Naked as a newborn, I enter the pod. I carefully close the lid behind me and settle into the dark chamber and float atop the salty water.
Whether it be for relaxation, recuperation, or interior exploration – floatation tanks are rapidly gaining popularity. ABC News, Business Insider, and the New York Times all have recently featured stories on floatation tanks. John Lennon reported using one to help kick his heroin habit in the ’80’s. And even The Simpsons did an episode where Lisa and Homer have a float session.
So, what exactly is a floatation tank? Simply put, it is a soundproof (or at least insulated) chamber filled with water, that one enters with the intention of reducing all incoming stimuli to a minimum. The water, only 18 inches deep, is heated to precisely 93.5 degrees, the same average temperature of human skin. Over 800 pounds of epson salt is dissolved in the heated water creating a buoyancy that will allow the body to float like a cork in the ocean.
These important factors – the soundproofing, the high-level of buoyancy and the heated water – allow the body to float without any effort, free from the demands of gravity and dramatically reduce the sensory-input normally experienced by the body. The heated water helps blurs the line between where the body ends and the water begins. Combined these factors can cause an interruption from the constant feedback loop normally experienced between the body and the mind.
The benefits to mind, body, and spirit include reduction from chronic-pain, relief from depression, and increase in the mind’s powers of comprehension, retention, and creative thinking. The physical benefits are causing a huge surge in popularity with elite athletes, especially football players and mixed-martial-arts fighters, who use them for recovery and visualization techniques. The New England Patriots have used floating tanks, and quarterback Tom Brady reportedly purchased one for his home.
All of this I know, but I am still nervous as I float during my first session. That nervousness quickly melts away as I experience a surreal level of relaxation as my body becomes one with the water. I begin to find it difficult to determine where my body ends and where the heated water begins. Faint lights begin to swirl in front of me, as my mind calms and settles into a dream-like but alert state. Then surprisingly the music that indicates the one-hour session is over begins to play. I check my watch as soon as I exit the pod to verify that it has really been an hour. Sure enough, it’s been a full hour.
My plan was to experience 5 one-hour floats sessions. I ended up doing 4 sessions, 3 of which were one-hour while the last session was a two-hour session. While I did achieve a level of relaxation that I previously thought was impossible without the aid of drugs, it was the effect the tanks had on my chronic-pain from a car-accident that I really appreciated. The nagging pain that normally plagues me was nearly gone after my last session. I plan on hopping in a tank soon to recuperate from the quarter.
I highly recommend the experience to anyone that wishes to relax and take a break from the daily demands of life. All of my sessions took place at the Alchemy Wellness Center located in downtown Santa Barbara, which is housed in a beautiful Moorish and Andalusian inspired building, with lovely decorations matching the architectural stylings. As of right now, Alchemy Wellness Center is the only place in town that offers floatation tanks, although there are plenty in the Los Angeles area.