I have a number of friends who’ve recently raved about saltwater flotation therapy, so when a Living Social deal popped up in my email during a particularly stressful week, I bit. I mean, I’ll try anything once―sometimes twice.
Saltwater flotation therapy involves climbing into an isolation tank which deprives you of all your senses. It’s pitch black, soundproof, and filled with about 10 inches of lukewarm water and tons of Epsom salt. The high saltwater content allows you to float without any effort.
These isolation tanks were originally developed by John C. Lilly in 1954, a medical practitioner and neuro-psychiatrist interested in conducting experiments in sensory deprivation to study the brain’s natural state, minus outside stimulus. Since then, saltwater flotation has been used to detoxify, relax, and energize the body.
I thought I was ready. I’m so gullible sometimes.
I climbed into my isolation pod in my own little room completely nude and I immediately starting picturing myself in a sci-fi movie. Gattaca came to mind. The pod was completely white, egg-shaped, and lit internally with a soft blue light (which you can shut off to float in complete darkness, but we’ll get to that later).
During the first ten minutes, there was soothing music, the kind of stuff you hear in massage studios or yoga classes. I settled back and let my arms float on either side of my head like a bank robber who’d just been caught. Everything was going great―and then the music stopped. And I was alone with my mind.
The idea of this tank is to calm your mind and let it wander. Apparently, you can have some pretty psychedelic experiences if you just let go. Sans music, I, unfortunately, couldn’t shut my brain up.
Immediately, I was concerned I’d fall asleep floating and then startle myself awake, which of course would result in splashing my face with saltwater―or have a dream in which I had to, uh, use the restroom. The paperwork I’d signed expressly said that if any sort of…bodily accident…occurred in the water, there would be a substantial fee. Despite having a lot of control of my body, I was a little terrified of being “that girl.”
Stop it, I said to myself, you bought this deal to challenge yourself to relax on a deeper level. Get the full experience. Get control of your thoughts.
And with that, I hit the button to turn out the blue light. Darkness bloomed around me. Because my eyes were still open, the loss of light played with my sight and suddenly black shapes were swimming on the pod ceiling. And they were trippy and fun and they didn’t go away, even five minutes later. I could feel myself smiling.
Then, I started to wonder if astronauts in space feel this way when they’re in zero gravity. Of course, that prompted me to start pushing myself back and forth through the pod so I felt like I was flying and floating through the stars.
And then, the paranoia began and I started to imagine that there was something in the water with me, something slick and with big teeth…It is Shark Week, people. I flipped that blue light back on pretty quick.
I tried to calm down and stay still again. I thought maybe a new arm position would help. I could get comfortable again. I tried to put my arms by my side, palms up, corpse pose in yoga―and my arms, buoyant as they were, floated right back up to over my head. Which, of course, made me laugh at the complete lack of control of my body.
Suddenly, I realized that the blue light came from behind me, submerged in the water like a pool light, and I could manipulate it. That’s when the shadow puppets began. And it all went to hell in hand basket pretty quick.
In my last five minutes in the tank, the music came back on and I got ballsy and flipped onto my stomach in a skydiving position. Wheeeee!
When I got out of the pod, my body did feel great. My skin was smooth from the salt and my limbs were relaxed. I also slept amazingly well that night and I was super energized the next day. Overall, the experience was pretty fun. And the place I went was super professional, top of the line, and had a really fantastic atmosphere.
Will I float again? I honestly don’t think that I have the patience. An hour is a long time to lie completely still while conscious.
It’s also really hard to shut off this writer’s brain. My imagination goes wild during the most mundane of activities, so bring in something novel like this―and I’m done for.
I am clearly the problem.
I don’t have the patience to float.
And I’m okay with that.
Because this crazy over-imaginative brain is all mine.