I recently did at 60 minute float at a local floatation therapy center (Serene Dreams, in Kearny, NJ) and I’m here to share an honest float tank review of my first experience.
First and foremost, some of you may be wondering what a flotation therapy even is…
In short, flotation therapy is based on the scientific concept of sensory deprivation. Sensory deprivation is described as “a process by which someone is deprived of normal external stimuli such as sight and sound for an extended period of time…” Basically: it’s just you, your thoughts, and your breathing.
The Float Tank
Experiencing sensory deprivation is commonly done through a float tank. Float tanks are filled with water set to the temperature of our skin and with 1200 lbs of Epsom salt, responsible for the weightlessness you feel during the float. (Similar to the affect of floating in the dead sea.) The goal of floating is to transcend into a blissful, relaxing, meditative state. It is said that sensory deprivation enhances your mental and physiological health, relieves stress through deep relaxation, and also holds a bunch of physical benefits (athletes are known to float all the time).
After learning about the groovy concept of sensory deprivation via a float tank, I searched for the nearest center in my area and happily found one just 10 minutes away with great customer reviews. I booked a 60 minute float for a Sunday morning. I couldn’t find much opinion on the best time of day to float, so I decided I’d like to start my day with a float… but may consider an evening float next. I think it all depends on personal preference and really doesn’t matter.
I have to admit I was definitely nervous at first (for claustrophobic reasons), but the place had a totally relaxing vibe and because I heard nothing but great things about floating, I was game. Something good to know if you’re nervous like I was: You are in complete control over the lighting and the opening of the door in the tank. My goal was to do a completely dark and isolated float, but I liked the idea that I could leave the door open as much as I wanted if I felt freaked out or anxious.
I was instructed to shower directly before and after the float, and there was a private shower in the room of my float tank. I was provided with earplugs and the woman also suggested I put vaseline around the perimeter of my forehead, to “act as a barrier” if the salt water happened to wave into my face. I liked this idea and recommend it if vaseline is available for you.
My float began with light relaxing music for the first 5 or 10 minutes and a glowy blue light on in the pod. I opted to lie with my head opposite to the door, and for the first 30 seconds just experimented floating in the area: noticing my senses and making sure I felt comfortable being able to control the lighting and the door from my position. The door to the pod does not lock, so you can close it entirely or crack it open as much as you want. There is also an emergency button inside the tank that will send a staff member to check on you, which lessens the fear factor as well. (This was at the place I went to, but I assume all centers have this emergency button.)
I closed the door, shut the lights, and… oh no, a panic set in. My fear of claustrophobia was becoming a reality. For a split second I considered ditching the float all together and leaving, but I took some deep breaths, calmed my ego down and decided to open the door. This helped me ease into it so much. Once the door was open about half way, I basically just tried to relax while focusing on my breathing. The whole experience being new to me, it took some time to get used to. I found that laying with my hands behind my head was more comfortable than with my arms at my side, but experiment with what position feels right for you. After about 15 minutes, I grew the courage to close the door completely and float in complete darkness as I intended to. As this point, I was much calmer and comfortable with my surroundings. It truly did become a relaxing positive experience. I felt thoughts of love coming to my mind without even trying. I wasn’t transcended to another place, but I had a clear view about any thought I had, and was confident in the way I was feeling about all of my thoughts. This can be really refreshing if you find yourself indecisive during your day to day life, or are struggling with life direction and important decisions. It was like I was having the state of mind you aim to get through meditation, but it was not forced what so ever. I was totally calm and felt very centered. It was a sauna meets meditation meets a cup of coffee. Because at the end of the float, I felt energized and relaxed at the same time. I loved the feeling and felt light and calm.
One thing I would do differently is set time to reflect and just chill out after the float. After mine, I had plans to go to brunch with friends, so I was quickly thrown back into “life”. I still felt great, but a time of reflection (journaling, meditation, or a nature walk—whatever reflection means to you) is definitely pertinent for next time post float.
I cannot wait for my next float. I definitely expect a stronger experience now that I’ve endured my first float. I will probably stick with 60 minutes again, but hopefully grow to 90 for my third.
Here are some tips to guide you for your float:
I suggest doing some additional research on float tanks and sensory deprivation if you haven’t already before booking a float.
Wear comfy and loose clothing (since you will be showering – and floating naked)
Bring your own shower stuff if this will make your experience most enjoyable. Though body wash, shampoo and conditioner will be provided.
For girls — you will have to blow dry your hair after, so bring a blow dryer or make sure the location you’re going to provides one. They should. (unless you choose to leave with a wet head like I did ;))
If this is your first float and you feel nervous, start with just 60 minutes.
Wear the ear plugs!
As stated earlier, use vaseline around your face (and over any scars, scrapes or exposed skin)
Begin your float with an intention
Don’t have scheduled plans for directly after your float
Don’t come to your float heavily caffeinated as you want a relaxed mind. I think a caffeinated tea would be okay, but nothing that will make you anxious or jittery.
If you’re nervous or anxious about being in the tank, just remember you cannot drown, and have complete control. With the amount of salt in the tank, it is impossible for you to drown: you will have a hard time keeping your entire body underneath the water if you try. And in my experience, it was shallow enough so that I could sit up inside if I wanted.
Come with an open mind, and don’t expect any life changing breakthroughs your first time—let the float be what it is and enjoy the ride 🙂