I’m a water worshipper. I love to drink litres of it daily, feel it pour onto my skin in the shower, move with its ebbs, and flows in the sea. Water is therapeutic, cleansing, sensual.
Most of all, I relish the blissful feeling of floating on my back in the Aegean Sea; I swim far out, away from the madding crowds, lie back and let myself go, completely. Surrender is trust, and rewarded trust generates gratitude. So as I lie, effortlessly feeling the sea holding me up I can’t help but rejoice.
Waiting for the day
I heard about the arrival of Etherfloat Athens’ first floatation spa when it opened in November 2018 but only visited its contemporary, polished space recently. Professional and offering a relaxed comfort, it offers top-notch services and facilities. It has an excellent water-filtering system and uses UV lamps and hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine to ensure complete cleanliness.
Invented in 1954 by John C. Lilly, a neuropsychiatrist and medical practitioner the sensory deprivation tank has been used to alleviate, treat, and reverse physical, mental, and emotional ailments or problems. Traditional use involves that the user lies floating with complete weightlessness in the tank, in complete darkness and silence. This has been shown, through a significant number of global scientific studies, to induce the parasympathetic response in the body and put the mind on the Theta-wave ‘setting’ which is thought to create a feeling of raised spiritual-emotional consciousness.
Flotation has also been scientifically shown to alleviate muscle tension, lower blood pressure, and – something major for people today – to reduce anxiety, by lowering the cortisol-induced ‘fight or flight’ response we have when we experience any form of anxiety, stress or fear. Floating also helps clear the mind of superfluous, negative, or meandering thought processes – the “monkey brain” and leads to the release of feel-good endorphins.
By having a session – but ideally, following a course of monthly sessions, people are said to start experiencing a wide array of positive results. These include an overall improved mood, clearer state of mind, a more balanced nervous system, increased emotional intelligence, and a more relaxed body.
The journey inwards
Etherfloat was created by Fivos, a civil engineer who fell in love with the experience and its benefits. He and his brother spent many years researching and trying out flotation tanks in various countries before setting up their own place in Kolonaki. Fivos especially loves floating for its esoteric benefits: “Floating is the ideal place to meditate and come into contact with your inner truth,” he says. “The pod is a very safe space. It’s warm, at body temperature. You’re alone and completely unobserved; there’s no role to play. Basically, you have time for yourself to relax, to figure out what’s going on in your body and soul. You can discover a lot of things in there.”
The flotation tank is filled with around 30cm of water that is saturated with Epsom Salts. Apart from making people float, these salts are rich in magnesium sulfate, known to soothe aches and pains. It also inhibits ACTH, a hormone that pushes the adrenal glands to create cortisol.
“As you float, a lot of ideas will come into your mind about yourself and life,” Foivos says. “It keeps you closer to your own humanity and to other people’s humanity… My brother and I have a mission to bring this to the public; to help generate a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you.”
In I go!
I may be somewhat agoraphobic, but fortunately not claustrophobic. So I was not in the least bit afraid of being closed into a dark pod. I did consider the possibility of getting locked in but Fivos assured that as the pod isn’t locked by electricity and opens with a manual lever. Also, should one need any assistance during floatation, there is a pneumatic button inside the tank that instantly notifies the reception desk. In the first 10 minutes of floating there is the sound of dreamy ambient music playing softly, accompanied by a sequence of coloured lighting that offers colour therapy.
For the first 15 minutes, I felt a little restless. I kept repositioning myself and my mind was very conscious of the beautiful changing colours. Then in Yoga Nidra style, I started to mentally scan my body starting from my feet and going up to my head. I focused on every area, feeling which muscles were tense in my unnecessary effort to “stay afloat” and let go. Finally, I let my thoughts go and surrendered to the dark, warm, silent embrace, to the luxury of unwatched, untouched, and unique-to-me solitude.
In the last few minutes of the session, the music begins to play again. It was only then that I realised I had been in a state of semi-dreaming. As I returned to my senses, I felt like I was leaving outer space. I actually wanted to linger there. I woke fully, I did some gentle yoga twists and turned on the light, uncertainly ready to return to reality. But certainly, ready to plan my next visit to Etherfloat.