I recently took the advice of a colleague and spent 90 minutes in a sensory deprivation float tank to help myself relax better. Freaky huh?! Absolutely not, it was unreal.
I was a bit anxious about the experience overall. Being completed isolated from light, sound, etc. and in such a small enclosed tank. I’m not normally a claustrophobic person, but the tank had some how made it into my mind in the same filing cabinet as military intelligence techniques for water boarding.
Like most things in my life, I did a ton of research. I watched YouTube videos, read blog posts, and talked to several people. However, all research concluded with the same experience:
“It was awesome.”
The tank itself was not at all intimidating. It was a bit wider than a normal bath tub size and had a cover that allowed you to easily sit up inside. One end was sealed off and the other end was a lightweight door that didn’t have a lock on either side. (several people have asked me) 🙂
The water was 11 inches deep and was saturated with 800 pounds of Epsom salt. It was a perfect 94 degrees F, which is the temperature of the surface of your skin. Literally, it was perfect.
The first thing I noticed (and expected) was the buoyancy of the water. Floating was effortless. In fact, it was quite challenging to make myself go below the surface.
“I spent the first 5 minutes like a toddler in a kiddie pool.”
This was a whole new experience for me, and for whatever reason, there were a dozen things I felt I had to experiment with: swimming on my stomach, grabbing my kneels in the shape of a ball, etc. I spent the first 5 minutes like a toddler in a kiddie pool. I was just fascinated with this defeat of gravity.
I was floating.
One thing that several people complained about was neck pain. This pain is almost always caused by people not truly relaxing in the tank. There is still a bit of “flexing” that your body is doing, thinking it is needed to support itself. It’s not.
However, as a rookie, I was experiencing it myself. My initial body position was like sleeping on your back with your arms at your side. I felt the neck pain within about 5-10 minutes.
Following recommendations, I put my hands above my head, as if I was making a relaxed “touchdown” or “O” symbol. Almost instantly, the neck pain disappeared. Time to relax.
Trying Too Hard
In my research, many people talked about the ease of meditation in the float tank. Removing all sensory inputs, your mind just instantly relaxes, right? I was eager to get these relaxation benefits, so I tried to focus really hard on my breathing.
After about 5 minutes, I realized I was working WAY too hard for me to ever relax. The air was too warm and humid and my heightened awareness of getting value from the float was putting too much pressure on.
I decided to bring my arms back down to my sides and stop trying to do anything. The moment I decided to stop was the true start of my float. At this point, my neck pain was gone and I could tell I had actually started to really relax in my entire body.
What Just Happened?
Fast forward what I perceive to be about 30-50 minutes. During this time, I had completely let go of any conscious thought or control of my body. I remember thinking about things, but not actively. It was sort of like witnessing thought, but not steering it. Similar to a dream.
I remember having a conversation with myself, something like:
“Whoa, what just happened?” Man, I am R E L A X E D!
“Wow, this is cool…” “I should open my eyes.”
“Oh wait, they’ve been open the whole time…”
By this point, my mind was no longer sensing my arms, fingers or legs. I could control them (unlike when they “fall asleep” due to poor circulation), but I couldn’t really feel them or feel their contact with the water.
It’s like sleeping while you’re awake.
This was by far the coolest, most relaxing experience I had ever had. It’s hard to compare with anything else. The closest analogy I could use to describe it would be saying it’s like sleeping while you’re awake.
As I exited the tank, showered and paid for my session, I recalled the feeling similar to what one has after getting a massage: relaxed, mildly euphoric and definitely happy.
After returning home the feelings continued. In fact, usually feelings from a massage wear off after a few hours. Wow – not for the float. For the next day or so, the happy/euphoric feeling continued. It was really fascinating to be lasting so long.
For anyone considering floating, I highly recommend it. Like meditation, you can use it however you like. Or just simply relax.