Sensory Deprivation Chambers

Sensory deprivation chambers are used in science fiction as narrative tool to access the subconscious and to channel something other – something bigger than the individual. From the womb-like pods in The Matrix to the triplet tank of prophetic savants in Minority Report, sensory deprivation chambers are a sci-fi mainstay. Recently, Eleven from the Netflix sensation Stranger Things uses a both a laboratory tank and a homemade tank to access the Upside Down – the dark and unknown world that parallels our own world in another dimension.

Now, sensory deprivation chambers, often called isolation chambers, have come out of the realm of sci-fi and into the real world. They claim to help clear the mind, calm the nervous system and solve a myriad of health problems.

The activity of of using one of these chambers is called ‘floating,’ and as an activity it’s hard to categorize. Floating falls somewhere between bathing, physiotherapy, and meditation. Most float centres claim that floating will help to reduce stress, relax your muscles and help you to get better night’s sleep. But, it may be that somewhere along the line floating also crosses back into science fiction. I have heard stories of people who – after floating – have written books, had the clarity to make major life decisions, or had a chronic ailment disappear.  None of these were my experience, but after going, I can almost see how this could happen – almost.

There are no electrodes, there is no primordial ooze. There is just a tank loaded with dissolved epsom salts and myself. The water in the tank is only about a foot deep and is so thick with salt that you actually lay on top of the water as much as in it.

What I discovered during my 90 minute float, is that floating is an intensely personal thing. We are all bodies in a space – something that we are usually more or less aware of. But when you float, you are without space and (very nearly) without a body. While floating I felt myself drifting – I felt as though I had drifted so far that I would never be able to find the hatch to get out of the tank. The chamber is only about the size of a double, but bed my internal compass was without a direction and I may have well been in a different space, a different time, and perhaps even in another dimension.

Gentle music is supposed to rouse you out of your deep internal journey and signal the end of your float, and by some magic it did – barely. I was quite far away by the end of my float and the sound would have been easy to miss. I did not come out and write the next great Canadian novel, but emerging from the float centre I did feel more relaxed and like the world was in sharper focus.

With centres quickly popping up in just about every major urban centre, a float centre is easy to find and worth a try. The first time is a challenge, so go again and maybe, just maybe, I’ll catch you on the flip side.

Spa Scandinave Les Bains Vieux Montréal

When you enter Spa Scandinave Les Bains Vieux Montréal, it is a very different Scandinave experience. Though the circuit is familiar, the setting is not. It feels like you are in a cave – in a good way. The sound from the waterfall in the warm pool rumbles throughout the dimly lit space. The noise of the city, even the time of day and the seasons melt away and you are in an intimate chamber that invites you to escape into silence and rest.

The two defining features of the space were the sauna and the rest areas.

The sauna has a large bed or rocks in the middle of the space which provides even heating and a nice focal point to the room. The backlit benches and sloped ceiling made for a really memorable space.

The rest areas were cozy spaces with two levels of rest. One for lounging and the other for napping. Both of these spaces were lovely, but the napping room was one of the best I’ve encountered. The dark helped me to drift off for a while and nearly forget that I had to be on my way. As usual, I could have stayed for days.

Spa Scandinave Les Bains Vieux Montréal is a quiet meditative urban spa experience. It’s a great place to go to focus your senses and to just be a body in a space.

Fresh and Fragrant Foot Bath

It’s that season of hiking, biking and hot spring hunting. Though a hot bath may be the last thing on your mind in the heat, feet can always use a refresher. Our feet take quite a pounding each day and a foot soak is a great way to care for your sore muscles. Here is a bath salt recipe made with fresh plants from my garden. It’s relaxing and refreshing — perfect for tired feet.

Fresh And Fragrant Foot Bath
2 sprigs of mint
2 sprigs of buffalo sage
2 sprigs of sage (leaves and flowers)
5 sprigs of lavender (leaves and flowers)
1 cup of coarse sea salt
1 cup of Epsom salts
2-3 drops of Lavender essential oil
2-3 drops of mint essential oil
Mix together and use immediately or store for a later date. If you store it, the salts will preserve the plant material and the mix will keep for a very long time.

