Life Float: Get Naked Near The Hill

As the world seems to spin into a twisted twilight zone, we have a moral responsibility to try to keep our minds right and attempt some semblance of sanity. This requires the occasional tune-out to tune back into what’s important. We need time to relax and let go of the inhibitions that cloud our consciousness. 

Few things strip the mind of inhibitions like stripping the body of clothing in a public place. We’ve got a lot to reflect on, and sometimes reflection is best done while sitting next to a nude, heavy-breathing stranger in a steam room, or floating alone in a 300-gallon tank of salt water, like Shamu in a timeout. Thankfully, these options are available to Seattleites in such times of need.  

My latest favorite place to get naked near the hill (cuz, ya know, that list is constantly growing) is Life Float on Yale Ave by REI. 

My grandmother used to say, “Salt water’s good for whatever ails you.” She also used to say that ice cream is a fantastic breakfast. The woman was a pioneer of sound reason. She lived on the Hood Canal in Bremerton and swam often. She swore that every time she got in the salt water, she felt refreshed in mind and body. Science suggests that her theory might have had more than just whimsical charm.  

In 1970, John C. Lilly was an eccentric neuroscientist and writer known for exploring human consciousness and longing to communicate with dolphins and aliens. Many people thought he was a bit of a kook, but his impressive scholarly standing kept him from fading into obscurity. He helped create a floating device meant to nearly eliminate sensory experience. It was designed to give a feeling of weightlessness, much like in the womb. 

During sensory deprivation, the air and water are room temperature, letting the body float unaffected by warmth or cold. The lights shut off after a few minutes, and then the float takes place in total, space-like darkness.   

Sensory deprivation helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering heart rate and decreasing blood pressure and cortisol levels. The 1500 pounds of dissolved Epsom salt in the water helps muscles relax and lowers inflammation. 

The night before my first time at Life Float, I’d gorged myself on tequila and Mexican food at Nacho Borracho. When I arrived in the morning, I was certain that no amount of Epsom salt would be able to keep me above water. I was weighted down by a burrito the size of a corgi and a quesadilla, like sandbags on a mafia snitch. I was sure I’d sink to the bottom like an anvil. 

To my surprise, when I got into the water my body was immediately buoyant and stayed at the surface. I’d been paranoid about falling asleep and drowning in some freak accident, but, seeing that there were fewer ways to die here than I’d imagined, I regretted for a moment not smoking pot beforehand. It’s no secret that there’s a high practice (no pun intended) of smoking weed in the float culture. I’ve never bought marijuana at a dispensary before and don’t have a habit of partaking, but this seemed like a missed opportunity. 

Once in the tank, my mind wandered, and I found myself asking questions that had never occurred to me before, like, “how did Oprah and Stedman meet?” and “did Taylor Swift get botox?” While my thoughts leaned slightly less academic, it began to make sense that the person who engineered this experience was also obsessed with talking to dolphins and aliens. During the float, it all seemed reasonable and within reach. 

My hour-long float flew by, and when the purple lights in the tank glowed back on, I felt relaxed and rejuvenated. My skin was soft and flushed. Maybe my grandmother was right, and salt water really is good for whatever ails you—even if it’s not from the Hood Canal and what’s ailing you is a three-pound burrito and a pitcher of cheap margaritas.   

LifestyleMeili Cady