Virden spa offers new float experience

Sensory deprivation without the fear factor

If your notion of sensory deprivation includes fear or claustrophobia, get ready for a new notion. 

Virden’s new pampering business offers a sensory deprivation experience that replaces confinement in a small, dark tank with a soak in a big, comfy tub. 

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Ayana Wellness Spa, located in the former Equipment for Independence store, has a unique float room on their premises -- a two-person tub full of highly salinated water that suspends your tired, aching body and makes it feel like floating weightlessly in space. 

Owner Zoey Jebb says the body-temperature water combined with near-zero gravity can relax, destress, relieve pain, increase magnesium levels, and improve sleep. 

Jebb’s sister Aly Eisner manages the spa and gave me the tour last week. We went past their hydrotherapy bed, massage chairs, light therapy station, and tea room on our way to the float room at the very back. 

The door opens onto an unexpected scene: a bedroom-size space decorated in dark, soothing tones and furnished with the tub, shower stall, sink, toilet and bench seat. 

As you stand at the threshold, calming music and a wave of warm, steamy air envelopes you like a sauna. Eisner demonstrates how to dim the lights to your liking and adjust or turn off the music using only voice commands: 

"Hey Google, lights off."  

"Hey Google, play spa playlist." 

Then, it's just me and Chill Bill (rubber ducky / night light) floating together in the big, briny bathtub, trying to get used to the sensation of letting go, which is not as easy as you might think.

It takes forever for my brain to settle down, a common problem among first-time floaters. 

"Must stop thinking and start relaxing, must hurry and get calm," goes the inner voice.

I can’t bring myself to plunge the room into complete darkness so I let Bill shine his comforting blue glow. Then, there is just weightlessness. Warmth. Soft music. A pager in case I need help (I don’t). 

And no fear or nervousness.

Which is just the way Jebb intended. She describes her first sensory deprivation experience four years ago as difficult. The covered tank was small and claustrophobic (like the ones you see on sit-coms) and not at all what she wanted for herself and her clients. 

So she designed a spacious, high-tech float room that takes the deprivation out of sensory deprivation.

In the quiet isolation, I lose track of time. The only remaining tension I feel is in my neck and shoulders so I ditch the foam neck pillow and let the weight of my head find its natural level in the water. That turns out to be the ticket. 

Soon, all the tightness and stress is gone. ALL of it. And my mind has finally turned off. 

After a while, the overhead lights come on -- the signal to shower, dress and head for the tea room where I will come down (up?) from this warm, rubbery state of physical and mental comfort.

I’m so relaxed, I don’t completely trust my legs to hold me up once released from the weightlessness of the water. I notice how deeply the warmth has penetrated my bones and how wonderful this would feel in the frigid depths of winter.

I leave Chill Bill in the float room, have a mug of chai tea, and prepare to return to the real world, where I promise to hang onto this new, mellow me for as long as I possibly can.  

More About Floating:

-Don't get salt water in your eyes, it stings like crazy (the tub contains 1,300 lbs. of Epsom Salt.)

-The water is disinfected and filtered through a UV system four times between each use. Clients shower before and after a soak.

-You can listen to music or use the provided earplugs for complete silence.

-If you feel uncomfortable in total darkness, you can control your float environment with as much or as little light as you want.  

-Couples can float together.

-The float tub also converts into a speaker for sound therapy clients.


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