These are the plants that were available in my garden. If you don’t have these fresh ingredients, think about what you might combine and use instead. Consider using rose petals, cedar, rosemary, juniper, yarrow and lemon instead. Get creative — just use common sense and avoid plants that are irritants.

Dewar Creek Hot Springs

CreekDeep in the Purcell Wilderness there is a secluded natural tub. I visited it years ago and it’s a place that I still dream about – the alpine meadows, the scalding water, the incredible views.

There are a lot of barriers to getting to Dewar Creek Hot Springs, but if you’re up for the muddy trek, it’s an incredible experience.

If you make it, you’ll be deep in hot spring country and even deeper in grizzly bear country – keep it wild.

Video: Sauna Birth

This is so lovely, what a way to come into the world. Welcome little Selma! I’m looking forward to the Sauna Sisters Documentary to follow.

Part of the reason that I haven’t been active on Hotsprung, is that my little mermaid was born in the water in 2014. She is now an energetic toddler who, of course, loves the bath. I hope to share the story of her arrival here someday and many more posts about our adventures together – yes, I’ve been saying that for a long time, but I mean it.

Thanks to friends and strangers who have connected with me on Hotsprung and encouraged me to continue sharing my hot water adventures. It will happen again. Soon.

Source: Video: Sauna Birth

Radium Hot Springs


Recently, I went to the Banff International Mountain and Film Festival to support the makers of this fine film. On the trip, I had the pleasure of stopping at Radium Hot Springs once again. Radium’s current hot pools are in their third incarnation. This picture was laminated on a felt board display and had the caption “Couple at the Second Bathhouse.”  It’s a charming picture and looking at it gives me the slightest bit of bathing suit envy.

Guides for the Hot Spring Season


Hot spring season is upon us and it’s time to pack for adventure! To plan your trip in B.C. or the Northwest the best guide I’ve found is Hiking: Hot Springs in The Pacific Northwest.

It is a region by region guide to some of the best and most remote natural hot springs in the world. With area maps, spring descriptions, driving instructions, hiking trails and even the occasional photo it will get you where you need to go. The springs are divided into regions making it easy to plan a trip with as many hot spots as possible. 

Cell phone reception and 4G in these remote locations is unreliable, so another thing to pack is a Backroad Mapbook. Hot springs can be off the beaten path and these books will show you roads that will not be in a traditional road atlas. They also contain addtional info about camping, hiking trails, GPS coordinates, elevation and other recreation ideas for the area. 

Though both of these guides may help you find the springs it is always a good idea to call or stop by the local ranger station and ask about road and trail conditions before heading down that backroad. Hot Springs will often change in temperature and flow from year to year and the roads leading up to them can be very poorly maintained. The rangers can tell you what to expect on the road and at the springs this season. They will also be a wealth of information on spring ecology, backroad safety and wildlife.

Be safe and have a great soak!

Steam of Life

Vancouver’s documentary film festival, DOXA, showed Steam of Life last night at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver. Steam of Life takes you inside saunas across Finland and into the hearts of the men who bare-all while taking part in this quintessentially Finnish experience. The documentary is a series of vignettes in which men share their most emotional stories from budding romance to the death of a child.

The camera shots are tight, without any zooming or panning, but they take in the spaces and faces of the men in a disarmingly intimate way. Watching, you get the feeling you are sitting on the bench with them and sharing their private (and often unusual) spaces.

In a Skype interview after the screening, director Mika Hotakainen said the success of the movie is due to timing. “Society [is] ready to accept the feelings of men,” he said.

The scenes from saunas all over Finland were completely unscripted and, although Hotakainen said he knew what the men might talk about, there were a lot of surprises.

During the filming the crew spent hours a day in the sauna and, like the men telling their stories, even the cameramen were naked. This was important to Hotakainen, who said they wanted to “create an atmosphere that we are all in this together.”

