By Breanna Myers and Amelia Lowry
Every day as I walk to and from the different buildings where I have my classes, I like to look around and notice the curiosities of our downtown area. Sometimes, it’s the pedestrians with their little puppies, or the cars driving by with their windows down and loud music blaring. Sometimes, it’s the things I pass by everyday and never really take the time to consider. For example, the little float spa on the first floor of the Grand Piano building.
What was this place? Was it like a giant bath? What was this experience supposed to help with? Who would pay to float in a tank of water for an hour in the dark? Why Hagerstown? I had lots of questions. But most importantly: what was it for?
Eric Sarmiento and his family, who own and run Regenerate, were overjoyed to let us check it out and answer any questions we had. I ventured down there nearly every day for a week with questions from, “What made you decide to open up Regenerate?” to flat out, “What is it and why is it different from floating in my bathtub?” They were more than patient with my high school antics.
The story of the float spa began when Sarmiento heard from friends of floating’s power
and, once he tried it, it he was hooked. He loved that the floating experience gave him a better sense of mental clarity, along with the physically healing elements as well.
“Really, what is floating? And why am I going to spend $80 on it?” I asked cynically.
Apparently I wasn’t the only asking these questions. WHAG news did a story on Regenerate back in 2015 when they first opened and they describe it as “the latest health trend that people are doing to unwind after a long day.” The pods with their 10 inches of water saturated with 1000 pounds of epsom salt hold both mental and physical healing properties.
After so many visits, I felt at home in their calming lobby. Between aromatherapy, himalayan rock lamps, and soothing music, and even the employee’s light voices, both Amelia, a fellow BISFA writer, and I were fighting yawns every time we walked in.
Before we knew it, the day of the float had arrived. It was Earth Day, and Sarmiento greeted us with a smile as always. “You know who’s birthday it is today? Earth’s.” We just laughed nervously, wondering what the heck we were getting ourselves into.
Sarmiento opened the door to the hallway for rooms with the isolation pods, which we’d never seen. It was even more mysterious than I imagined. It was completely dark, save for three closed doors, out from under which emerged glowing lights. It looked like something straight out of an 80s sci-fi film. Thankfully, no aliens came running out when Sarmiento opened the first door. Instead, there was what seemed like a large, white incubator that took up most of the room. This was a “pod.” Amelia and I stepped into the dark room, where green light was blooming from the corner. The room itself was very warm and had a very interesting earthy scent. Besides the pod, there was only a shower, and some hygienic necessities.
“So. First impressions?” Sarmiento asked. We just laughed, mumbling something about being excited. After a brief introduction to the room and how our session would go, I left Amelia in the first room and made my way to the second floating room, where the light was pink instead of green.
An hour later, I was sipping water and struggling to find equilibrium in the lobby while I waited for Amelia to emerge. Finally, she came out, hair wet and looking equal parts rejuvenated and loopy.
“How’d ya like it?” I asked.
“I died…” we all looked at her, startled. “In a good way.”
I understood where she was coming from, but it didn’t quite feel like death for me. Rather, I felt like I was enveloped in a thick, opaque fog. I could still do everything, but it all took a bit more effort. Additionally, I noticed Amelia and I were both talking slower as well, giddy on the 1,000 pounds of epsom salt we had just spent an hour in. On the way out, we ran into one of our teachers, Mrs. Taylor, and she looked at us like we had just come back from Narnia. “Where have you guys been?”
“We were trying out the float spa,” I said sluggardly.
“Woah! What was it like?” Mrs. Taylor asked.
“It felt like I was dead,” Amelia said, using her new catchphrase. “Because, you can’t feel your body ‘cause the water feels the same as the air, and everything is really dark, and even if you open your eyes it feels like they’re closed.”
“It was so freaky! I feel really… light. It’s odd,” I grinned stupidly. Mrs. Taylor laughed and walked out to her car saying something about seeing us tomorrow.
Amelia and I continued to our destinations, tripping down the sidewalk as we went along. “What were you thinking about the whole time?” Amelia asked me.
“How much I wished I wasn’t thinking anything. And how loud my breathing was. You never really notice it, ya know?”
“I had ‘The Great Outdoors’ playing,” Amelia said, gesturing to express the dramatic title of her “mood” music. We had been given options for the background noise beforehand, and I had picked “Gentle Rainfall” (a much less theatrical title.) “And so, the whole time I was kind of thinking about all the different places I had been outside, and it felt sort of like I was small again. Because it’s pretty easy to have that child-like sense of wonder when you’re in a little capsule.” I found myself being distracted by everything happening around me, my brain newly aware of all the extra stimulus.
I tried to refocus on Amelia, “I turned my music off right away, trying to get the ‘authentic experience’, ya know? Did you have your light on in the pod?”
“No, I turned it off as soon as I got in. I had to make sure to keep my mind away from horror-movie scenarios, because I knew that could get bad pretty fast,” Amelia said.
“I understand, I had a lot of trouble just surrendering. It was all so scary but freeing, too. I didn’t realize how much it worked until I tried to stand up, I almost fell over!” Amelia and I went our separate ways and I decided to walk home, savoring the invigorating and relaxing effects of the float.
The next day, I barreled down the steps to the first floor with my classmates as always. I glanced in, waving at Sarmiento and the other employees and smiling sheepishly as I realized just how loud and busy we all were. It was amusing to think about how just through those doors was a serene escape while we all babbled about homework and stress and everything else that comes with being a student at BISFA.
Breanna Myers is a Senior at Barbara Ingram and Amelia Lowry is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram.