Bethlehem

5 Things That Happened When I Floated In A Tub Infused With 1,000 Pounds Of Epsom Salts

By Stephanie Eckelkamp

Me and my goofy grin after 90 minutes of floating therapy at Metta Relaxation Co. in Bethlehem, Pa. 

Me and my goofy grin after 90 minutes of floating therapy at Metta Relaxation Co. in Bethlehem, Pa. 

It’s pitch black, I can’t hear a sound, and I’m naked and alone, floating on by back in an extra-large tub. In fact, I’m really floating—I couldn’t sink if I tried. That’s because the tub is filled with water that’s been mixed with about 1,000 pounds of epsom salts, making my body more buoyant than it would be in the Dead Sea. 

No, this isn’t a weird form of torture (I actually paid to do this). It’s called floating therapy, and what I’m lying in is a sensory deprivation tank. It’s a service that’s becoming increasingly popular at spas in big cities, so when I heard that it was available at Metta Relaxation Co in Bethlehem, I was pretty pumped. Not only because I’ve heard floating is relaxing AF, but because some people say it mimics the effects of an acid trip….and really, what health-minded person with no intention of EVER doing acid wouldn’t find that intriguing?

The purpose of the tank (shown at right) and the room in general is to eliminate all senses: The room is sound-proof and, once you turn the lights off, light-proof; you float, thanks to the salt, so all of the pressure is taken off of your body, allowing you to fully relax; and finally, the water in the tank and the air in the room are heated to precise temperatures meant to eliminate your ability to feel where the water ends and air begins. 

As someone who deals with stress and anxiety (and who's distracted after about a minute every time she tries to meditate), the idea of total and complete (and somewhat forced) relaxation sounded pretty great. But what’s it actually like? Here are 5 things I experienced...

Within seconds, I learned a hard lesson
For the love of God, don’t shave before you float! The water in the tank feels pretty damn great temperature-wise, but because there’s so much salt in there, any small cut or nick on your skin screams when it comes into contact with it. And because I generally do a bit of a hack job with my shaving routine, there was some major stinging in the first few minutes (which did eventually subside) even though I’d shaved a fully 24 hours before. Give it a couple days to be safe.

“Snap, crackle, pop” went my joints
I can’t emphasize how cool it is to float so damn effortlessly. You can fully relax your body, even your heavy noggin’, and you’re fully supported. The owners of the spa recommended doing some stretches in the tank, so I did, and was pleasantly weirded out to hear a ripple of back cracks and minor popping in my neck, shoulders, and hips. All totally normal, as my body was in a completely weightless state and adjusting to a pressure-free setting for the first time.

I thought a lot about death
Thankfully the session was 90 minutes, because I could not stop my mind from racing for the first 30. I was concentrating too much on what I “should” be feeling, which is anything but relaxing, and I was also thinking a lot about death, for a couple of reasons. For one, my grandfather had died very recently, and two, I kept thinking “this is what death must feel like.” I mean, really, when else are you going to lose all of your senses except when you’re dead? Once I got that thought process out of my system, I started to relax. 

Things got a little trippy
One crazy thing about being in a completely light-proof room is that there’s absolutely no difference between what you see when your eyes are open versus when they’re closed. This fascinated me at first, so I kept blinking. I also started to see some neon purple outlines of moving shapes. The more I concentrated on them, the more active they seemed to get. So, while it was kind of cool, I eventually had to tune them out and focus on something else, like my breathing, so I could calm down. 

I FINALLY relaxed
I’d say I got about 20 solid minutes of being completely and utterly relaxed in a meditative state like I’ve never experienced. I felt warm, comforted, and completely pain free, so I focused on those good sensations and eventually my mind was pretty damn blank (in a good way) despite the fact that I was awake. As with regular meditation, I can see how the more you float, the better you get at reaping the mental benefits from it. So, I’d definitely be up for trying it again. 

For more information on floating and other spa services (like reflexology) that Metta Relaxation Co. offers, check out their website.  

