Tuesday, 23 January 2018

My Float Tank Experience

Anyone who knows me at all will not be surprised to hear that my recent Christmas list was full of obscure and fringe items and experiences. Just before Christmas I had to explain to my Mom, who had asked for gift-buying inspiration, what I meant when I said I wanted a float tank gift voucher. I have to be honest and admit that I wasn't fully clued up on the whole thing myself but as a float facility had opened its doors locally just 6 months previous it had piqued my interest enough to make me think that it was something I should try.


Without going too deep into the nitty gritty science, a float tank is essentially a large, shallow bath tub filled with roughly 12 inches of heavily salted warm water in which you float, often with the lights out for an extended period of time. The Epsom salts used make the body extremely buoyant so you can confidently lie back with your eyes closed much like enthusiastic Dead Sea tourists.

People use flat tanks for various reasons. Some examples include: muscle recovery after sport; meditation and relaxation; relief of joint pain and fibromyalgia symptoms; skin rejuvenation; stress and anxiety management.

Many of the positive results that floating yields can be attributed to the sensory deprivation experienced whilst in the tank.
  • The water is set at roughly body temperature which makes it difficult to feel against the skin.
  • With the lights out, the stimulus of sight is removed.
  • There should be no real scents inside of the tank.
  • Silence is an important element so for the most part of a float session there will be no audible disturbances.
Because of the above, many floaters liken their float experience to that of 'being back in the womb'.

Float World is a facility in Wolverhampton, just a 15 minute drive from my house. I called in advance on the same day to book my hour slot. I was sent an email with confirmation of my booking and told to arrive 10 minutes before my allocated slot for a briefing and to have a quick tour of the facilities.

After being greeted on reception I was asked to complete a simple questionnaire to make sure I was over 18 years old, had no medical conditions that would cause a problem etc. I was then shown the 'pod' in which I would take my session. In a reasonably sized room with an internal lock I was able to undress, have a 'pre shower', enter my own personal float tank, take a 'post shower', redress and then bugger off. The logistics were simple and fool proof.


So, I'd firstly recommend that everyone ensures that they go for a wee before starting a float session. My session was an hour long and with the amount of water I'm drinking at the moment there was no way that I'd have held out. Thankfully, due to past experiences that have on multiple occasions confirmed that I do in fact have the bladder of a field mouse, I foresaw this potential problem and used the little boy's room in advance.

Float World provides these cool gummy ear plugs that sit in the outer ear, sealing your ear entirely. The last thing you want is to spend an hour with salty water in your ears to then ultimately spend the rest of the day trying to fish it out when it solidifies. I popped these badboys in before my pre shower so they were firmly in place and made a concerted effort to not mess with them during my float.

The first 15 minutes or so was a little uncomfortable. I'm quite a fidgety person and did a fair amount of wriggling around whilst becoming accustomed to the weightlessness I was experiencing. To calm myself down I successfully used a box breathing technique I've come to rely on where you breathe in for a 5 second count, hold for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds and then hold for another 5, imagining your breath moving in the shape of a square (or box). A few rounds of this will settle anyone down.

As my float progressed, I became more at ease with the environment and began to relax and enjoy the stillness. I can totally see how people use this as a form of meditation as you really are able to disconnect. However, because of my tendency to fidget and allow my mind to race, I don't think I fully got the immersive tranquillity that was on offer but perhaps with practice I could learn to succumb to the quiet more completely.

Hung on a rail inside of the tank was a spray bottle filled with fresh water and a small hand towel. These, I recalled the woman telling me, we're to be used in the event of getting the salty water in your eyes. Thankfully, I lasted a good 50 minutes until using these was necessary. I'll tell you now though that the pain of that water in your eyes is like nothing else. It's just so salty! Also, finding the rail whilst in the darkness is also a challenge so it would serve you well to ensure you always have a idea of your orientation in the tank in case you have to start thrashing about for that towel and spray.

All in all, my first float tank experience was a success. I certainly came away feeling relaxed and calmer than when I went in. The Epsom salts more than likely had some positive effects on my skin and the 60 minutes down time was well overdue.


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