Friday, September 4, 2015

Fearless Friday | My First Sensory Deprivation Tank Experience

For some people, the idea of being enclosed in a pitch black capsule of water for 90 minutes is pretty scary.  But I was somehow intrigued by it.  After watching loads of videos of others who shared their experience, I put it on my "to-do one day" list.  But lately, I've been challenging myself to take actions outside of my comfort zone.

I booked an appointment hoping the experience would somehow transform my life. Others who've floated shared stories of enjoying the zero gravity experience. Some have out of body experiences. Others fall asleep due to the deep relaxation.  I wanted to see if the quiet time alone with my thoughts would bring clarity and focus to my intentions.

At around 11:00 am, I pulled into the parking lot of a tiny business center.  The young lady who greeted me at the front desk was the definition of "hippie."  The minute I walked in I remembered that I hadn't printed out my Groupon. She sensed my tension and in her calming voice advised me that everything would be cool.  We walked around the facilities as she explained the floating process.  Everything she told me I already knew based on all of my research. I felt pretty prepared for what was to come.

But, when I walked into the room, I was taken aback by the large white capsule with the glowing lights.  Per her instructions, I took a shower to remove any "excess oils" from my skin.  Little did she know that my hair was saturated with conditioner and oil to protect it from the 1000 lbs of epson salt dissolved in the water.  Stepping into the tank felt like being in a hot tub. The water was a nice temp and the interior lights did I good job of keeping everything well lit.  I kept the float tank open for the first 20 minutes or so as I got used to the experience.
I've never been able to float in my life but the salty water in the tank made it so easy.  I tried resting my head back but immediately, water began to flood in my makeshift swim cap. Because I didn't want to saturate the water with conditioner, I decided to float on my belly instead.  After about 30 minutes or so (not sure because it's hard to keep track of time) I decided to step up the experience by shutting the door to the tank.  The interior lights were still on so I just had to get used to the feeling of being enclosed.  Not too bad.

Then I decided to go all in and turn off the lights so I can experience full sensory deprivation.  Immediately, the tank was pitch black.  There was no difference between having my eyes open or closed.  A little bit of fear snuck in.  That's when I began to reason with myself that the likelihood of something happening to me was slim to none.  I just had to "be with" the fear, knowing that it was simply an overreaction to a new environment.  This was exactly why I came there in the first place.  A short time later, the discomfort subsided as I focused on the floating experience.  I wanted to visualize my goals but the first images that flashed in my mind were of my husband.  Suddenly, I was feeling a strong connection to him even though he was miles away.

The rest of the experience consisted of  floating in and out of consciousness. Part of me was still trying to get used to the experience, part of me was paying attention to the thoughts that flashed through my mind.  At one point, I existed the tank to use the rest room.  On my way back, I approached the front desk and said, "I think I almost done with the float experience, I probably have a few minutes left so instead of going back in, I'll check out now."  Suddenly a male hippie stepped out from a nearby office and was like "you've got like 45 minutes left....that's plenty of time to go back in."

In all honesty,  I didn't want to get back in.  I had already dried off and gotten dressed so I didn't feel like doing it again.  But I realized that it was resistance, which is exactly why I decided to go back in.  And boy am I glad I did. Going back in the second time felt much more familiar. I was able to close the tank and enter into complete darkness without much thought.  My mind drifted.  Minutes before the lights turned on signaling the end of my float session, I came up with a name for a future product.  The idea just appeared from nowhere.

As I completed the visit, the hippie-woman's last words to me were to "enjoy your post-float glow."   At first I had no idea what she was talking about but as I left the building.  Everything seemed more vivid. The song playing in my car radio, that I'd heard a hundred times before, sounded so much better.  When I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt beautiful.  Not in the traditional way. But more like I was admiring the beauty of my human form.  No judgement.  No picking out my flaws.  Just appreciation.

Floating in the dark for 90 minutes gives you the feeling of being separated from the body. It felt good to be reconnected again.  And when my husband came home and told me about his day, I interrupted his conversation to tell him how beautiful he was to me.

They say that your second float experience is when things really get interesting.  Because you know what to expect, you don't spend all that time mentally getting accustomed to the new environment.  The more you float, the greater the potential of the experience. The next time I go, I'll wear a real swim cap and a floating neck pillow to keep my hair out of the water.  One piece of advice I read was to float after a massage session to enhance the sensory deprivation experience.  That's exactly what I plan on doing.

