What is floating?
A float is essentially a VERY strong salt water bath - the concentration of salt makes you float on top of the water and feel completely weightless! Most float tanks are also designed to be a full sensory deprivation experience.
What is sensory deprivation?
Sensory deprivation is just what is sounds like - a situation that provides as LITTLE stimulation to the senses as possible. What does that mean? No sound (the tanks are sealed and you also use earplugs), no sight (lights turn off - picture above was taken BEFORE hitting the switch), and little to no feeling (weightlessness provided by the salt water bath).
What are the benefits of floating?
There are a TON of benefits to spending time in a float tank, including:
- Fast track to meditation! Since your brain and body are super calm, it's easier to get into a deeper meditative state.
- Stress less - Pretty similar to above. Without the pressure of analyzing and processing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of cortisol, the main chemical component of stress. Your brain also releases elevated levels of dopamine and endorphins, the neurotransmitters of happiness.
- Physical relief for your muscles and joints - Since your body does not have to fight gravity in the tank, floating is super restorative for your muscles and joints. Also, the water in the tank is a magnesium Epsom salt base, which is helps pull toxins from the body and relieve muscle tension, tightness, cramps and pain.
- Gentle detox - The skin is the body’s largest organ, and plays a huge role in our ability to absorb, filter toxins, and deliver nutrients to the body. [Side note: Acne, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, or other problems can often be a sign of deeper issues within the body.] Your skin is a highly porous membrane and soaking in a salty bath triggers a process called reverse osmosis, which actually pulls salt out of your body, and harmful toxins along with it.
- Creative ideas! This is one of my favorite benefits of floating - so many awesome, creative ideas pop into my head in the tank! Probably because my body is physically relaxed and calm, my brain can focus on other things.
What can I expect during my first float?
At most float centers, there will be someone to walk you through the process if you are newbie, but this will give you an idea of what to expect and help you decide if floating is something you'd like to try.
The float tanks are each in their own private rooms and generally there will be a shower in the same room as your tank. It's recommended that you shower both before and after your float.
There are two main types of float tanks: a "pod" and a "room" (see photos below). I liked the float room as it's a little bit more spacious (and is probably the right choice for you if you are claustrophobic or just nervous being in a small space for an extended period of time).
Before you step into the tank, you'll get completely naked, shower, dry off your face and pop in some earplugs. It's also suggested not to shave or wax the day of your float, since the salt water can feel painful on open cuts or scrapes. The float center that I've been to provides Vaseline that you can rub on any cuts or scrapes (and effectively seal out the salt water).
Now for the good stuff: You'll then get into the tank, squat down and lie back into the water, and you will float! You don't need to hold your head up (it will float too!) - most centers also provide an inflatable head rest if you prefer to keep your ears above the water. You will not drown :)
Now it's time to RELAX! If you prefer, you can keep lights ON, or you can turn them off for the full sensory deprivation experience. Some tanks also have an option to play relaxing music while you are floating. Don't worry if it takes you a while to get accustomed to your surroundings in the tank - during the first 10, 15, 20 minutes you may bump into the sides of the tank, fidget, etc. It's okay!
After you get settled, you will start to "float" into a super, super relaxed state. It's similar to a really deep post-yoga savasana. The difference with the float tank (from my experience) is that you don't feel your body! It's kind of like you are JUST in your mind, and it's pretty trippy actually.
Here's the thing I've learned: especially if you are newer to floating, the majority of your time in the tank (usually 60 or 90 minutes) you will have thoughts. The point is not necessarily to clear your mind, but to clear out the day-to-day "stuff" so that you can drop into deeper thoughts. This is where the creative juices start flowing, or "aha" moments happen. Many people say that they work through lots from just an hour in the tank and that it can almost feel like a therapy session.
When your time is up, music will start playing softly inside the tank. There's no rush to get out of the tank - these places allow plenty of time between floats, so let yourself to gently come back into your body and explore your senses. Notice how you feel. Take your time to slowly get up and out of the tank.
After your float, you'll want to shower again (and rinse all that salt off your body!) Most float centers provide squirt water bottles that you can use to clear out any water from your ears, along with shampoo, lotions, etc.
And maybe my favorite part? Post-float chill. Lift Next Level floats has this incredible lounge area with a huge comfy couch, water, tea, and books. I often journal or talk to others who have just emerged from the tanks. It's super, super chill (I kind of want to move in here!). As with coming out of a deep savasana, take your time to re-enter the real world (especially when the world you are coming back into is crazy New York City!!). Allow yourself plenty of time to absorb and enjoy the benefits of your float.
Where can I find a sensory deprivation tank near me?
Ready to book your first float? If you are in NYC, I highly recommend Lift Next Level Floats in Cobble Hill. Click here to get your first hour-long float session for just $69: Book my float!
You can also just Google "float tanks" or "sensory deprivation tanks" to find a location convenient for you.
I hope this post was both informative and interesting! Got other questions on floating? Let me know in the comments below and I'll try my best to answer 'em!