Floatation or ‘sensory deprivation’ tanks are featured in high-end spas, or dotted around cities in specialist 'float shops'. These weird space-age sarcophagus' are overlooked as a therapy tool because the sessions are more easily marketed as an ‘experience’ or to ease muscle pains. Sure, it ticks those boxes, too… But it’s not the tank’s main selling point. Done properly, a floatation tank can take you on a psychedelic journey akin to intense meditation or drugs (allegedly). Yep, it gets real trippy.
Without going into the science too much (because I really don’t know the science and I'd just embarrass myself) if you starve the optic nerve of stimulus for long enough, it eventually starts to create its own - ala, visions. Rest assured, even if you don’t fully ‘trip out' you’ll have an incredibly introspective experience at the very least. Sensory deprivation is a cheaters path to enlightenment, or in down-to-Earth terminology - it's a councilling session, featuring the powerful 'Dr Subconscious'*
*Not a real doctor. You'll just have a conversation with yourself.
Here’s a guide to what to expect in the tank, and some tips to make the most out of your experience from the very first session. You can thank me later.
Don’t shave the morning before, don’t drink coffee, and for the love of god, put vaseline (usually provided) over any cuts. Nothing's going to distract you more than salt in a wound (or on freshly shaved skin). Now to jump in the water, close the lid, and embark on your first hour of sensory deprivation.
Use this time to settle into the tank. Turn the light off straight away, don’t use the headrest, keep your eyes open and focus on relaxing with deep meditative breathing. Be aware of which areas of your body are not fully trusting the water’s buoyancy (usually arms and neck) and release the tension. The water can carry you - trust it. You’ll experience weightlessness for possibly the first time. Unless you’re an astronaut, then, well... GO, YOU!
5 - 15 Minutes
Your ears are submerged, so listen to your body, your heartbeat and your breath. Keep your eyes open. Midway through this section, your brain will try and make you do something to entertain itself...
Brain - "This is BULL-SHIT. Maybe I should just sit up and turn the light on."
Brain - "Hey, your face itches. Scratch your face, SCRATCH YOUR FACE!!"
Brain - "I wonder if someone pissed in this? Best get out, ey? You like bathing in piss?"
Fight any idea you have about doing anything. ESPECIALLY scratching your face. You'll get salt in your eye and it's all downhill from there. Just lay there and persevere.... and then the fun begins.
This should be the start of an introspective internal dialogue, but don’t worry if it doesn’t come because there’s a way to kick start it!
1) When you’re subconscious tries to make you do things to fight the lack of stimulus, tell yourself off for it.
2) If you’re aware you're still carrying tension somewhere, ask yourself ‘Why’?
3) Perhaps you just feel silly? Or are regretting your decision to spend £60 on a warm dark bath... Ask yourself, ‘Why’?
The dialogue that should follow isn’t always a comfortable one. You’ll often go down a bit of a ranty rabbit-hole, and end up giving yourself a one-sided lecture on your life. What you’re doing wrong, what you should be doing, and even highlighting things in your life you didn’t realise were bothering you.
...Truth hurts, huh?
After airing your problems to yourself, and unearthing the real reason you got in the tank in the first place (besides reading this, of course! No, seriously, thank me later. With gifts.) this next phase puts everything into perspective. You start to get creative. This is the fun bit! Solving those problems, new ideas, revelations, honest answers, epiphanies and inventions (yeah, seriously - Move over Edison. Carb free cannelloni made from hollowed out courgettes is a game changer*).
*Not my greatest work, but the first thing that sprang to mind while writing this. Also, don't judge me on the carb free thing. It was a phase.
You know that moment when you’re on the verge of falling asleep and your body jolts? This is your brain checking if you’re awake or actually sleep. Now during the 40-50 minute mark, this might happen. So much so that it can come over you like a mini spasm. There’s nothing more confusing to your brain than feeling like you’re asleep with your eyes open. Don't try and stop it! This is the signal to start diving deep into a waking dream. Try and see what's in the darkness, and importantly - relax - and just let your brain entertain itself. I’ve had everything from random faces and animals joining me in the tank, I’ve been compelled to admit feelings out loud, and best of all, vivid out-of-body experiences and all-encompassing visions.
Sounds crazy, I know. And no, I didn’t take any drugs. I guess it’s just the power of boredom.
The lid opens and you get out. Feeling like you’ve had a 6-hour sleep. Take a shower and go sit somewhere and have a coffee. Like a real dream, you need to remember what happened before it fades away, so try and recall what you thought about in the tank before it disappears. This is also the benefit of having a floating partner, you can talk through your experience together!
I didn’t manage to get anyone else as hooked as I was as a regular float partner, and because I always found a 2-4-1 deal to save money, it meant I had to convince a different person every time. I accepted the challenge and did just that. Any excuse possible - I took friends visiting from other cities. I took dates (not recommended) I even took a claustrophobic housemate (also not recommended. She had a HORRIBLE time).
Well, there we go. Now search Groupon for a cheap multi-float deal! Do yourself a favour, and go a couple of times to see the true effect of a tank before you brush it off as ‘hocus pocus’ bullshit... Oh, and take a friend*
*Not a claustrophobic one.
Scroll down and leave your comments or a float experiences, below!