Imagine laying in a pool of water but not even being able to feel its touch against your skin. That’s what it’s like inside one of three sensory deprivation floating tanks at Phlot, a new floating spa in Eastown.
Phlot opened in January in the newly constructed Norwood Building, at 1555 Wealthy St SE.
Tyler Phaneuf, owner of Phlot, said Eastown was the perfect location to bring the experience of floating to Grand Rapids. And he said the new construction meant he was able to build out the space exactly to his specifications.
Walking into float, you are greeted first by the main lobby, a contemporary space with a large window overlooking the sidewalk and comfortable lounge chairs. Beyond the first door, you enter into Phlot’s relation room, a dimly lit room where people who have just completed their floating experience can sit and slowly re-acclimate to the sensory filled environment they’re about to re-enter.
Beyond the next door is the main event – the four floating rooms (three of which are operational currently and the fourth that will be built out later as needed).
Each floating room is equipped with a float tank and a shower directly outside of the tank – which helps contain the salt. Towels and amenities including shampoo and conditioner are provided in the rooms as well.
The float tanks are filled with 11 inches of water and 1100 lbs. of dissolved Epsom salt, creating a buoyancy similar to the Dead Sea.
“The main effect of that much salt is creating a zero gravity environment, so you float effortlessly on top,” Phaneuf said. The water is heated to skin temperature (between 93.5 and 94.5 degrees), taking away the sensation of touch as well.
“You don’t feel anything and you’re not fighting gravity,” Phaneuf said. There is also no light or sound in the tank. “When your body is exposed to this type of environment it has a profound rest and relaxation response.”
In this type of sensory deprived environment, Phaneuf said people’s flight or fight responses are switched off and they are able to enter into a state of deep relaxation.
“It’s good for reducing stress and anxiety,” he said. “As far as physical recovery, you get complete muscle relaxation, your joints decompress, your spine elongates, blood pressure lowers and it improves sleep.”
The Epsom salt, specifically, is good for relieving muscle aches and pain.
Phaneuf first tried floating four years ago after hearing about it on a podcast. “I had to go to Lansing to try it and I felt super good physically after my first float.”
Always hoping to start his own business, Phaneuf said he knew right away floating was it. He began researching floating centers, attended the annual Float Conference in Portland, Oregon, and started looking for retail space.
“This is probably the perfect location in Grand Rapids for this type of business,” he said, noting the many businesses and continued development along Wealthy Street.
Phaneuf said Phlot’s clients use the facility for a variety of reasons from muscle recovery after a sporting event to therapy for migraines and headaches to meditation and mindfulness practice.
A float session lasts for one hour and floaters completely undress for the experience. Phaneuf said some first timers might feel nervous about being in the chamber, particularly those with claustrophobia fears.
“When we hear that we say come back and look at the tanks. There is a light in the tank (that can be kept on) and if they want they can leave the door ajar – the door doesn’t lock – so you’re in complete control,” he said.
Floaters can also listen to music or guided meditations throughout the experience or they can have the sound fade out after a certain number of minutes into the session. “We let people make the experience what they want,” Phaneuf said.
Tanks are filtered between users, going through a four-stage filtration system that includes passing through a 10 micron filter and UV filtration.”
Floating sessions cost $85. Phlot also offers a one-time three pack for $165 and an introductory session for $65. Packages of 10 and 52 are also available.
Phaneuf encourages people to give floating a try and suggests they give the experience three tries before making up their mind about it, admitting it can take a few tries to completely adjust to it and become fully comfortable.
“It’s important to emphasize that it’s a practice. It takes times to settle into the experience,” he said.