what I’m loving this week: floating my stress away

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Who knew hanging out in a pitch-black tank filled with salt water could be SO amazing? I’m hooked.

I tweeted the above statement yesterday evening, about an hour after my first floating experience. Twelve hours later, I’m still feeling the effects.

I first learned of float tanks, otherwise known as isolation tanks or deprivation tanks, a few years ago from friends and family members who raved about the experience but had never taken the step to try it for myself. I’m not even sure what the catalyst was to move forward with booking my own session, but I finally decided to see what the hype was all about.

Prior to my appointment, and in addition to word-of-mouth testimonials, I conducted a fair amount of research to determine what exactly I was getting myself into. Initially, my primary concerns centered around my claustrophobia and the slightly terrifying thought of being inside a small, closed-in, dark, warm space for 60 minutes. However, as someone who has first-hand experience in the personal benefits of meditation, I was willing to put these fears aside and give the experience a chance.

Floating is a way to pause the hectic, saturated world and enter a state of deep mental and physical relaxation. By giving yourself a break from the endless input of sensory experiences, your mind has a chance to recharge, rest, and emerge to face the world with renewed perspective and energy. Otherwise known as floatation-REST (restricted environmental stimulation technique) or sensory deprivation, floating is backed by research and offers immense potential for personal growth and healing.

I chose a location near my work which a friend had recommended. (Bonus points because they were running a Groupon special.) I decided to go big and purchase the three-pack deal as I wanted to give the experience a fair run. Because of the Groupon special, the cost for three 90-minute sessions was $95, but typically they run $55 per session at this location. Because I want this post to be more about my experience with floating and not a review of the location, I’m going to keep comments about the business to a minimum. However, and because it did impact my feelings about the experience, I will mention I was not impressed with my initial interactions with the staff and scheduling. In fact, there was a point when I almost canceled my sessions altogether but worked through the issues (with help from my awesome therapist) and made the decision to move forward with my appointment.

Once I got past the irritations of the unorganized scheduling system by giving myself permission to check those feelings at the door, I was ready for my float. (It was also a bit difficult to get past their terrible website design, overuse of exclamation points, etc., but I digress. Promise.)

The location I chose begins each session with 20-minutes on the inversion table, which was also something I had never tried myself but had heard great things. After setting up the table for my height and assisting me in/on, the facility employee left and I was on my own in the room for two hours. My time on the inversion table felt fantastic and I really enjoyed letting my arms hang above (below) my head and just releasing control of my body and letting gravity take over. I also had the benefit of binaural beats streaming through my ears (I chose the sounds), which helped me further relax and begin letting go of the stresses of my workday. But, while the experience was beneficial, my true reason for being there was the float and I became a bit impatient toward the end of the inversion time. I held out though and made it through the 20 minutes.

After removing my clothes and taking a quick shower, I was ready to float.

During: When I first submerged into the water and began to float, I moved a bit and lightly bumped into the walls of the tank a few times before I settled into a relaxed floating state. I laced my fingers behind my head to initially relax my neck and head but once I allowed myself to truly let go and give into the water and the experience, I was able to move my hands and reposition my arms to float beside me for the rest of the time. There was one moment probably about five minutes in when I started to feel a bit claustrophobic and my breath felt hot and heavy. I opened the door to let a bit of cooler air and light in but talked myself into trying again with the door shut. The next thing I knew, I heard light music alerting me that my float was complete.

I didn’t hallucinate or have an out-of-body experience, but what did happen during the 60 minutes was complete and total relaxation. I didn’t think about work or my family or my friends or, really, anything. Of course some thoughts did come, but I was able to notice them and then let go. One thought or theme that did appear numerous times was being okay, in that I would be okay. This was paired with with song lyrics and instead of pushing them out, I chose to allow myself to sing along in my head. It felt positive and empowered and grateful and just happy.

After: Similar to how I feel after a really good massage. The post-float shower felt amazing as my senses were heightened and I had a deep appreciation for the warmth and the water and the smells of the shampoo and body gel. As I drove home, a few of the thoughts from the float came back to me, including the song lyrics. I also found myself wanting to nourish myself with a healthy dinner and lots of water. Later, after I was home, I noticed physical feelings that felt a lot like finishing a yoga class. My body felt limber and relaxed. After reflecting a bit on the experience, I met a few friends out and found myself really enjoying the time with them and being fully in the moment and happy.

The next morning: I’m still feeling the effects and spent the morning journaling and further reflecting on the experience. There’s a strong desire to spend time expanding on thoughts and ideas that came up during float. Also, the experience reminded me of the benefits of meditation and I will be reintroducing this as part of my daily activities.

As I continue to reflect and process the experience, I can’t help feeling excited for my next appointment. Now that I know the drill and what to expect, I anticipate being able to let go even further and truly experience the session without distractions. But, if that doesn’t happen, I’m also okay with letting the experience be what it is. Whatever happens will happen. What I do know is I’m definitely hooked.

Tell me that you’re alright,
Yeah everything is alright.
Oh please tell me that you’re alright,
Yeah everything is alright.
Give me a reason to end this discussion,
To break with tradition.
To fold and divide.

Cause I hate the ocean, theme parks and airplanes,
Talking with strangers, waiting in line..
I’m through with these pills that make me sit still.
“Are you feeling fine?”
Yes, I feel just fine.

I’m sick of the things I do when I’m nervous
Like cleaning the oven or checking my tires
Or counting the number of tiles in the ceiling..
Head for the hills, the kitchen’s on fire!

I used to rely on self-medication,
I guess I still do that from time to time.
But I’m getting better at fighting the future,
“Someday you’ll be fine..”
Yes, I’ll be just fine.

Tell me that you’re alright,
Yeah everything is alright.
Oh please tell me that you’re alright,
Yeah everything is alright.

Give me a reason (I don’t believe a word)
To end this discussion (of anything I’ve heard)
To break with tradition (they tell me that it’s not so hard)
To fold and divide (it’s not so hard)
So let’s not get carried (away with everything)
Away with the process (from here to in-between)
of elimination (the long goodbye)
I don’t want to waste your time.

Tell me that you’re alright,
Yeah everything is alright.
Oh please tell me that you’re alright,
Yeah everything is alright.

~Everything Is Alright, Motion City Soundtrack


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