As we put Western Living’s first-ever Sleep Month to rest, I wanted to get one last snooze-related story in. Because a few weeks ago, I had the best nap of my life. And I was not in my bed. In fact, I wasn’t even in my home. I was floating in a dark pod containing ten inches of body-temperature water and a bizarre amount of Epsom salt.

This was Halsa Float Spa’s float therapy, and to be honest, it was an experience I was pretty apprehensive about. I tried the treatment (and a massage—more on that later!) as part of research for our sister mag, Vancouver magazine. I am not claustrophobic, but the pod sounded eerily coffin-like to me. I had visions of a nemesis putting a cartoon-like anvil atop the pod and trapping me alone (and naked, how humiliating) forever.

But here I sit, fully clothed and very much alive. Here’s everything you need to know about float therapy.

This is one of Halsa’s Genesis pods (from a photo on their website, this isn’t me—scroll down for the much lower-quality pic I took).

How do I prepare for an anti-gravity float pod?

There’s not much you need to do to prepare, but there’s lots to avoid, according to Halsa:

  • Don’t have caffeine before your float (I assume being all jazzed up by coffee makes relaxing more difficult
  • Don’t shave or wax 24 hours before (to prevent stinging from the salt)
  • Don’t go if you’re sick, have a new tattoo, new hair dye or open wounds or cuts
  • Don’t wear heavy scents (they’ll all wash off, anyway)

The spa gives each guest a pair of earplugs to keep and re-wear on following visits.

What is an anti-gravity float pod like?

Halsa Float Spa’s Genesis Pods are located in private rooms that also contain a shower. So once you step in and lock the door, you’re flying solo. First, you take a shower using the soap/shampoo provided (special pre-pod soap!) and then lift up the top of the pod.

The spa provides a floating pillow to support your head, and within the pod there are controls for both the lights and music, so you can decide whether you want to float in dark silence or not (I opted to keep both on).

Worried about feeling claustrophobic? Read on.

Will an anti-gravity float pod trigger my claustrophobia?

Depending on your level of comfort with small spaces, a float pod could potentially be triggering—but less so than you may think. Halsa Float Spa has two options: Genesis Pods and Ocean Float Rooms.

I was in the Genesis Pod, which is the classic anti-gravity float pod. The pod is about 5 feet wide and 7 feet long, and opens and closes like a clamshell. Notably, the pod doesn’t actually seal when it closes—even in a fully shut position, there are 2-3 inches of open space all the way around (enough for me to stick my whole hand out, easily).

My Genesis pod.
My Genesis pod.

The pod cover is on a hinge with a spring and is extremely easy to lift open and closed, and you do it yourself—so if you’re feeling a little panicky, you can just lift the top. I found this to quell any fears I had about being trapped.

But if the idea of being shut in a pod freaks you out, there’s also the Ocean Float Rooms. Think of this more like a small room containing a not-hot hot tub (a reminder, water is body temperature). These rooms are 6 feet wide and 8 feet long, with 7-foot high ceilings.

Personally, I found the float in the Genesis Pod to be a lot less scary than I thought it would be. If you’re unsure about floating, I recommend asking the (very soothing) folks at Halsa to learn more.

Will I fall asleep in an anti-gravity float pod?

I have trouble falling asleep anywhere. Often, my mind chooses bedtime to think up my most stressful and horrifying thoughts. Pre-float, I did not think there was any way I would be falling asleep during the experience.

My float at Halsa Float Spa was 80 minutes, and there wasn’t any way for me to tell time once I was in the pod. But I can estimate that I spent the first 5 minutes just getting comfortable in the water. Then another 5 pushing alternating pushing my hands and feet against the walls, bouncing myself back and forth.

I was relaxed, sure, but I was also extremely bored. I could not imagine staying in the pod for another 70 minutes.

Then, all of a sudden, a gentle automated voice coming through speakers in the pod was telling me the float was over. Excuse me? Against all odds, I’d zonked out in the saltwater. I think I slept for about an hour of the experience.

How do you know when your float is done?

As mentioned above, an automated message comes on when your float is done (rest assured there’s no awkward knock at the door). There’s soothing music that slowly increases in volume, waking you up, and the voice tells you that the pod will start its self-cleaning process in 5 minutes. It’s time to pop that top up and shower.

How salty is the anti-gravity pod?

Besides having the very cool effect of making you float, the salt isn’t super noticeable when you’re in the pod itself. Getting out is a different story—the water is weirdly viscous on your skin and hair, and a shower is essential.

My shower at Halsa, located in the same private room as the float pod.
My shower at Halsa, located in the same private room as the float pod.

Halsa provides soap, shampoo and conditioner for you to use post-float, but I ended up showering once I got home, as well.

What do I do after an anti-gravity float?

I was feeling totally blissed out after my saltwater nap, and kept the vibe going with a massage from one of Halsa’s practitioners. According to the spa’s website, my bodyworker Kendall’s massage style aims to “invite space, breathe and release into the physical, emotional and spiritual body.”

What this meant was that, along with all the classic muscle-massaging that comes with this sort of treatment, Kendall also did a lot of talking: she encouraged me to think of what I needed to let go of, to imagine connections between my body and mind, and overall to be more aware of how the physical massage was affecting me emotionally and spiritually.

It was a really serene way to end the experience, and left me feeling a little bit lighter (not just because of the float). Because my pod time was essentially a salty nap, it was nice to have some dedicated time to relax my conscious mind, too.

Halsa Float Spa
2028 W. 4th Ave, Vancouver

Individual floats are $72 for 80 minutes, massages start at $72 for 30 minutes.