To overcome the technical challenges of shooting in extreme conditions, the cameras had to be put into the saunas 90 minutes before the filming began, to allow the equipment to adjust to the temperature and humidity.

Though Hotakainen said that making a sauna movie about woman would be a lot of fun, he has no plans to do a sequel. After all, the Finnish title for the movie is Men’s Turn — their turn to reveal themselves.

At its premiere in Helsinki, the film received a 15-minute standing ovation and is Finland’s official foreign-language candidate for the Oscars.

Watch the Trailer

Indian Tubs Hot Springs

Indian Tubs Hot Springs: N.Irvine

Look up, way up, after you drive through the gate at Fairmont Hots Springs Resort in B.C.’s Rocky Mountains. Indian Tubs Hot Springs are the crowd-less way to take the waters at Fairmont. The three personal sized  tubs are maintained by the resort, but are free to anyone who wants to take a dip. Even if you would rather use the high diving board at the main pool, they are worth the short climb up the hill just to take in the view.

Skin Under The Overpass

Under the freeway in north Seattle may seem like an unlikely place for a spa, but then again, Little Red Day Spa is not your ordinary establishment. Artist Jeff Hengst shares his personal studio with the community by opening the space as a spa for private, reservation session and—a handful of times a month—for public drop-ins. His oil paintings of human forms and other organic shapes line the walls of this creative cave, and telltale signs of inspiration can be seen on the hardwood floor. Though the room is large and with high ceilings the space still feels intimate and it was only during my orientation tour that the spaness of the space became evident.

The woman who gave me the tour was hosting the evening. She was friendly and helpful, yet she warned me repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that sexual behavior, or even “sexual energy”, were completely unacceptable at the spa. After the third direct statement I was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable, especially as I had brought my longest and most loyal spa-going companion—my mother—with whom I was beginning to exchange dubious looks. We were hoping for a relaxing evening of chatting and pampering, unfortunately for us, on this evening, it was not to be.

We went for one of the Ladies Night drop-in evenings, which, like all drop in sessions male or female, is clothing optional. There was a free-spirited, bohemian vibe to the event that intensified as more people showed up. Everyone enjoyed taking the time to choose a unique bathrobe from the large wardrobe. Then with the wine and other refreshments they had brought, draped themselves across couches or chairs and soaked in the hot tub.

My mother and I were both fully aware that “clothing optional” actually means, “clothing frowned upon.”  We have gone to many spas together and some of those have been “skin only”. But the fact that a “please sit on your towel” policy did not seem to apply to the furnishings, here, and the fact that hostess felt the need to make numerous and pointed reminders about not being sexually active in the spa, made us a tad uncomfortable. We made a snap decision to cover up and became the proverbial lepers of the evening. We also obviously flustered our hostess, who came over to say that she supported our decision to wear bathing suits, but we would probably be more comfortable if we took them off. I know she was trying to be kind, but it ended up making the whole thing turn slightly nightmarish, especially as the place was filling up with naked women who were gawking at our covered bodies.

Determined to get our money’s worth without dropping our vestments, we soaked for a few minutes in the disappointingly tepid tub before moving on to the redeeming part of the evening: a self-administered, clay body-mask and “salt glow”. A large blanket was spread on the floor, in the centre of which was a copper bowl filled with locally-sourced clay. We applied the clay sitting on the blanket under the warmth of a heater. The extremely fine grain of the clay gently exfoliated my skin as I applied it and the light application dried quickly under the heat. After I showered and buffed my body with the salt glow, my skin was honestly as soft as it’s ever been.

At this point we would have loved to luxuriate a little longer and perhaps get a mini massage on offer for a small fee; however, we were feeling too out of place. We exited as gracefully as we could and resolved to see if the nearby Banya5 or Hothouse were still open.

I can certainly imagine that Little Red Day Spa drop-in times are a great way to relax, and at $15 dollars for the softest skin you are ever likely to get, it is worth every penny. Still, I couldn’t help thinking that next time I go I will rent the space out for myself.

Visit Little Red Day Spa’s homepage for more information on drop-ins, rates and reservations.