients leave smiling and refreshed. If nothing else, Callery said floating is a great way to replenish magnesium.

“We’re depleted of (magnesium) because our soils aren’t good anymore, and we’re not eating from the ground as much,” she said. “So with the magnesium replacement, you’re getting a good nights’ sleep, and you’re feeling better. It’s a mineral we need.”

Each float is a full 60-minute session, with a full hour and a half blocked off for each appointment. This gives clients enough time to prepare for the float, like going to the restroom and showering, and to spend time in the relaxation room after floating, instead of jetting off to their next activity.

  1. Does this salt float have any health or age restrictions? I am 84 years old and have arthritis which is very painful. I also have a friend who has rheumatoid arthritis. From what the article states it may have health benefis. I am a believer in soaking my feet in Epsom salt. Thank you for the article, it was very informative.

    1. Hey there! When we met with Ashley Callery, she said she has several clients who suffer from arthritis who can find relief in floating. From my recollection, there are no age limits; however, a quick call to her will likely be your best bet to get all your questions answered. The number for Oxford Afloat is (662)-281-0548, and we wish you well!

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