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Photo by: Isaac Babcock - New Baldwin Park business lets customers float away aches and worries.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2014 4 years ago

Float center opens in Baldwin Park

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'Floating' trend comes to Baldwin
by: Sarah Wilson Staff Writer

It’s warm, pitch black and unintelligibly silent. You’re wet, but you don’t feel the water. You reach out your limbs at all angles, but there’s no way to tell which direction is up. You’re suspended where the air and the water meet, in a place where your limbs slowly lose purpose. In the darkness, you feel only your steady pulse and the air rhythmically seeping deeply in and out of your lungs. All that’s left is your mind.

What do you find when your alone with your mind? Floating orbs of cascading light. A sense of spinning without ever moving. A flash of anxiety followed by an intense feeling of calm.

East Coast Floats owner Laurie Bower says every person’s first experience with floating is different. Inside the depths of the float pod for the first time, she felt like she was spinning in circles to the left. When she got out, she felt relaxed and fiercely focused. She was ready to take on anything thrown her way.

Even after more than a dozen more spins in different souped-up sensory deprivation tanks, she said each experience inside was different. But the sense of calm, centered purpose that followed always stuck.

“It’s a different experience for everyone who comes in,” said Laurie’s husband Mark Bower. “It’s a unique experience for everyone … you’re completely in control of the situation.”

But the hope is that everyone leaves feeling more relaxed and connected to their own inner self. It’s a service the Bowers felt more Central Floridians could benefit from, opening their first floating studio in the Village Center last month.

“We just don’t have enough quiet time,” Laurie said. “You just never get a break from all the constant stimulus in the day-to-day. [Floating] is like a break for your brain.”

East Coast Floats is located at 4832 New Broad St., and is the first float center in Orange County. For more information about floating, or to book an appointment, visit eastcoastfloats.com or call 407-203-5628.

A practice originally developed by a doctor with the National Institute of Mental Health, floating has become a treatment for mind, body and spirit, Mark said. Veterans Affairs hospitals use it to help quell post-traumatic stress disorder. Athletes float to help heal up and relieve pain from muscle injuries. Pregnant women use it to take the pressure off their swollen bodies. And everyday people like Mark and Laurie use it to center their minds and take a 90-minute break from the confines of reality.

Inside each float tank – large white pods that look like something “The Jetsons” would ride into space – are 900 pounds of Epsom salt and 250 gallons of water, which amounts to about 10 inches of water lapping around the inside. A light refracts beams of blue through the water, casting a calming glow all around.

After a scrub down in the shower, you get in the pod in your birthday suit. The water’s salinity immediately coats your skin in a silky layer and allows your entire body to float without effort. When you lower the pod’s lid and the blue light shuts off, so do your senses. For 90 minutes your brain can disconnect from the stimulus of any sensation to your body, leading it to wonder.

A manner of deep meditation is what Mark was looking for from his first floating experience, and that’s exactly what he got. He said the deprivation of the tank allows you to reach a level of consciousness strived to by Buddhist monks in their deepest levels of meditation.

“It’s like a gravity free environment. It’s like having the feeling of being in outer space, like your mind is in space,” he said.

It takes a while to free yourself of all the everyday thoughts plaguing your brain, but it’s a great place to be once you get there, Laurie said.

“We’re so over stimulated, I think people just need a break,” she said.

The floating craze has caught on big time in Europe and Canada, with float centers gradually popping up across the west coast of the U.S. The Bowers hope to introduce the practice up and down the east coast – starting in Baldwin Park.

Before their doors even opened, the couple said they had a steady stream of folks stopping in to see what the shop was all about. Chiropractors and athletes, IT workers and new moms, people from ages 15 to 80 with all different backgrounds have shown interest in the practice, Laurie said. Floating offers something different for everyone.

“I think self-care is the new health-care,” Mark said. “I think a lot of people are looking for new and different ways to better their bodies. And this is a way to do it.”

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