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The Short Version: The concept of floating has been around for a long time, but it has recently seen renewed popularity for its physical and mental health benefits. At Floatworks in London, thousands of people have discovered those benefits for themselves. Floating in a pod filled with warm water and salt offers a deep, even transformative, level of relaxation that can help people sleep better, reduce anxiety, and alleviate stress. Many couples visit Floatworks for a serene, shared date-night experience.
It only takes one floating experience to understand.
That’s what Floatworks Co-Founders Chris Plowman, Ed Hawley, and Tim Strudwick discovered years ago when they floated for the first time. The process involves floating weightlessly in a tank of water filled with Epsom salt — with or without exposure to light and sound — and it can be transformative.
Tim is the creator of the i-sopod, the enclosed sensory deprivation capsule that was the prototype for modern floating pods. He opened his first floating studio in London in 1993.
When friends Chris Plowman and Ed Hawley experienced floating, they knew they wanted to be a part of the industry. So, together, the trio relaunched the company to share the experience with a modern audience by opening Floatworks Vauxhall.
“All the founders and staff who work here believe wholeheartedly in floating and have all had transformative experiences through it,” said Claudia Elliot, who oversees Communications and Media for Floatworks. “It’s quite an incredible feeling. After a few moments, the water stops moving, and you become used to the sensation of relaxing completely in water. It’s like being suspended in outer space. It’s amazing.”
The company has two locations, one in Vauxhall, London, and another in Angel, London. The latter is the newest center, just five minutes from the Angel Underground, and is the largest float center in the United Kingdom.
The Vauxhall center was also redesigned to make the facility feel like a sanctuary that brings peace to every visitor.
Both Floatworks locations have plenty of regulars, including couples who enjoy experiencing the benefits of floating on a date night, and many of those float-lovers say it offers relaxation like nothing else in this world.
For those who have never floated, the process is relatively straightforward. Once guests arrive for an appointment at Floatworks, they start by touring the facility. It’s a little different than a typical spa because it offers even more privacy, as each pod has its own room with a dedicated shower. There is no communal changing area, and clients have space and solitude to immerse themselves in introspection and comfort during their entire experience.
“It’s a haven; a sanctuary in a very busy city,” Claudia told us.
An experienced and knowledgeable floating guide takes guests to their rooms and answers their questions. Guides also show floaters how to operate the pod, explain how it works, and instruct them on how to get inside.
Once someone steps inside, they have even more options. Ambient music is set to play for the first 10 minutes and last five minutes of a float, but guests can also choose to have music for their entire experience. The pod also has lights on the inside that users can turn on or off. Guests can also choose to float in the pod naked, or they can wear a bathing suit.
Inside, they’ll float in water that’s heated to the temperature of their skin and filled with half a ton of Epsom salt, which supports guests and gives them a sensation of weightlessness. Many floaters choose to have no music or lights in the soundproof pod — and their sense of touch slowly melts away, too.
Most people start by opting for an hour-long float, but those who have floated a few times before often choose to extend the experience to two and a half or four hours.
“It’s quite incredible to get to the end of doing nothing for an hour and wish that you could double the length,” Claudia said.
Tim spent his early days in the industry working with celebrities and top athletes who wanted to experience the proven mental and physical benefits of floating. It starts with the Epsom salt, which provide the skin with minerals and nourishment. The alignment of the spine can also be naturally relaxed to promote healing inside the pod. That makes floating especially attractive for pregnant women.
But Claudia said that, in her experience, the mental benefits are the most amazing part.
“The sensory deprivation allows all the systems in the body to turn off and just calm down,” she said. “That is valuable for people who want to practice mindfulness or meditation or explore their consciousness. It gives people eureka moments, allows them to think creatively, and helps people to sleep better.”
She said she sleeps better not only the night after a float but also for a few days afterward.
Other studies have shown how floating can dramatically reduce anxiety and depression. The increase in mental health awareness and treatment is a significant reason why floating has gained popularity in recent years, and people see that it’s healthier to find an activity that feels good and alleviates symptoms but doesn’t involve drugs or other methods that suppress those feelings.
Even arriving at the facility can offer a sense of peace. Relaxation rooms in each center provide newcomers with a sense of how warm and friendly other floating enthusiasts are. It’s common for people to stay and chat with each other before and after their floats.
Frequent Floatworks guests use the practice as a way to deepen their meditation routines.
“Floating provides a more luxurious, comfortable, and distraction-free way of being with yourself rather than forcing yourself to meditate in a room for an hour,” Claudia said.
Floatworks guests are nearly equally slit between men and women, and many are young professionals. Its regulars often share an interest in well-being and sports, but sometimes they have stressful jobs and enjoy the escape.
Frequently, couples will book together, and Floatworks is updating its booking process to encourage that. Claudia said one couple visits Floatworks once a month for a special date night.
“It’s just something a little bit different, not sociable, but it puts you into such a blissful, serene and relaxed state,” she told us. “It’s a nice state to be in if you’re spending quality time with someone afterward. Then, they go home for a relaxed evening. It’s a nourishing way to start a weekend. They’ll have a nice, healthy, and restoring experience.”
Groups of friends also commonly visit Floatworks together for a fun experience. Floats are popular gifts for birthdays and holidays, too.
Guests can purchase either single floats or sign up for a membership that offers one float per week. Membership also offers perks, including additional floats at a cheaper rate.
Claudia said people come to Floatworks because it’s one of the best ways to treat themselves and, in turn, improve their relationships. Floats allow guests to adjust their mindset, reduce stress, and emerge with a renewed energy and perspective.
It helps that the staff at both centers genuinely care about the experience each person has.
“People can feel quite tender when they come out. It’s a very profound experience for some,” Claudia explained. “Guests normally love to talk about how their floats went, and we have an incredibly caring and very passionate staff that loves to listen.”