I had seen Floatation Tanks mentioned on a number of podcasts and forums and it had always intrigued me what it would be like to feel a sense of weightlessness in a dark environment with no sound. Just me and my monkey mind for an hour.
Before I tell you about a few of my float experiences, here is a quick background on floatation and it’s many benefits:
Developed in the fifties by Dr. John C Lilly, floatation tanks are usually dark and soundproof pods used for floating in warm water for a long duration. The original aim of their development was to experiment and explore further with the human consciousness; however, the activity has experienced new age undertones ever since. In recent years, the number of people using these devices have increased significantly.
Most newcomers are attracted by the massive range of potential health benefits which include:
Pain Management Floating is an unique environment. It helps to remove the force generated by gravity against our body, which assists in relieving pressure and stress. A recent study proved that floatation is effective at providing relief for back pain, tendinitis, arthritis, inflammation, fibromyalgia as well as blood pressure.
Healing Floating increases the level of blood circulation along with the distribution of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Muscle relaxation becomes enhanced and physical stress is highly reduced. Floatation boosts our immune function and notably increases perception and visual acuity, along with other senses.
Increased brain function Floating is highly effective at achieving a state of mental peace, drawing comparisons to meditation. During floating sessions, our brain cycles between the alpha and theta brainwave patterns, which leaves us feeling extremely relaxed and rejuvenated, elevating our brain functions.
Stress Buster The presence of the high functioning sympathetic nervous systems generates a significant amount of cortisol, which is the primary precursor for stress production in our brains. During floatation, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, flooding the body with endorphins and dopamine neurotransmitters which are responsible for pain relief, mood enhancement and decreasing depression.
Athletic Performance Since 1954, when the effects of floatation/sensory/isolation tanks became popular, a vast amount of research unearthed a lot of positive results of floatation. Athletes have long since enjoyed the benefits of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths, which aid in performance recovery. The high concentration of the salt in floatation tanks leads to an abundance of magnesium being absorbed through their skin. Magnesium regulates blood pressure, which further aids in detox therapy and prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
Simply put, spending time in the floatation tank calms our overly stimulated systems, restoring the body’s chemical and metabolic balance.
My experience in floatation is as follows:
Session 1 There I was; stood stark naked outside the giant pod wondering what on earth I was going to experience. I stepped inside the Pod, sat on the floor and pulled the hinged door down behind me to trap myself inside. I wasn’t actually trapped but it is how I felt at the time – slightly anxious but excited. It wasn’t long before the lights went out and the music stopped and there I was floating in complete darkness – it didn’t matter if I opened my eyes or not, all I could see was blackness.
I was suspended by the magnesium salts in the water with no sound, no light, no feeling.
I spent the first 20 or so minutes in meditation, firstly performing a body scan and then focusing on my breathing before letting my mind wander. It was a very strange experience. It felt like my mind had the time and space to work on some of the problems I had been wrestling with. It also felt like I was in there forever and all I kept thinking was “surely it must be an hour” – it truly felt like time had stopped. When I’d finished and left the floatation centre I found that I was completely zoned out, to the point where I got on the wrong tube.
Session 2 This time I knew what to expect and wasted no time stripping off, having a shower and getting straight into the Pod. This time I went through a similar routine of meditation followed by allowing my mind to wander. Interestingly, I found my second experience less satisfying – I had the sensation that I was spinning around in a circle, which clearly I wasn’t but my brain was tricking me into thinking I was, so I had to put my hand on the bottom to re-calibrate myself. I also wiped my eye because it was itching. Whatever you do, don’t do that because it stings an awful lot! Session 2 was ok, I did some solid problem solving but it wasn’t as satisfying as session 1.
Session 3 I had been struggling for a couple of weeks with a few problems, nothing serious but there was some tension inside me and some choices to make that weren’t easy. I’d tried reflecting with a pen and paper but it wasn’t scratching the itch, so I booked a floatation tank session to give me the time and space to reflect and think. This was by far the best session I had in the tank by a long way – I didn’t meditate at the outset but went in with three problems to think through. I settled into the pod and decided not to meditate but allow myself the time to properly think. I had some amazing ideas bubble up from inside me and had real clarity on how I was going to address my three problems. I was also surprised at how quickly an hour had flown by.
Floatation gives me time and space to think through any challenges I’m facing and provides the option to switch off.