Come Float Away
Flotation therapy is popular across Europe and has become a popular way for professional athletes to relax and rejuvenate. The opening of MIZU Float Center on San Felipe brings the sensory deprivation experience to Houston in a soothing, hygienic, and restorative environment.
For the uninitiated, floatation therapy involves floating in a pod filled with water and pharmaceutical grade epsom salt. The water in the egg-shaped pods is the same temperature as the skin’s surface, and while floating, you have the option for lights, music, total silence and yes, keeping the pod open or completely closed.
I get a little claustrophobic just putting a hoodie over my head, so the thought of floating in an enclosed egg-shaped pod for an hour kicked my brain into a hyperdrive of apprehension. But, the idea of turning off my iPhone and trying something completely new was more persuasive than my fears, and, besides, if it’s good enough for JJ Watt, then why not give it a go?
In addition to being a float center, MIZU is also an integrative medicine clinic, run by Dr. Mahyar Badrei and Dr. Hannah Badrei. The husband and wife team are enthusiastic about the health benefits the floating provides. Professional athletes like NBA superstar Stephen Curry and the aforementioned Watt appreciate the restorative powers of floating because the high saturation of salt acts as an anti-inflammatory, relieving pressure on joints and muscles.
With that in mind, I took my pre-arthritic knee and slowly healing Achilles injury into the floating pod, not knowing what to expect, but intrigued at the idea of simply doing nothing for one whole hour.
The process feels very spa-like, but is exceedingly private. Unlike a massage or facial, once escorted to one of the three suites equipped with a vanity, private shower, and float pod, you only hear a series of recorded instructions throughout the experience.
Guests are asked to shower and wash their hair with provided products before and after floating and are encouraged to float nude, although swimsuits are accepted. Since it’s completely private, only the person floating knows either way. A robe and slip-resistant spa shoes are provided, as are ear plugs to keep water out of your ears. Dr. Hannah Badrei gave me an insider tip, encouraging me to use a floating head rest, especially helpful for those who fall asleep while floating. I secretly scoffed at the idea of falling asleep, because who falls asleep in a pod filled with water?
Well, actually, this girl did.
Not at first of course. Once you take the plunge, albeit a teeny, tiny plunge, there’s some acclimating. The water is pleasant and there are large knobs to control the lights and music. I started with the pod open, lights and music on. Once I got a little braver, I closed the pod and turned the music down, but kept the lights on. After 20 minutes or so I decided to go for the complete sensory deprivation experience.
No lights. No sound. Pod closed.
It was joyfully disorienting and completely freeing. It was also the closest I'll ever be to floating in space or in-utero. The pod is a bit like Dr. Who’s TARDIS; much bigger on the inside than it looks. Eventually, my brain just disconnected from the stuff of life, and quite frankly, my body.
It’s a common result of floating.
“Your brain has a body map and because of all of the constant connecting, your body map gets distorted. In this environment, your brain loses that feeling and it doesn’t know how to respond, so it resets,” Dr. Mahyar Badrei said. “It allows for a period of introspection and stillness of the mind.
Dr. Badrei suggests three float sessions to start seeing extended benefits, which also includes the softening of fine lines in the skin because the salt water pulls moisture to the top of the skin. While in the pod, your skin is slick, but not slimy and my skin was softer for three days after the float.
Immediately after floating (a prompt comes through the pod when the session is up) guests are asked to shower again. After, they'll drink a cup of one of six proprietary herbal teas.
While some people are unsure about floating because of the closed pod, others are curious about the cleaning process of the water and the space. The Badreis hire hospital-grade sanitizing teams for the center and the water in the pods is filtered at least three times between each float through a one-micron particulate filter. The water is then treated via germicidal UV lamp, ozone, and hydrogen peroxide, and the use of 1,100lbs of Epsom salt, dissolved into the water, is a natural and highly effective sanitizer.
The pods begin self-cleaning shortly after the session is finished and do emit a scent while cleaning, but it’s less noticeable once the process gets going.
The Badreis rely on data for the programs at the clinic which also includes preventive care, wellness exams, chronic care management, herbal medicine, acupuncture, cognitive behavioral therapy, and nutrition medicine. Floating pricing starts at $95 for an initial session.
“There’s so much good data behind floating. Stress, which is linked to chronic illness and disease, anxiety disorders, fybromyalgia, relief from joint pressure, plus the act of being a part of something very private where you can experience meditation and mindfulness,” Dr. Mahyar Badrei said.
Each person’s mileage will vary, but the effects of my personal floating experience lasted a solid three days. I slept exceptionally well, felt like running a marathon, and purposefully put my phone down, in an effort to hang onto the mindfulness for as long as possible.