Life is tough.
It’s exacerbated by the nightly news, podcasts and talk radio. Even electronics are against us, with its blue lights preventing our brains from settling down.
“So many people spend so much of their day in front of a screen, and then they have a screen in their car, and they have a screen in their home, and then they have a screen in their hand, and they can’t sleep at night,” said Kalyn Wolf.
With so much noise and light, never mind the stress of daily life, when is there an opportunity to rest and think deeply?
Wolf has an answer: Cloud Nine Flotation Center. Her company relieves stress, anxiety and pain — and helps clients find peace.
“We help people with PTSD, which causes anxiety; stress, which is anxiety; and pain, which is anxiety. A lot of it just comes right down to (anxiety),” Wolf said.
“These days, if you go to the doctor, they ask you, ‘What are you doing about your anxiety?’ They don’t ask you if you have it.”
According to Wolf, those who are neurodivergent and can become easily overstimulated also find sessions at Cloud Nine Flotation to be a comforting space as well.
Flotation therapy — dubbed “sensory deprivation” in the 1980s — is considered holistic and an alternative health service.
At Cloud Nine Flotation, which is found in a neighborhood adobe home, clients, after a short orientation, disrobe in the restroom and shower. Then, they enter the flotation tank. Being unclothed is important, because it’s part of freeing oneself of the sensation of something touching the skin.
Guests also have the option of wearing earplugs so the salted water solution in the tank doesn’t enter the ear canal. In addition, at the beginning of the float, Wolf plays recorded soft, soothing music in the tank to help a floater relax. As a safety measure, there is an intercom in each float room should a floater need assistance.
The tanks are in the back rooms of the house, one tank per room. They are a very large rectangular fiberglass box with a door on the front. Inside, it’s dark, though there is a small light if clients are uncomfortable in the dark. Climb in, close the door and begin to float. The saltwater holds you up.
Wolf is very particular about the cleanliness of the water and the tank.
“I use reverse osmosis water,” she said. “That means it has gone through a filtration process; the one that we use is seven stages. It starts with that. Then there’s 800 pounds of Epsom salt; that’s magnesium sulfate, a one-third salt solution, so it’s like the Dead Sea.”
Wolf also adds hydrogen peroxide for sanitation purposes.
After each float, she filters the water again, this time through a pool filter, which strains out such things as hair and oils. Then the water goes through a UV light, followed by a turn through an ozonator. It finally makes its way back into the tank. Then, because she has a 1-hp motor, all the water is filtered every five minutes. Wolf turns the water three to four times between clients.
In each tank, there’s about 10 inches of the solution at a temperature of about 94.5 degrees.
“It’s going to (feel) tepid, about the same temperature as your outer skin,” Wolf said. “That’s the point. If it’s too warm, like a hot tub, you’re going to cook. If it’s too cold, you’re going to freeze. It’s amazing how even a difference of 1 degree affects the sensation on your body.”
Float sessions can be as short as a half-hour, though Wolf doesn’t recommend it.
“When you get into the tank, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to discharge,” she said. “What I mean by that is for your mind to stop talking to you.”
She likens it to keeping your phone on for a long period of time, then turning it off. It takes a bit of time for the computer to empty and discard old files.
“Same thing with us,” Wolf said. “It used to be that we would be able to go to sleep at night and actually sleep through the night, and in our dreams and in the process of sleeping, we would get rid of all the stuff we don’t need. Today, there’s about 400 million pieces of information that we are bombarded with every single day. When I first started floating in 1985, it was 100 million, but that was before the cellphone and home computers.”
After floating, people find peace, and the brain can do the work it was meant to do: be creative, work out solutions, or simply relax. Wolf offers two hours of time if a client wants it, but she says her most popular amount of float time is 75 minutes, 20 to slow down and discharge and nearly an hour of peace.
One client, Brenda Pottinger, said she was nervous the first time, worried that Wolf would forget her.
Then, “after about 20 minutes of my mind rambling on, I sort of forgot it,” Pottinger said. “I settled in and started relaxing and realizing how wonderful it felt not to have anything touching me, just floating.”
Near the end of the allotted time, happy music followed by chimes come through the speakers, alerting people it’s time to stretch before leaving the tank.
Floating might not be conventional, but the results, Wolf noted, are undeniable, providing relief from depression, anxiety and joint and back pain. It may also enhance creativity and spirituality.
“People want to expand their minds,” she said. “They feel that there’s more out there, and they want to know what it is, and this is a great place to do it.”
Wolf comes with 38 years of experience, and she can attest to the positive effects of the practice.
“Having that time away from everything resets your brain and rejuvenates you so that you feel refreshed and gladdened,” Wolf said. “It’s an amazing thing to watch people go into the tank with the weight of the world on them and coming out like they can float in the air. People who float regularly get the best results, of course.”
It’s not just Wolf who speaks enthusiastically about the effects of floating.
“It’s the most amazing experience,” Pottinger said. “To me, it took away a lot of stress, so that you could get through the next three or four weeks and not be bothered by the little stuff. Then, when that little stuff starts irritating your nerves, and you go float — I like 90 minutes — you come out of there, and that prickly pear is not poking at me anymore. It’s a release of everyday stress, work stress, life stress.”
Another client, Marita Beeman, said she has had similar experiences. As a teacher, she needs some kind of effective self-care. She decided to give floating a try.
“I was hoping it would help with anxiety and it would be super relaxing,” she said. “I was also curious if I would have some sort of Zen experience.”
Beeman saw Cloud Nine was near her home, so she went with no real expectations.
“It was relaxing. ... It was great,” she said.
Now Beeman is a member, floating once or twice a month. The benefits are great for someone who must be on the go all the time.
“For me, I’m forced to relax, just lie there for 75 minutes, sort things out in my brain,” she said. “I generally fall asleep, I’m that relaxed. I’m on my back, and I open my eyes and, ‘Oh, I’ve been asleep.’ The water temperature is great; it feels good on your skin.”
After the float, she enjoys 10 minutes in a massage chair, another service Wolf offers. There’s also a small retail shop at Cloud Nine.
There are three float centers in Tucson, according to Wolf. No two are alike.
“We’re all different,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for 38 years, and I love it. I love when new people come and when people keep coming back. I see them change physically. I see them change emotionally. I see them change mentally. Their spirit rises. That’s my favorite thing, to watch people’s transformation from being in the tank and having them come back again and again.”
Cloud Nine Floatation and Relaxation Center
2118 S. Avenida Planeta, Tucson