Though in existence since 2015, Mountain Float Spa in New Paltz celebrated its grand opening under new ownership on May 26. There was a ribbon-cutting, healthy snacks and live music courtesy of Dan Zlotnick. The community got a chance to meet siblings Olivia Rodas and Brandon Rey Rodas, who took over the operation from founders Joey La Penna and Grace Kladstrup La Penna back in October. They’ve been giving the place a facelift, including total replacement of one of the flotation tanks that had developed a crack in the fiberglass.
Flotation therapy has been making a big comeback in the past decade, following years of public avoidance in the wake of the AIDS epidemic. That scare-off was ironic in a way, since the high concentration of Epsom salts in the water is unfriendly to microorganisms. And places like Mountain Float Spa utilize rigorous sanitation procedures in between customers.
“We have a filter system that runs for 15 minutes after each client. It recycles the water seven times,” says Brandon. “We give it a hydrogen peroxide shock twice a week. We turn on the ultraviolet lights on the side of the tank after each person for 30 minutes, which kills all the bacteria.” Clients are required to shower thoroughly and wash their hair (without conditioner) before their flotation sessions as well, to leave behind skin oils and traces of cosmetic chemicals.
If the idea of lying in somebody else’s used salt water has been a deterrent to your discovering this potentially life-changing form of physical and mental therapy, maybe it’s time to take a second look at flotation. The first flotation/isolation tank was invented in 1954 by John C. Lilly, a brilliant physician and neuropsychologist who went on to later fame experimenting with LSD with Timothy Leary and researching human/dolphin communication. Lilly was interested in studying the effects of near-total sensory deprivation on human consciousness, and in the process stumbled on a therapeutic modality that millions have subsequently found helpful for pain relief, alleviating stress, anxiety and insomnia, and stimulating creative thinking.
“People come looking to heal,” says Olivia. “We get a lot of people with injuries and back pain. One person with bad back pain told us this is the only thing that helps.” Another client, an amputee with “phantom limb” symptoms, found that flotation “relieved her pain for the first time,” Brandon says. Pregnant women find the zero-gravity experience particularly beneficial; pool devices are provided to make it easy to hold their faces above the water if they want to float on their stomachs. Olivia says that some mothers-to-be feel a heightened sense of bonding with their fetuses as they experience a floating sensation similar to that of being in the womb.
A “head floatie” is available for anyone who’s nervous about the possibility of falling asleep in the tank, which does sometimes happen – and such sleep is reportedly extra-restful. But there’s no danger of drowning even if you do, because the concentration of mineral salts keeps the body incredibly buoyant.
“You don’t have the urge to roll over and turn. It just cradles you,” says Brandon. As a bonus, the magnesium in the Epsom salts serves to detoxify the body of free radicals, those nasty metabolic byproducts that can trigger cancer or autoimmune disease flareups.
The flotation tank is about eight feet long and four feet wide, so you never bump up against the sides. The ceiling is high, reducing any sense of claustrophobia. There are controls within reach for light levels and music. The classic sensory deprivation approach is total darkness and silence, but the client has a choice. “After ten minutes you can’t tell where your body and the water separate,” Olivia explains. “It’s easy to slip into a meditative state.”
Scientifically speaking, that brain state induced by flotation-REST (reduced environmental stimulation therapy) is characterized by increased theta wave activity. It’s a state of deep relaxation that releases anxieties and muscle tension, even enhancing creativity and strategic thinking. Elite athletes often use flotation sessions in preparation for big games or races, and artists come out of the tank brimming with inspiration. The Rodases keep blank “float books” handy in the “chill room” where clients go to rehydrate and transition back to reality after their tank session and shower. Artistic types sometimes do sketches or write lines of poetry while the meditative state lingers. But they say pretty much everyone comes out with a big blissed-out smile on their face.
In fact, that experience of well-being was what made the siblings want to take over this business when the La Pennas decided they were ready to move on. Brandon was looking into self-care approaches to controlling his anxiety as well as muscle pain from athletic activities. A friend recommended that he try out Mountain Float Spa.
“After that 60 minutes, I was speechless. I felt so clear and focused,” he says. He told his sister about the experience; she tried it herself and “fell in love,” she says. With a background in the hospitality business, she immediately wanted to make floats available to everyone. “People come out so happy and refreshed,” she says with satisfaction.
The spa features two flotation tank suites and a massage room. Packages are available that include both; a “Float Sandwich” consisting of a 60-minute float and a 60-minute Swedish massage costs $180. Flotation session prices range from $75 for 60 minutes to $130 for two hours. Hot stone, deep tissue and prenatal massages are available in addition to Swedish-style. Multiple-session discounts and gift cards are also available.
For details on how to prepare, when not to do a float and other useful information, visit https://mountainfloatspa.floathelm.com. You can book a session on the website, by calling 256-9800 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Mountain Float Spa is located in the Medusa Building at 215 Main Street (Route 299) in New Paltz. The entrance is in the parking lot around the back.