Jess Hartwell

Holistic health spa makes troubles float away

NANAIMO – Nicol Street wellness centre features city's first sensory deprivation tank.

A new south Nanaimo business is offering up some quality alone time for its clients.

Bent Tree Wellness centre opened Aug. 25 to provide the neighbourhood affordable holistic health.

Jess Hartwell, owner, is a registered yoga teacher who travelled to India to study with gurus in Haridwar and Indore and started teaching in 2011.

Hartwell said the emphasis of the centre, at 123 Nicol St., is to provide holistic wellness services for everyone in the community.

“It’s sort of like having an open, welcome space for everyone – minorities and lower-income people who may not feel they can go into a spa environment,” Hartwell said. “They are welcome here.”

Bent Tree’s eight staff members specialize in providing nutritional consulting, massage, yoga, energy healing, life coaching, workshops and floating.

Floating happens in the centre’s large sensory deprivation pod, filled with body-temperature water saturated with more than 400 kilograms of epsom salts to create neutral buoyancy or a sense of weightlessness.

“We’re walking around all day, every day, with the pressures of gravity pulling down on us…” Hartwell said. “What this does is give your body a break. It’s really great for healing muscle tissue, reduction of pain, it improves insomnia exceptionally. One hour in there is the equivalent to eight hours of sleep and that’s because, pretty instantly, you go into a theta brain state.”

The centre’s opening was delayed , in fact, while Island Health determined local safety guidelines for the pod’s operation, based in part on float centres that have opened in Vancouver and Victoria.

“There was no legislation yet in Nanaimo around floating, so we had to work in conjunction with VIHA to create guidelines and formulate what their expectations are and everything because no one’s ever done it here before,” Hartwell said.

The retail rate for an hour of weightless solitude is $65, but discounts for all services are available through memberships and other grant programs.

The centre is planning a grand opening day in late September when it will offer all of its services for the day by donations supporting Haven House.

For more information, please visit

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