Simply Existing: My First Floating Experience
Imagine you are floating on a cloud; not a single sound permeates through your ears, not a glow of light disturbs the darkness.
You lay there, with your mind free from fleeting thoughts, your body liberated from tension; you are just simply existing.
The first time I was ever introduced to the concept of floating was, strangely enough (pun not intended), through Stranger Things - you know, that scene where the kids use a kiddy pool and a ton of salt to create a makeshift sensory deprivation tank for Eleven. Then about a month ago, I learned that it is actually a thing, and that people use it as a form of relaxation. I was lucky enough to receive ONE FREE 90 MINUTE FLOAT at a nearby location. Such great things were being said about this new therapeutic technique, I just had to try it for myself.
And it was unlike anything I had ever experienced!
Rooms, tubs, pods, and pools (complete with colourful ambience lighting and high-tech showers) - there is a huge variety of sensory deprivation/isolation/float tanks out there. The place I went to was more simple, without the fancy lights and stuff, but that didn't take away from the experience at all (though, I am curious to try the other, more luxurious ones too).
What is floating?
You enter into a sensory deprivation tank that is filled with about 900 pounds of epsom salt dissolved in 10 inches of water, making it hyper-buoyant, allowing you to float. The water and air in the tank is also heated to skin temperature, at 34°C/93.5°F, so that after you settle down and relax, you lose your sensation of touch - the water and your body become one, and you feel as if you are defying gravity.
As it was my first float, upon entering the centre, I was given a tour of the place and a floating orientation - basically just going through what I should do pre-float, some techniques, and procedures. Afterwards, I changed into my swimsuit (you can go in nude, but I preferred to have something covering me for the first time) and stepped into the shower for my pre-float wash. The products they had in the shower - wash, shampoo, and conditioner - were all natural, and that itself already made me feel so good; I was ready for my float.
But before going in, I had a few more things to do: putting in ear plugs (I chose the foam over the silicon), and covering sensitive areas with petroleum jelly so they wouldn't sting like crazy from the salt. Now, it was time to step into the tank and totally unwind and lose sense of time and space, and reality.
the beginner's float
How do I even begin to describe it? It was like stepping into some void, encapsulated with complete darkness and silence. Being the float noob that I was, I got some salt water into my eyes; luckily, there was a spray bottle of water and a towel just outside the door, for that exact purpose. After laying back and floating for a few seconds, I realized that I was subconsciously trying to keep my head above water, and this action was straining my neck. I grabbed a small pool noodle from a basket in the room, and set it snuggly above my shoulders as a support, which helped a lot.
Speaking of strain, because my brain was deprived of all other sensory inputs, I began to notice the pain in my shoulders - you know, that kind of muscle tension from when you sit at a desk for long periods. Boy, did it hurt! Moving my arms above my head, rather than keeping them at my sides as I initially had, seemed to relieve this pain. Some minutes went by, and the pain had completely disappeared. My body was comfortable, my mind empty (I had some moments where I could actually feel it go quiet, and luckily my mind wasn't very loud that day); I fell into a deeply relaxed sleep.
Once I fell into that meditative sleeping state, time seemed to pass very quickly - 90 minutes inside the tank felt more like 20. When I woke up, I was a little disoriented; I could not sense where my body broke free of the water. When I tried moving my hand through the water, it felt like I was waving through air. Sitting up, I felt a lot of salt on my chest, and that's when I realized how long I've actually been inside the tank (not that I knew how much time had passed exactly, but relatively speaking). I guess my body knew my float was about to end, because just minutes after, the underwater speakers came on, playing a soft tune, signalling that my first floating experience had come to an end.
Getting out of the tank was a strange sensation, like coming back down to Earth after a period of time sleeping in a space capsule. As soon as I stepped into the shower, the tank started its cleaning cycle, prepping for the next client. I have to say, washing myself has never felt so extraordinary (well, except maybe in those fancy hotels with huge rainfall shower heads). Following my shower, I dried off, dressed, packed, and headed to the vanity room where I spent the next half hour or so drying my hair with the provided blowdryer, styling it with the natural products in stock, and doing my makeup. All ready to venture back into reality, my last stop was the lounge - home to many different plants, and lemon water. Upon leaving, I told the guy at the front that my experience was - and I quote - "unreal", and that I would definitely be visiting again... once I could afford to (I didn't say that last part aloud of course - floating is HELLA expensive!).
So that concludes my first floating experience. Looking back, I forgot to turn off the lights in my room, so the inside of the tank wasn't as dark as it could have been... newbie mistake. Note to self: let's not do that next time.
To those who have the chance to visit a float spa/centre, I highly recommend trying it out. The sensations and the experience are inexplainable through words alone. I felt like I was glowing throughout the rest of the day, and I just couldn't stop raving about it to family and friends. I don't think I have felt so relaxed in a very long time.