At the end of a few relaxing days at the beach, I pulled the trigger on something I’ve wanted to try for years: floating.
I’m not talking about the futile effort made in a swimming pool on a hot summer day, or the slightly less futile effort made in the ocean. I’m talking about floating in a Sensory Deprivation Tank, more commonly known as “Floating.”
The idea behind floating is to provide an ultra-relaxing environment for your body and mind, by eliminating sensory stimuli. The tank is pitch black and quiet on the inside, with about a foot of ultra-concentrated salt water, heated to about 94 degrees (skin temperature). With about 1200 pounds of salt in the water, the salt water is super buoyant, allowing you to float effortlessly, even if you fall asleep (which many do).
I decided to try a local float studio called Levity (love the name). They have two private float tank rooms, allowing the experience to be quiet and intimate, which I loved. You arrive and are greeted by their friendly staff who show you the room and walk you through the process and the fundamental ideas of floating. Even though I didn’t have any anxiety about the experience (like claustrophobia), I felt like I would have been completely at ease, even if I had had reservations about it.
(not a photo of me, but some float tanks are pretty futuristic looking!) – creative commons image
The private rooms are dimly lit with a purple light (almost as purple as a blacklight). The tank is immediately adjacent to a rain shower, which you use before and after your float. Upon the advice of the staff, I started off with a warm-ish shower, but cooled it down at the end so that getting into the body-temperature salt water would not be a shock, but more soothing.
Many people say they are anxious or claustrophobic about getting into a dark tank. I found it to feel vast inside, and knowing you can open the door at any time helps too. I read something earlier today from a follower on our Instagram that doing float helped them with their anxiety… very cool!
Once you get inside the tank (and close the door), it’s completely pitch black. I took a picture of what it looks like inside the tank.
Just kidding, I didn’t take a picture. But if I had, that’s exactly what it would have looked like.
They play really soothing spa/yoga music for the first 7 minutes. I was not very careful getting into the tank, and as a result the water sloshed around for a few minutes. Next time, I’ll try to get in more gracefully.
When I first got in, I had the weirdest sensation that my body was sort of spinning on the surface of the water. It felt like I had taken a few too many shots, and I knew my body was helplessly trying to orient itself. At times, I was actually moving, too, lightly bumping the sides of the tank.
(Again, not me. Obviously). – creative commons image
When the music stops, it’s completely silent, and you are left with your thoughts, for better or usually for worse. I had read about floating before my first session, so I knew a common relaxation strategy was to count your breathing. I counted up to 50 a few times, each time my mind wandering a bit. As your breathing slows down, the water becomes really calm.
For the first half of my float session, I laid there with my arms up above my head, counting my breaths. Around what was probably the 30 minute mark, I noticed that my right arm felt like it was falling asleep. So I switched to having my arms by my side (gently! So as to not disturb the surface of the water).
The second half of the session, things started to get better. I eventually abandoned counting my breaths, and just let my mind wander. My mind complied, and relaxed, then relaxed some more. It felt like I was slipping into a dream-like state. Lots of weird thoughts were passing by, and I would twitch from time to time (just as you might when you begin to fall asleep).
And then I heard something. Or at least I thought I heard something. Maybe I was going crazy. Maybe I was imagining it. Then I heard a little more, and realized it was music softly coming on. I laid there and just enjoyed it for a moment. It reminded me a lot of Savasana at the end of a yoga class. The gentle transition between meditation and coming back to reality.
I sat up and leaned forward. I felt crystallized salt on my arms and chest, which also felt slick from the epsom salt. Opening the door to the room again was trippy. Everything was bright purple, and I stepped into the rain shower to wash off. After you dry off and get dressed, you head back to their cozy waiting area, where they have bottled water and comfy chairs waiting for you to relax and enjoy.
Sitting there after your float, you have time to come back to a state of awareness. I’ve heard it described as the feeling you get after a yoga class or a relaxing massage. Plus maybe a bath, too. It’s the most relaxed I’ve felt in a long time, and I’m saying this after a few days at the beach!
I think floating is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle, as it provides a really sophisticated decompression opportunity in our fast paced world. An hour without notifications, calls, texts, noise, or the constant barrage of everyday life. An hour for you to feel completely weightless, and at peace.
Try it! I think you’ll like it!