Jump in a tank and escape your cares at Halcyon Floats

Kerilyn Rakickas, owner of Halcyon Floats at 209 W. Girard Ave., floats inside one of her tanks. Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro Kerilyn Rakickas, owner of Halcyon Floats at 209 W. Girard Ave., floats inside one of her tanks. Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro

Inside a humble storefront on Girard Avenue just feet away from city traffic, an experience is available that some would describe as a gateway to another world.

Inside Halcyon Floats, owner Keri Rakickas has set up two sensory-deprivation flotation tanks, where for $80, customers can float in a dark, silent tank of water for 90 minutes.

“Floating has definitely changed my life,” Rakickas, a Northeast Philly native, said. “That’s why the shop is here — because I believe it helps people.”

Created in the 1950s by neuropsychiatrist and UPenn grad John Lilly, isolation tanks were quickly recognized as having health benefits.

Today, some people float for physical relaxation, others to have a meditative vision quest. Butthey don’t magically heal people, and floating takes some practice to be enjoyed.

“It can be a catalyst for meditation … [but] it’s really hard to go in there and get the result you want,” Rakickas said.

“My first float, while it was happening, I thought it sucked. I was bored and splashing around … But after the fact, I felt like, ‘Whoa! ‘Something happened in there.'”

Rakickas credited floating with helping to change her entire life around.

“I was a workaholic and very numb … I couldn’t sleep at night. Physically, emotionally, I was broken. … Floating has helped me to let go,” she said.

Today, she is a believer in flotation’s positive effects on the immune system, pain management, and the mind.

“Once you stop receiving brain stimulus, theta-waves, dopamine and endorphins start kicking in,” she said.

The tanks are filled with 10 inches of water and 850 pounds of Epsom salts, which creates a buoyancy allowing your body to float effortlessly.

A common fear is contamination by other floaters, Rakickas said, but the cleanliness of the water in the tank is constantly maintained.The water in the tanks is run through a sterilizing UV-filtration device after every float. The acidity and alkalinity of the water is tested every morning.

Another common fear is being trapped. But since the tanks don’t lock, a floater can just step out whenever they please. They also can bring a small light in the tank to light the dark if needed.

Rakickas opened Halcyon Floats in March. Most of her floaters are repeat customers, and include older people who float to ease pain from issues like arthritis.

“They come out new,” Rakickas said of her customers. “It really is like hitting a reset button.”

Floating free: one man’s experience

Metro reporter Sam Newhouse recently tried Halycon Floats for the first time ever.

It was a weekend evening, and eager to put aside workstress and relax my muscles after a session at the gym, I decided to take the plunge into one of Halcyon Floats’ isolation tanks.

Despite reading up about flotation tanks online,I was certainly hesitant about my first-ever float. Indeed, I felt a little claustrophobic just thinking about the tank.

The two tanks at Halcyon Floats each have a room with a private shower and fresh clean towels for floaters to prepare.

After showering, I cautiously entered the tank and closed the metal door above me.

As promised, the tank was pitch-dark and completely silent (with earplugs in).

At first, I started to float this way and that. But then, after I centered myself within the tank, a strange feeling of limitlessness slowly crept over me. Once I was centered and floating in water, with absolute darkness and silence, the tank created a sensation like floating in a cosmic hammock at the center of the universe.

I was so relaxed that I actually fell asleep for most of the float, rather than actively enjoying the sensation of floating in silence.

But afterwards, my muscles were eased, my tension vanished, and I left with a feeling of goodwill toward humanity. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it was definitely an experience worth repeating.