“Turn off your mind, relax, and float” is the opening line to a Beatles song, but it might as well be the slogan for Salt Float Center located at 149 Valley Road in Upper Montclair. Saltwater tubs provide patrons with the opportunity to restore their minds and bodies via sensory deprivation. Guests emerge feeling serene and energized all at once. The complimentary tea and opportunity to journal afterward are lovely bonuses to the experience. Read on to learn more about Salt Float Center in Montclair plus what it’s like to float in total darkness and silence.
About the Owner
Rob McDonald (No relation to the author) first learned about floating in 2007, but at that time he was deep in hectic day-to-day of corporate life, being a new father, and fitness training mornings and evenings on top of a daily commute of three-plus hours. He booked his first float in October of that year, and the result was transformative:
“I will never forget the excitement and anticipation leading up to it. It was so foreign to me that it held the same magical prospect of traveling to a distant land. It had not only lived up to my expectations but far exceeded anything I could have imagined it would be. I had chanced upon something that let me put aside my entire life for a precious window of relaxation, rejuvenation, and exploration. As I drifted around the streets afterward, in that sweet, sweet, post-float state of mind, I knew that my life path had shifted.”
Years passed before he “began to consider what it would be like to not only make floating more accessible to me but to all of the people I knew who would love and benefit from it.” He did more research and realized that the demographic of people who would benefit from floating was wider than expected, including, “Athletes, veterans, seniors, pregnant women, creatives, new parents, and certainly overworked people who [usually] vent through short stints at the gym or long stints at the bar.”
Rob opened Salt Float Center in March of 2018. Although he has considered expansion and might add more centers in the future, quarantine and COVID lockdown have put that goal on hold for now.
That is certainly not to say the venture hasn’t been successful – quite the opposite. Salt’s customer base “enjoyed and benefited from float therapy so much before COVID that, upon reopening, our schedule was fully booked for months.” Personally, Rob is most definitely satisfied.
He considers himself to be “realizing a dream that began with one enchanting float, and left me with the desire to share with the world the immeasurably deep smile that comes from floating.”
What It’s Like to Float
Appointments can be booked online, but a phone call to float (with a credit card handy to hold your spot) works too, and associate Andrew was super friendly and happy to answer all my first-time questions.
There are three float tanks available: two suites and one orb. The suites are saltwater tubs with 8’ high ceilings and a door. The orb is exactly what it purports to be: a large oval tub with a lid to pull down over you. Once inside, the ceilings are 4’ high, so you can sit up easily. But this experience definitely gives you a more insulated feel. The stars on the roof of the orb are a cool touch, too.
Suite or orb, the experience begins with a walk-through and instructions on how to cut the lights and music (and stars, if orb-ing it) once the float begins. Then, you’ll take a shower, decide if you’re opting into earplugs, and get ready to climb in.
As soon as you sit in the water, your legs float up. This was a little awkward as I tried to shut the lid of the orb, but not an impossible feat. Once settled in the orb or suite, lie back and allow yourself to float. About half of the body is submerged in water, but the temperature is calibrated so that you’re neither warm nor cold.
At first, it can be tricky to settle in. You may be unsure where your hands should go, and find them raised above your head in a victory V, for example. But once you find that sweet spot where you embrace the comforting nature of it all, the body will surrender and release tension.
The viscosity of the water is such that the head tips back a little, so relax your neck and take your time to get comfy, because it is indeed quite comfortable!
Music will be playing and a soothing colored light will be on. If you’re in the orb, stars twinkle as well. But as soon as the door shuts to your tank, the lights in the outer room darken because sensory deprivation is the ultimate goal.
When you’re ready, float over to the knobs and cut the light, music, and stars, and find yourself devoid of any external stimuli. The floating sensation truly does change your meditative state. Your muscles are relaxed in a way that can’t be created at home.
Our Experience Floating
So about that meditation.
The Salt website suggests bringing a journal, as it’s common to have profound thoughts or revelations while floating. I dutifully brought my journal but did not have that experience my first time in. Instead, my mind went blank in a way I can’t usually achieve with meditation. Thoughts truly floated away, with no need to analyze anything closely. I might’ve fallen asleep, but I was in such a relaxed state that sleep and wake were inconsequential.
After an hour of floating, lights and music will slowly begin again. If you can keep your zen and not pop up like it’s the alarm clock going off, as this author did, then take your time coming out of your meditation. A soothing voice will guide you back, and when you’re ready, you can open the door/push open the lid, and carefully step out. Go immediately to the shower in your suite to wash and shampoo, but take your time because there’s no rush. A fully-stocked dressing room is available for your use. You may find yourself moving slower than usual, with a profound sense that there is no need to rush.
Once you’re ready, go back to the front lounge and enjoy complimentary tea or water while you sit and journal, or perhaps just sign the guestbook and color a page or read from the selection there. There is no rush to leave, and in fact, it’s probably best to allow yourself room to absorb the experience before you’re off and running again.
Personally, my initial thought upon exiting the float was that it was cool. As the minutes passed while I showered and got dressed, a profound sense of peace and tranquility settled in. I realized I felt fantastic. As a personal trainer, my muscles are often fatigued. I can absolutely see why this is good for everyone from athletes to busy professionals to people fighting injury to people who simply need a break. I did not journal afterward, but I definitely booked my next float session before I left.
According to Rob, “The benefits of float therapy draw in a diverse range of people. Some come specifically for the physical benefits including sports recovery, reduction in inflammation and pain, whether by injury or ailments such as arthritis/fibromyalgia, migraines or even Lyme disease, and sleep disorders. The zero gravity buoyancy which removes all of the muscle/tendon/ligament tension and soreness is also very popular with pregnant women.”
Salt has hosted professional athletes from the NFL, MLS, and more. Others float “for the well-researched mental benefits including reduction of stress and anxiety, alleviation of depression and even PTSD.”
Law enforcement and the military also receive year-round discounts, according to the owner. But “the largest demographic is probably stressed-out professionals and parents of young children who truly need a way to pause life and exit the planet for an hour or so of blissful peace and quiet as a means to recharge.”
Whatever category you fall into, floating can be incredibly restorative. And don’t worry about sanitation, because Salt has it covered: “We were proud to hear from so many of our visitors that they felt safer in our spa than almost anywhere else they were on a given day during the pandemic. The use of ozone gas and UV light to sanitize as well as our meticulous cleaning of the entire float center between appointment slots is recognized in many of the reviews in our 5-star rating on Google. That makes us happy, considering we work so hard at it.”