Inside an inconspicuous building on Coastal Highway are white, elevator-sized tanks designed to take you away from your senses.
Urban Float is Sussex County's only flotation therapy spa. It opened in Rehoboth Beach earlier this year with the goal of helping you eliminate the outside world — at least for an hour-long session.
So, what exactly is floating?
Floating, short for flotation restricted environmental stimulation therapy and sometimes called "weightless meditation," has been around for over 40 years.
It involves stepping into shallow water saturated with loads of Epsom salt — Urban Float uses 1,200 pounds per pod. This makes the tanks denser than the Dead Sea and grants anyone 350 pounds or less the ability to float effortlessly.
Each pod at the Rehoboth spa has its own insulated, noise-cancelling room. The salt will keep you buoyant as you float in total darkness.
“When you're fully relaxed, it is hard to tell the difference between the air, the water and your body because they all are the same temperature and you're fully suspended in the solution," spa manager Maxine Fluharty said. "It just calms everything down."
It's my first time floating. What should I expect?
You're going in nude, unless you enjoy distracting, heavy, salty clothes.
Floaters will take a cool shower beforehand so their bodies match the temperature of the air and water. After stepping into the pod, they can adjust whether they want light or complete darkness, music or complete silence, and the pod open or closed.
You'll float for about an hour and will want to shower afterward to get all that saltwater off. The sterile water is filtered three times and disinfected between each session.
Don't be discouraged if your first time is somewhat "mechanical," Fluharty said. It might take a few sessions to get the hang of floating and figure out how much sensory deprivation you want to experience.
It also takes mental finesse, and for some people, letting go of stress and other outside pressures can be difficult. Fluharty said Urban Float employees will help folks relax through breathing techniques and other head-clearing exercises.
Fluharty recommends a minimum of floating once a month. Some members go every day, but once a week is typical for many flotation lovers.
Why should I try floating?
Voluntary sensory deprivation can be a blissful, relaxing experience and help folks de-stress after a long day or get pumped for the day ahead, Fluharty said.
The Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, helps with muscle aches and leaves the skin feeling smooth.
A study last year linked floating to short-term, antidepressant benefits including "significant reductions in stress, muscle tension, pain...and depression" and "increases in serenity, relaxation, happiness and overall well-being."
Fluharty said her clients have positive physical effects too. Athletic recovery, reduced migraines, muscle relaxation, sleep improvements and anxiety relief have all been reported.
Without the distraction of gravity, artists can better tap into their creativity as well, Fluharty said, calling the session a "mental de-cluttering" as the brain releases dopamine and endorphins.
"Your mind is so powerful, you just need to unlock the tools that you already have within yourself so you're able to manifest what you want," she said.
Flotation effects can last up to a week.
How much does it cost to float?
First-time floaters pay $45 and single sessions after that are $90. Membership packages are available. Currently the Rehoboth location offers an unlimited float package for $150, and that price is expected to increase.
This is Urban Float's ninth location, having originated in Seattle. Since opening in early February, the spa has gained 150 members.
"This is an up-and-coming wellness area," Fluharty said of coastal Delaware. "A lot of people are interested in taking care of their bodies."
If you go
Where: 18979 Coastal Highway, Unit 101 in Rehoboth Beach
Hours: From Monday through Saturday, first float is at 9 a.m. and last float is at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, first float starts at 10 a.m. and last float is at 5:30 p.m.
Book an appointment: (302) 232-3141 or https://www.urbanfloat.com/rehoboth