I first heard about the flotation tank (also known as the isolation or sensory deprivation tank) from being a regular listener of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. As someone looking for ways to better manage stress both from life and the gym, and is always looking for new experiences, I decided to give it a try.
Little known fact: I’m afraid of water AND the dark AND am unreasonably worried about accidentally drowning in the bath tub or a small rain puddle, so I was extremely hesitant about this experience – to this day I haven’t successfully floated in any other body of water.
Thankfully the staff was knowledgeable and friendly enough to answer my questions, one of which was if I would be the first person in the history of the world to go bye bye in the tank, and if so could they make up a way cooler, heroic story to tell my mom, preferably one where I died saving a bus filled with orphaned puppies from a deranged serial killer.
I was shown to the tank and given the preliminaries – session length, what to do in case I panicked or needed help, putting wax inside my ears to prevent water from getting in, etc. Once I was left on my own, I did the only thing that made sense: get nekkid.
Stick with me here. I’m not being creepy.
You can enter the tank in a bathing suit or swimming trunks, but the main benefit is the sensation of nothingness, so if you do that then the feeling of material pressing against or clinging to your skin might take away from the flotation experience, so butt nekkid is the way to go, people.
From there I opened the hatch, descending into darkness, closing the door behind me.
And then there was nothing.
As a 6 foot tall gentleman of considerable thickness, the inside was spacious enough to allow me to move my body around the tank without feeling too constricted. It did however take awhile for me to stop tensing my body up, preparing for inevitable moment when science failed me and I started to sink. Then came the business of finding the most comfortable resting position: do I go beachside hands-behind-my-head style, or do I cross my arms like I’m a vampire in a coffin waiting for sunset?
My first time was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. No sensation of feeling anything against my skin, no sound and no light; the closest thing that I can liken it to would be meditating while floating on your back through outer space if suddenly all the lights in the universe turned off.
With this physical stimulus gone, the only thing that remained was mental chatter, and there was a ton of it. I thought about what I was going to eat for dinner, if I accidentally forgot to lock my apartment door, if there was anyway that I could become a taste tester for Cinnabon, and if there were any creepy infrared cameras spying on my less-than-presentable dangler.
For the first 10 to 15 minutes, it felt like I was sitting in a room filled with a bunch of people who were having 20 different conversations at the same time and all I wanted to do was tell them to shut their silly faces.
I breathed into my stomach and out my nose at a slow and controlled pace. Once I did, the thoughts started to subside as I focused less on them and more on my breath. After a few minutes of this, I began to experience the most relaxed sense of prolonged peace that I can ever recall having.
Time felt like it was slowing down and speeding up simultaneously; the more relaxed I was, sinking into the experience and letting go of any expectations that I had, the faster time seemed to go. I watched thoughts flow in and out of my head. If one came in that I was particularly interesting to me, I held on to it for a bit and once it was no longer useful to do so I let it go, sending it on it’s merry way.
After what seemed like just a few minutes in this state, I was stirred by a knock on the tank door – my hour was up.
The rest of my day was extremely relaxed. Situations that would’ve annoyed the hell out of me just rolled off my back, and this feeling of “ahhhhhhhhhhh” carried well into the rest of my week.
Each experience is profoundly different. Some sessions I used to surrender and let go of as many thoughts as possible, and others I used as uninterrupted problem solving time for any particular issue I was having.
Even if you just do it once a month, you can’t put a price on an hour of uninterrupted solitude – no voices, no text alerts, no email swooshes or people looking for you to do something for them.
Since making it a regular part of my life, I can’t speak highly enough of this experience. If you’re the type of person who is easily overwhelmed, is filled with anxiety or can’t seem to pull yourself out of “GO GO GO!” mode, you owe yourself to give this a try.
What are the benefits?
To name a few:
- Quick reduction in stress levels
- Decrease in stress related pains & anxiety
- Can help with depression
- Better sleep
- Enhanced creativity via shift in brainwave activity
- Make your skin feel like magic
Where can I find a flotation tank?
There are hundreds of locations worldwide. Here are a few sites you can use to find one in your area.
Will I drown?
Nope. Thanks to 800+ lbs of Epsom salt in about 9 inches of water, it’s impossible to drown due to the density of water. The only way I can think of is if you fall asleep and mysteriously flop over onto your stomach…so don’t do that.
Will I run out of air?
Nay. Fresh air is constantly being circulated through the tank. If you feel claustrophobic, you can always get out at any time.
Rog, you got naked. Is it clean in there, or do you now have Ebola?
Quiet, you! You’re required to shower before entering the tank, and the tank is cleaned after each session through a variety of methods to ensure that those nasty microbes don’t live to see the light of day.
How long should I float?
A typical session lasts anywhere from 40 to 90 minutes. You choose the length, and can get out when needed.
Any last words of advice?
Avoid caffeine or other stimulants a few hours before you float, otherwise it can impact your ability to relax. Make sure that you don’t have any open cuts, because this salt is not a game and you will pay dearly for it.
Also, if your eye itches, DO NOT SCRATCH IT!