Floating for the First Time
As some of you know, my husband and I experienced something new last weekend: floating in a sensory deprivation tank. We were both familiar with it, but had never done it before. After hearing more people talk about the benefits, including Jim Laird at the Train Like A Girl 2 seminar I recently attended, I decided that Jesse and I needed to go ASAP. So, I booked us each a 90 minute float at a place called, Float On here in Portland. For those who live in the Portland area, this is just one of several places you can go to float here in town.
Floating is meant to be a relaxing, detoxifying and meditative experience in which you float privately in 10 inches of water containing 850 lb of epsom salt (so much magnesium!). The water is the same temperature as your skin, which keeps you from getting hot or cold, and causes you to no longer feel where your body ends and the water begins. Also, because of the high salt content, your skin will not wrinkle while soaking. It’s encouraged to float in the nude and in total darkness, but there is the option to wear a swimsuit and keep the lights on. Bathing suits can get uncomfortable and become a distraction, which is why floating naked is recommended though. You’re in your own private room anyway, so going without a bathing suit is no big thing.
I had the luxury of being in what I called the, “queen suite” which featured a large float pool that was open and not inside a tank, like the others. I could literally make a big X-shape with my body and it allowed me ample room to spread out. It was like floating in a huge, shallow jacuzzi (minus the jets, of course). Jesse was in a medium-sized tank that had a door entry, like the one pictured above and was known as an, “Ocean Room.” There is a smaller sized tank option as well. It is more womb-like and many people refer to it as a “space pod.” You can’t stand upright when entering and have to step your feet in and then squat down to get inside.
Anyway, after getting the 101 from one of the employees, Jesse and I each made it to our designated float rooms. I put in the wax ear plugs, showered and then stepped into the float pool. Upon getting in, I pushed the big button on the wall to turn off the lights and immediately laid back into the water. I was there a whole three seconds when I felt the weight from my hair (it was pulled back in a messy bun) pulling my head back. I immediately sat up, which was a mistake because super salty water ran down my face and onto my lips (thankfully, missed my eyes). It tasted terrible and I knew I needed to get up to pat off my face before trying to get comfortable again. But then, I couldn’t find the light button in all the darkness. I felt my way around the walls and finally found it. I admit, I went into slight panic mode for about 10 seconds or so, and didn’t know how I was going to last 90 minutes. Not only that, but I got cold, which shouldn’t happen. I later found out from one of the employees that the tank temperature started dropping right at the time that my float started. He caught it quickly and adjusted it, but this explains why I was cold for a bit.
I shut the light off again after drying my face and re-situated myself, so that I could see the light shining under the doorway (remember, mine was a big pool and not inside a tank). I wanted my head slightly propped up for floating (to keep my spine neutral), but unfortunately, the bath pillow was too slippery and wanted to bob to one side every time I laid my head on it. I tried folding the head pillow over the ledge and leaning against it, but was so buoyant in the water that I floated away from it every time. This kinda made me laugh, actually! There was also a small noodle to use, but it was too light rest my head on, unless I held it with my hands (I did for a while too). Then, I just held my head in my clasped hands for a bit, which was quite comfortable until my arms got tingly. That’s when I realized I had to get comfortable with my head unsupported. I laid in a shavasana (corpse) pose and had the small noodle underneath the backs of my knees for a bit. I closed my eyes and my body finally began to ease. I remember getting into a dream-like state, but was still somewhat conscious (I recall dreaming about Hawaii). By the time I figured things out and got comfortable, I was probably 30-40 minutes into my float. The next 50-60 minutes went by in the blink of an eye and I would have sworn it was only a few minutes or so.
To “bring you back,” soft music starts to stream into the room, letting you know to gradually make your way out. You have plenty of time to slowly ease out of the water, shower and get dressed. Like a massage, they don’t want you to rush.
Afterward, I felt incredibly chill and my legs that had been really sore upon going in, felt much less sore. I felt sort of loopy and noodle-like too — so relaxed. I also noticed that my skin felt very soft from all the salt.
Jesse and I went down the street to eat Thai food for dinner afterward and I kept commenting on how good I felt, and Jesse too. When we got home, I felt so tired and still very relaxed. Once I finally slipped into bed, I felt like I was on a cloud and then fell fast asleep.
Even though I had a hard time getting settled in the beginning of my float (and Jesse did too), I would definitely float again. I’d know more what to expect the second time around and what it takes for me to get comfortable. I know that floating can be difficult for people the first time and some people don’t even get to the point that I did. Every time thereafter will be easier to relax and settle down. Jesse and I both plan to do it again in the near future.
If you ever have the opportunity to float, DO IT, but know that it may be difficult to relax and get comfortable the first time, or even the first few times. Like anything, you can’t completely make up your mind or formulate an opinion after the first time experiencing something new though.
If you have questions, feel free to shoot me a comment and also check out Float On’s FAQ.
Have you ever floated before? If so, what did you think?