By Crysta Coburn
While I was growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, my grandparents had a swimming pool in their backyard, and for a short time, my family also lived near a lake. Kalamazoo is actually situated about 30 to 40 minutes from the Lake Michigan shoreline, so no matter where I was, water was easily accessible, and did I ever make use of it. If I could have spent every warm day in the water, whether pool or lake, I would have.
Though I loved swimming and exploring below the surface, my favorite was floating on top. Whether lounging on an inflatable chaise, draped across an inner tube, or floating free, I was at peace – even better if there were gentle waves rocking me up and down, back and forth. Aaah…
On a trip to southern Italy, floating was taken to a new level in the Mediterranean. The salinity of the water made my body more bouyant, a truly delightful experience that I often reflected on after. So when I learned of float therapy (also known as flotation therapy) from Charles Smalls (issue 64), my immediate thought was, “I wonder if it's like floating on the Mediterranean.”
Charles referred me to Mike Berman, owner of Bloom Wellness on Ann Arbor's west side, near Zingerman's Roadhouse. I could tell from his accent that Mike was from California (I lived there for three years, so it was familiar to me), and I wondered what brought him here. It turned out he was a graduate of the University of Michigan and began his own flotation center when he couldn't find one nearby in Michigan.
Each flotation tub at Bloom Wellness has 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt, easily supporting a person's full weight in about 10 inches of water. (In fact, I struggled to keep my arm submerged when I gave it a try!) But you don't just jump right in.
Upon first arriving, I was handed a large, fluffy robe and shown to a very nice, very clean locker room. Because the flotation rooms are locked and completely private, many people float without clothes while others use a bathing suit. I personally kept on my suit bottoms beneath the robe.
Thus attired, I was then taken to a windowless room lit only by a flickering candle and enjoyed a turn in the Dreamwave Bliss, a completely engulfing shiatsu massage chair that massages from head to toe while a recording of waves crashing on the beach played in the background. I joked to Mike that I needed one at home. He said he understood, but also also warned me about the hefty price tag. Alas.
It was then that I was led to my dream bathroom. There was a glass-encased shower and bathing area, outside of which was a bench where items that you wish to remain dry may be placed. The shower was luxuriously open, offering complete freedom of movement. Before entering, and also upon exiting the flotation tub, you are asked to shower and separate shampoos, conditioners, and soaps are provided for each step. There was also a waterproof iPod that played tranquil music and an inflatable pillow to help with neck support in the water, both of which I recommend at least for your first time.
The lights remained on until after I was floating in the tub. I have excellent night vision, so the room never got 100% dark for me, but for most people it would be, and I am happy to report that some lights were motion sensitive and turned on with a wave of the hand in case the darkness became too much.
As I was promised, floating was relaxing. My body was completely embraced and supported by the water. The music was soothing. But it was also, well… fun! Floating free with no distractions, no one ready to walk in and disrupt my me time was liberating. Will I go back? Absolutely! And I already have friends who have also gone. But next time, I think I'll tack on a massage from Charles. The chair was lovely, but there's nothing like the real thing.
Crysta Coburn is a local author and bookseller. She earned her degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University in 2005 and has been writing professionally since. Her award-winning stories can be found in various magazines and anthologies, including GlassFire Anthology and Valves and Vixens volumes I and II. For more information on Crysta and her writing, check out http://lifefroma2.blogspot.com/p/bio.html.