Overall, I'm looking forward to the next session.  I hope that each time I float, I go deeper into the experience.  If for nothing else, the feeling of shutting off for an hour is like a reset for the body.  My sleep has been more restful and I feel like I have more energy.  I also see this as a stepping stone to take swimming lessons. If you're afraid of the water, floating in it for 90 minutes really takes some of that edge away.  If anything profound comes out of my future experiences, I'll be sure to let you know.

Next, we try acupuncture!

*Edited to add*
I just got off the phone with Jacob "aka hippie" guy.  I called to see if they offered a neck pillow so I wouldn't have to buy one.  He said yes.  I told him that I wanted to wear a swim cap and use the neck pillow to avoid getting my hair wet.  He then told me that allowing the salt to penetrate the hair would be beneficial for it.  He goes one to describe the reverse osmosis process and how that purifies the water.  The salt, he says, would draw out impurities from my scalp and hair.  "Did you notice how your skin didn't prune up after being in the water for so long?" he asks.  "Yeah."  (Actually, after my hair got wet, some of my Kanechom conditioner mixed in with the water. When I touched my skin under the water, it felt incredibly soft.)

The salt and water conditions your skin and hair, Jacob reiterates.  He goes on to say that he's had floaters who sported dreads that experience healthier hair post float. The dreads appear softer and the impurities are removed.  There's a noticeable difference in the hair pre and post float. He also tells me that I can wash the salt out immediately after the float but all the "goodness" would be sealed in.

I think Jacob has convinced me to let my hair down.  I mean we already know that adding a little salt to conditioner can create great results.  But I'm not sure about soaking my hair in it for an hour and a half.   Hopefully my hair makes it through.  Worse case scenario, my hair is dryer than normal. If that happens I'll just do a few steaming sessions to get back in line.  Best case scenario, this turns out to be a treatment for my hair and it actually benefits from floating.  Will share in my next update.
  1. Got me all excited. Sounds absolutely beautiful. Off to see where I can have an NYC experience. Thanks.

  2. Wow, thanks for writing about your experience. Im actually interested in trying this out.

  3. That sounds awesome Nadege. Your willingness to try new things is very inspiring! Enjoy acupuncture, I tried it before so I would like to try cupping therapy next.

  4. Wow! I've never heard of this floating experience! I am intrigued! Thanks for expanding my horizons 👍🏽

  5. I'm intrigued! I'd def give it a shot!

  6. Nadge,
    Thank you so much for introducing floating to a new audience. I’ve been floating for years now and I wanted to give you some tips. The first and main one is to let go. One definitely needs to float at least three times to see if it’s for them but after the first experience you will receive some benefit. Be it a reduction in inflammation, or just a state of calmness. Additional benefits will come in time. But ultimately try not to have any expectations and really let go, mind, body, sprit and hair. Some people like a pillow or ear plugs but a swim cap takes you of the experience. Ultimately you want to remove the body of any barriers between you and the water.
    As for the hair it will be fine. I float bimonthly and I have a relaxer. Just rinse your hair the shower and make sure the strands are fully saturated. Also be careful coming out of the tank. Make sure all of the hair is back so you don’t get saltwater in your eyes. Shampoo and condition as you normally would post float.

  7. I HAVE TO TRY THIS!!!! I have to find some place in South Florida. thank you for sharing the experience--it is just what I need...
    Thx Nadege.

  8. I'd love to try this! For now I think I'll try sort of replicating it at home. I'll pour several cups of Epsom salt in the bath along with my regular 1/2 cup sea salt & baking soda, and 1 tsp of vitamin c powder. Then shut off all the lights & close the bathroom door & soak for 30 minutes.

    1. Give it a shot. There may be instructions on how much salt to add to the water to cause the "floating effect." Also be sure to keep the water temp at a certain range. The closer it is to skin temp, the more of a sensory deprivation effect it will have.

    2. Hi Andrea that is going to make an amazing bath but I would definitely try and find a center in your area. Each tank has only 10 inches of water and 1,000 pounds of epsom salt which is very hard to recreate in a bath tub. Floating is an amazing experience. I am currently in the process of opening up a center and it is wonderful to see more people adding it to their wellness routines.