Holistic Counseling: The Completely Approachable, Stigma-Busting Way to Prioritize Your Mental Health

BY NINA ELIAS

Real talk: my experience (and expectations) of counseling or therapy comes from what I’ve seen in movies or on TV—you enter a perfectly-decorated office inside a medical building, lay on the random chaise, and talk your therapist's ear off until your 60 minutes are up. 

After chatting with Lenore Stine, LPC, owner of Lehigh Valley Counseling, LLC on Elizabeth Avenue in Bethlehem, I walked away with a strong sense that holistic counseling is about so much more than, “…and how do you feel about that?”

After 19 years in the Lehigh Valley, Stine is not only affecting a culture shift around counseling, but she’s also building an incredible, support system of healthy resources around her. I stopped by her beautiful, calming space (her couch was way comfier than those weird chaises seem!) and picked her brain about what holistic counseling is all about.

First of all, what is holistic counseling, and how is it different from traditional counseling?

The short answer is, holistic counseling is about mind, body, and spirit.

To me, Western medicine is like this: your knee is bothering you, so let's look at only your knee. Holistic counseling, like holistic medicine, is about total mind, body, and spirit. It’s all about alignment, as well. If you’re tired, or you’re sick, or your thyroid isn’t functioning correctly, you can feel depressed or angry and anxious.  

I have my undergraduate degree biology from Wilkes University, so I often get a medical-based intake from my clients. That’s important to me, because many young clients aren’t seeing doctors regularly, so I will often send them to a doctor. If you have Hashimoto's, for instance, you have to work on that as well as your anxiety. But no one's looking at them in that realm, because they’re so young—but it’s on my mind because I understand the psychological implications of other health problems.

You can’t care for anyone else unless you care for yourself. If you’re standing firm and tall, people can lean on you.
— Lenore Stine, LPC

Wow, that’s a refreshing way to approach a patient.

People have a hard time looking at themselves. I don’t look at people like that they have issues—I view them as needing to make course corrections. I want them to ask themselves, where am I going, and why am I going there? Am I going there because my friends are, or because I really want to?

What else do you take into consideration with your clients?

Food and nutrition for sure—I want my clients to not only be aware of what they’re eating, but also how it makes them feel. I think about their exercise, substance use, and existing medical conditions. I raise their awareness about how all elements in their lives make them feel. And then, there’s meditation. Not only to treat, but also to figure out how their individual brains work.

You have a degree in Pastoral Counseling from Moravian Theological Seminary. Is there a spiritual element to what you do?

Absolutely. When something bad happens to someone, they want to make sense of it. Different religions and spiritualities approach this differently—Christianity goes like this: I’m starving here, but when I die I’m going to have a banquet. While Buddhism is all about no judgment, it just is. Path of acceptance.

From there, I can help my clients figure out where they fit within a non-secular realm, as well. Spirituality is not religion, it is how you walk through the world. But I ask them about their faith in order to figure out where they pull support from so we can create a customized spirituality.

Despite better representation of mental health issues in popular culture and politics, there is still quite a stigma around seeking treatment. What’s holding us back?

Judgment. I don’t judge you if you break your knee or have cancer—why am I judging you, or myself, if I have depression? People are so hard on themselves. They don’t think they’re worth it, or important. But you can’t care for anyone else unless you care for yourself. If you’re standing firm and tall, people can lean on you.

LIVE LIKE LENORE

Check out Stine's favorite local healthy hot spots

  • Beyond Juice on 3rd St. in South Bethlehem for green juice and smoothies

Even with so many healthy resources, it’s a challenge to advocate for your own health. Especially when Western medicine doctors and naturopaths are sometimes contradicting themselves. What’s your advice to reader’s going through this?

Above all, trust your gut. If you’re not getting a good feel from a practitioner, traditional or not, don’t do it. You’re already paying all this money! Too many of us want to fix things with a pill or an operation. Ask your doctor about five things you can do before that operation and then really do it. Do your homework, and commit.