Sensory deprivation tanks have interested me in a long time but I had no idea there was something like that in Portland. Michael and I bought a Groupon special for 90 minute “float” session at Float On.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about isolation tanks. When people heard that we were going to do that, some people were freaked out, some people said “Aren’t you afraid you’ll lose your mind?” I wasn’t. I had no idea what to expect BUT I imagined that it would be similar to when I go to sleep every night: I wear an eye mask and earplugs. I have my own sensory deprivation tank at home.
“Getting rid of all sensory input allows the ‘constantly-make-sure-you’re-not-dying’ part of your brain to chill out for a second, allowing the creative, relaxed part of your brain to come out and play. Without the constant pressure of analyzing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of cortisol, the main chemical component of stress. Your brain also releases elevated levels of dopamine and endorphins, the neurotransmitters of happiness.”
Sign me up! I always feel like I’m going, going, going. On some level I’m always a little stressed out, whether it’s anxiety, happiness, determination, etc, it’s not often I have a feeling of just “being.”
“Not having to fight gravity lets your muscles, joints, and bones take a well-deserved break. Your body suddenly has loads of extra resources (usually spent supporting your weight, regulating temperature, and trying not to get speeding tickets), which it gets to focus on things like healing and resting.”
This appealed to me because of how active I am, same with Michael. He’s doing over 100 miles a week on the bike and with all the weight lifting I’ve been doing, I always feel sore. I was looking forward to experiencing this kind of “break”.
Since this was our first time, I read through the FAQ’s on the website to get an idea of what to do. They said not to shave for a day before, don’t drink coffee, eat a light meal, and don’t wear your contacts. One of the questions was: will I get dehydrated being in salt water so long? Their answer: “No- your skin doesn’t even prune up. You do absorb a lot of magnesium from the Epsom salt though…” Interesting! (I actually was super thirsty afterward. I guzzled water, Gatorade and almond milk when I got home and never felt like it was quenched.)
What about claustrophobia? I’ve never really had an issue with claustrophobia except in cases where I’ve been somewhere underground (like the Oregon Caves) and most recently, the MRI I got on my knees gave me a little anxiety. But all in all, not too much of an issue. I wasn’t sure what the tanks looked like, how big they were and if I’d be freaked out. They gave me the option of a tank that was bigger and less “freaky.”
The above two pictures are of my tank. My photo isn’t great but the tank is on the right side. I could stand inside of it and raise my hands and still not touch the ceiling. It was also very wide. It was kind of like an enclosed bathtub/shower. Inside there was a handicap handle and a light with a switch. Michael’s tank was way different:
Michael called his tank a “Spock Coffin.” It was DEFINITELY intimidating and I’m glad I chose the tank that was for claustrophobic people. They gave us a short tour and explained everything. They were filling a new tank with the salts and we got to see:
Finally, it was time for our float. Michael went in his room and I in mine. The doors locked so everything was safe and secure. I stowed my stuff and took a shower before getting in. The lights off, I closed the door to the tank, laid down and then turned off the tank light. It was very odd at first. It was completely dark. No light, no sounds. I had earplugs in, too.
I must have had some unknown cuts/scrapes on my body because for a good 10 minutes when I got in, my body was burning! Thankfully that went away and it wasn’t too bad. I tried to find a comfortable position. The guy that helped us said some people have issues with their neck in the tank. He suggested raising your arms to float above your head instead of at your side. I tried various positions and found some comfort. (Michael also had neck issues.)
Was it scary? No. Was I claustrophobic? No. (Michael said he had a little anxiety with his tank when he first got in, but that went away.) I’d read some testimonials and some people said they got the spins in the tank–I was very nervous about that, but it didn’t happen for me.
So what what was it like? It was cool. I floated on top of the water like a cork in a glass or a rubber duck in a tub. It was an odd sensation to just FLOAT and not have to work for it. My mind wasn’t RACING while I was in the tank but I definitely didn’t have a calm mind for most of the session. I thought about Hawaii, puppies, the wedding, swimming, I had songs playing in my head…so yeah. I didn’t reach any kind of enlightened, meditative state but I didn’t think I would in my first session. Maybe my next.
I did get salt in my eyes twice and that SUCKED. Super painful. I opened the tank door and poured some water on my eyes and that helped. I also discovered a little swim noodle that I put under my neck and that helped a lot. It alleviated all the neck discomfort and my head was a little higher so no more salt in my eyes.
In between the stream of consciousness about Hawaii and puppies, I’d have moments of pure BLISS…where I was absolutely weightless and just floating, feeling disconnected from my body and my mind calmed down. Then I’d think “OOH! I am getting to that enlightened, calm state!” and then that blissful feeling was gone. That happened half a dozen times in the tank. Then towards the end of the session, I was able to latch on to that blissful, weightless feeling, completely relaxed and nearly falling asleep.
When the 90 minutes was up, music came on in the tank to let you know time was up (or in Michael’s case, to wake him up). I showered and dressed and that was the end. I felt energized and at the same time, very relaxed. It was kind of like getting a massage but not QUITE the same.
That day I’d had some knee pain and sore quads, despite being a rest day. I went into the tank with some knee discomfort. When I woke up the next day and throughout the day, no knee pain. It felt nice! I want to do the float again. I don’t think giving it one try is going to give me the best representation of what a session is really like.
QUESTION: Have you ever tried something like this? What was your experience?