• Sunday , 18 February 2018

Float on a Sea of Epsom Salt Water at Halcyon Floats in Roxborough

Photos, story by Cassie Hepler

It’s big in Vegas. Well, then again everything with the word “detox” is big in Vegas for after late night debauchery purposes. But we were glad to run across Halcyon Floats in Roxborough on a random cold Spring day. With two years of business under their belts with (smaller tank) locations in Germantown and Northern Liberties, we were glad to go to the location with the largest tanks for that non-claustrophobic feeling.

Why would anyone want to float on 900 lbs of silky epsom salt water kept at body temps (93 to 95.7 degrees) that makes you completely buoyant? It’s “a relaxation and therapeutic technique that involves restricting sensory input to achieve a deepened meditative state. At this is where the feeling of nothingness begins, and your worries end.”

For real, there is scientific evidence on this floating world. The immune system improves as a result of stress reduction, your heart rate slows and blood pressure lowers. Your brain waves slow down clicking you into the dreamlike theta state that monks try to achieve after hours of meditation allowing extreme clarity of thought for creative endeavors, problem solving and enhanced learning. Floating speeds healing and recovery from activity or injury, detoxifies the body and reduces cortisol levels. Floating even helps with depression and addiction.

While it is not actually salt, this naturally occuring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate has numerous health benefits. Studies show that magnesium and sulfate are both readily absorbed through the skin. Magnesium can reduce inflammation, help muscle and nerve function, as well as help to prevent hardening of arteries. Sulfates help improve the absorption of nutrients, flush toxins and ease headaches. It also exfoliates skin and adds volume to hair (although don’t go in right after getting your hair dyed).


Getting into a tub of warm water was just what the doctor called for this rainy, dreary Spring on Ridge Avenue in Roxborough.


A long list of ideas and instructions that will be sent to your via email after booking your appointment. Don’t be like us and not eat lunch first.

The email reminder reads much like this:

Please arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment start time. We want to get you all checked in and ready without any rush before your float. They also give you a tutorial before you float. Don’t be nervous though.

We recommend that you do not eat a big meal or drink caffeine within two hours of float appointment, but do eat something small about an hour before your appointment. I ate a banana and peanuts aka not enough food.

Do not shave the day of your float, and try not to shave the day before. Cover up cuts/scrapes with band-aid or use Petroleum Jelly (we have this on-site) to reduce stinging due to salt content. Duh, it’s kind of like the ocean = ouch.

Contact lenses cannot be worn in the tanks. Halcyon Floats has contact cases and lens solution for you on-site. Just in case you spaz out and get water in your eyes. I wore my nerd glasses and could “see” just fine.

You will be showering prior to entering tank to rid of make-up, oils, lotions, hair products, etc. And you have to do so as the shower lets the tank know when to stop refilling with fresh water.

You will be showering immediately after exiting the tank to rinse off excessive salt from skin, hair and ears. You are welcome to bring a swimming cap to use in the tank, however it’s been our experience that they may not work to keep your hair dry. Scrub a dub dub, make sure you get all the nooks and crannies or you will find salt for weeks!

Earplugs are provided to prevent water from going in ears as they are submerged in the water. Literally the best ear plugs I’ve ever worn. Just remember to put them in before the pre-rinse shower!


Looking out the window across the street is the Roxborough cemetery and to the right of that, the silver bullet Bob’s Diner – an excellent place to grab a nosh beforehand to keep the tummy grumbles to a minimum.


Walking in, some signs greet you and some awards that should put your soul at ease.


In case you want to read up on floating or take some salt home for your own baths, they have that option.


The receptionist desk is empty as our hostess goes back to prepare the two rooms for our soak.


We loved the aquatic, zen feel of this stained glass circle.


Taking a peek down the hallway, we begin a conversation with a gentleman new to the area who is soaking his first time too. He reads Explore Philly (thank you!) and found the place from the street festival the week before as did many others.


If you really love the space and want to help promote it, there are T-shirts for sale too.


After our orientation, we are told to grab some slippers from under our chairs so we don’t slip and slide on the wooden floors in our rooms.


They range in size from little tiny lady toes to huge men’s size 13 so there’s something for everyone.


I finally see the huge tub in the first room that I will be soaking in. I exclaim how large it is and am more at ease all of the sudden. The tank has a ledge to set whatever you may need (water, light remote, towel and glasses) and as long as you aren’t splashing around, it will stay dry. There were no bars to get in and out of the tank which was tricky at points but you adapt. The door was heavy and metal (not heavy metal though) so once you were sealed, it was a sauna.


The shower and some multi purpose soap in a ketchup bottle awaits me to make sure I’m squeaky clean before getting in the tank.


Some cotton swabs, ear plugs, fresh water bottle for your face, a wash towel and the remote control in a water proof case, lotion and hairdryer are all available.


A bath robe was available to roam in before and after your float. I opted not to use it as the door has a lock and that was good enough for me to feel safe.

Completely releasing all ties from the outside world is pretty much true. I did, for the first half, relax my body into the water and was surprised to find out I could bend my legs with my feet flat as a 90 degree and my butt didn’t touch the bottom. Floating, indeed. My arms were awkward at first. I had them straight then bent them like a goal post and that seemed to relax my shoulders and neck more. You could bounce yourself by the push of a finger from top to bottom, side to side which was fun. I thought I was in the tank for the longest 60 minutes of my life only to learn it was actually 90 minutes long later. I could hear street noises, murmurs of talking, footsteps, my hungry stomach growling and then my own monkey brain going nonstop after apparently being energized from the mineral bath. I thought of how slimy and silky the water was and then went to gross thoughts like I hope this is my hair and what is some guy got the idea of… ewww, gross. I pushed those thoughts out of my head and would try yoga breathing. Then I realized it was hot, like sauna hot and I turned the light on and cracked the door. Then it was too cold so I shut it. Soon the telltale sound of music appeared and getting louder was my signal to exit. Even though I was bouncing around in there, I really didn’t want to go. Getting out was difficult but finally I raised to my knees near the edge and pulled myself up. I think some sort of guide rail may help. After showering thoroughly, I remembered the offer to hang in the lounge and have some water, cookie and tea. And since my stomach was making a medley of sounds already, I didn’t want to hear more on the way home.

So after my experience, this is what happens during a floating session: “the brain relaxes into a theta state, endorphins are released into the bloodstream, reducing pain and fatigue. The increased endorphin levels also promote a general sense of well-being and happiness and therefore, increase vitality and further reduce levels of stress and tension. Stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are reduced in the bloodstream by way of various body messages, receptor site activity, and organ processes. Combined, these positive effects help reduce the risks of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.”

I did feel happy, energized and ready to take on the world – after I ate dinner.


Grabbing a mug for some tea, the book of floating may be a nice read after experiencing what is possibly like floating in the Dead Sea.


Looking back up the hallway after the float and our hostess is busy checking in the next curious crew of beginning floaters.


The lounge area in the back with the hot tea pot and water ready for people to rest.


Lots of tea options without caffeine was my choice, the lemon ginger spoke to me.


… as did the Lorna Doone cookies to my rumbling tummy!


Just in case you want to get your research on!

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