First Time in a Float Tank by: Leah McKellop

First Time in a Float Tank

 Flotation tanks go by a number of names, including isolation tanks, sensory deprivation tanks, sensory attenuation tanks.  I’ve known about these tanks since living in Colorado, where they are considered a fairly normal part of health routines.   At first impression floating seem as much like something out of a sci fi movie as out of a health center.  Essentially you get into a person sized pod filled with a carefully monitored saline solution.  It is warm, dark, and silent- essentially a man made womb or maybe a cryogenic sleep chamber for traveling through deep space.   I was a little apprehensive.

My main uneasiness surrounding the pods was claustrophobia, feeling trapped and not getting enough air.  Others I spoke to were concerned about being in total darkness, the panic of not being able to see your hand in front of your face.  These little relaxation space ships seem to bring up a lot of deep rooted fears for people.

Anyways, despite my nervousness,  I finally went floating with my boyfriend/fellow Rolfer, Michael, at a new place that opened up in Braselton, GA.  The center is on Braselton’s main street in an old law office, mostly filled by two pod-style float tanks, each in their own private room. I was still having visions of panicking in darkness on the drive over, but once inside I immediately started to relax.  The owner walked us through the orientation.  We could leave the lid open if we liked, or keep lights on in the tank.  There was an intercom inside the take if we needed anything from her.  She put a water bottle and a wet washcloth inside the pods for each of us in case we got salt in our eyes. Basically you could set yourself up to do full sensory deprivation or float tank-lite.  Michael went for the first option, while I was a little closer to the later. 

In our own rooms we showered, put ear plugs in and stepped into our tanks.  It was exactly 98.6 degrees and felt like a warm blanket.  I pulled down the lid, leaving a little crack open for light and air to come in.  I turned off the inner pod lights and reclined back, immediately floating.  The saline solution is made with Magnesium Sulfate, essentially an extremely concentrated Epsom Salt bath.  Immediately my muscles started twitching and relaxing.  At first I moved around, stretching, twisting and playing around with the feeling of weightlessness.  Then I splashed myself in the eye with that concentrated salt water and decided to try staying still.

I meditated, coming in and out of concentration as I drifted into the sides of the container.  I was expecting the weightlessness of floating to feel like nothing, but in fact I could feel the tensions and twists of my body much more acutely.  I observed as some of that tension released or changed throughout the float.  At times I felt physically uncomfortable. At other times I felt totally relaxed- floating in and out of mediation.  With the tiny bit of light and air I had coming in, I felt perfectly safe.

After an hour had passed the inner tank lights slowly came on and I sat up for the first time to find my body the consistency of jello.  I felt a little wobbly as I showered off the salt and made my way back to the lobby.  My eye lids were heavy, my limbs were weighted and when Michael and I spoke to each other, our voices had dropped an octave thanks to relaxed vocal chords.  It was wonderful.

Michael had a similar experience of floating in an out of deep relaxation and in an out of bodily discomfort.  He was in complete darkness and said he freaked himself out once opening his eyes to nothing, but ultimately he thought the full darkness was helpful to relax.  He had much less room in the tank than I did so he couldn’t move around much, but he also had no issues splashing water into his own eyes. 

There are many touted health benefits, but in my experience, floating was mostly a nice way to calm down my nervous system.  The feeling lasted for days.  If I feel like I need another “reset” I would definitely head back to the tank to unwind.