When I first heard about float tanks I thought it just sounded like a relaxing thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. However, once I started reading more about it I realized that it would be an unique experience.
A float tank is essentially an isolation or sensory depravation tank. All sound and light is completely omitted and you have no concept of the passage of time. The tank is filled with approximately 1000 lbs of water and epsom salt. The density of the salt water allows you to float above the water without touching the tank, a bit like the Dead Sea. The water and air temperature are the same as your body temperature so you cannot perceive where your body ends and your surroundings begin.
This weekend I went to Nashville Float & Massage to submerge myself in the darkness for 90 minutes. When I got there I had a private room with a shower and a Tardis-like float tank. It’s bigger on the inside. I took a shower, turned off the lights, and then hopped in the tank and shut the door behind me.
This is what it looked like once I got inside and shut the door:
There was about a foot of water in the tank. I didn’t expect that to be enough to keep me afloat (I usually sink like a stone), but it was. The tank was surprisingly roomy. I was able to fully reach my arms above my head to stretch my neck and back without touching the sides of the tank. The water felt thick and viscous and clung to my skin. I was expecting to be cold in there, but the air and water were just the right temperature to keep me happy.
My brain spent some time trying to make sense of where I was. I had no sensory cues about my surroundings. There was no light and the only sounds were my breath and heartbeat. It felt like I was floating in circles, but I knew that couldn’t be the case.
The salt water lets you float with the feeling of 85-90% of gravity removed. You are lying there completely unsupported. At first, my neck and back hurt (as they often do), but after a while everything started to loosen up and relax.
It was nice to have 90 minutes to escape from the world. No phone. No internet. No emails. No stress. While I wasn’t able to completely turn off my brain, I was able to work through a few things that had been on my mind and bothering me. Granted, you can work through life’s problems at any time . . . but how often do we really give ourselves that time? Float tanks reportedly have a variety of health benefits, but the most interesting effect is that it apparently can alter your brain waves. In fact, many people use float tanks as a form of meditation.
When my time was up, I got out of the tank and showered to get all of the salt off of me. It took a few tries to get all of the salt out of my hair. Afterwards, I felt completely relaxed and euphoric. I spent some time chatting with Mark and Amy (the owners) and sipping delicious cinnamon tea. Once I got home I passed out and took a lovely mid-day nap. (I had the same reaction to my first time doing acupuncture and fire cupping).
If you have one in your area, I definitely recommend giving a float tank a try.