Every winter, I get to a point where I crave the water. I want to swim in warm water, feel the weightlessness, be warmed throughout. Some winters, I’ve lucked into vacations to warm places like Arizona or Belize. Other years, I just head to a swimming pool. Today, however, I tried something very different.
I went to a float tank, or sensory deprivation tank. It is an enclosed, shallow bathtub full of very salty water. The water is full of epsom salt, a magnesium compound that has wonderful pain relieving properties. I love epsom salt baths, so I was looking forward to that. More than that, though, I wanted to float. Swimming and floating takes all the pressure off my joints and muscles. There’s no gravity, you get to virtually float in space. These float tanks take it a step further. The water is warmed to skin temperature, you’re in a pod that looks like a space ship with a closed lid, so the air warms up as well. The air and water become the same temp, so you truly can’t tell where the air stops and the water starts. The tank I was in had an option for total darkness, a greenish light, or darkness with tiny stars lit up on the lid of the tank. Darkness with the stars was perfection. You lose track of your body completely. Nothing hurts, nothing gets stiff or achy. You stop feeling body parts. You are just a brain, floating. I spent 90 minutes in the tank, and it felt like it couldn’t be more than 30 minutes.
Some of it is legitimately odd. You’re taken into a room the size of a bedroom. A giant pod is in the middle of the room. It looks like something Superman was shot to Earth in.
There’s a shower in the room, and you take a quick shower to wash off as much body oil as possible, then pop in some ear plugs, and use vaseline to cover any open sores (cat scratches for me). You really REALLY need to cover any open sores. I didn’t do a good enough job and had to hop out to reapply. It stings like crazy. When you’re ready, you step into the tank, and sit down. They also gave me a blow-up neck pillow to use if I wanted. I popped that around my neck, and leaned back. The water was so salty, I barely leaned back and I was awkwardly floating. It takes a second to relax into the water. It reminded me of swimming in the Dead Sea. You float at a much higher level, more of you is out of the water, than in a normal pool. I ended up removing the neck pillow, and since you float higher, my face stayed fully out of the water.
I let my thoughts wander, focusing on relaxing and breathing. Other than having a song stuck in my head (Joni Mitchell), I felt incredibly relaxed. I was able to push aside all the daily thoughts of things to do, errands, worries, and just focus on being. It was basically the best meditation session I’ve ever tried.
When your time is up, underwater speakers start playing music to get you up. When you get out, you are encrusted with salt. There were sheets of salt across my belly, between my fingers, in every crease and crevice I had. It took about 10 minutes to shower the salt off my body and out of my hair, and I still feel a bit salty. However, the best part was that upon getting out of the pod, I felt painless. Nothing hurt. No aches and pains, I felt like I could do yoga, run a marathon, do anything. What a wonderful feeling.
Several hours later now, and I feel a bit closer to normal, though my body still feels very happy and relaxed. It was a wonderful experience.
If you’re thinking of trying a float tank, look on sites like Groupon. From what I’ve heard, there’s almost always a Groupon happening for float tanks in my area at least. Normally it would have been $75 for 90 minutes, I got it for $42. I really want to do this again. It was invigorating and stress relieving. My skin feels soft and supple, I keep grinning for no reason. It was fabulous.