What It Really Feels Like to Float in a Sensory Deprivation Tank for an Hour
Floating in a tank saturated with 800 lbs. of Epsom salt for an hour isn't just for your crystal-obsessed, New Age-y aunt anymore. Over the past year, flotation therapy (aka those sensory deprivation tanks all over your Instagram feed) has become a hot topic in the beauty and wellness realms, and I was totally buying into it. In addition to decreasing your blood pressure and creating a general zen-like attitude, the salt used has a detoxifying effect on your skin, and can actually help existing conditions.
So here's my experience on this: I tried floating one time before, but your first time doing anything can always be scary and intimidating. For example, I prematurely turned off the light and ended up crying for a good minute as I struggled to find the switch in total darkness. Rookie mistake, I know, and I kept in mind not to repeat it. I made my appointment at Lift Next Level Floats in Brooklyn, but this time, I'd be floating in a pod as opposed to the room I previously tried, which made me a little nervous. Besides, I've seen that episode of The Simpsons: Lisa gets into a tiny float pod and has an existential experience, while Homer's falls out the back door of the building and rolls down a hill.
Luckily, none of that happened to me, and I was surprised to find that the pod was a lot bigger than I anticipated. Before floating, you're advised to shower so that any leftover lotion or hair product won't taint the water, and cover any scratches with a layer of Vaseline so that the salt water won't irritate you. Pro tip: use the bathroom before you get in. They really don't want you to pee in there, and honestly, you don't want to be floating in that, either.
After toweling off, jamming some ear plugs in, and tying my hair back I climbed into the pod and shut the lid over me. As I mentioned, it was much bigger than I had anticipated, and I was able to starfish my arms and legs out without hitting the sides, though you do sort of ping-pong back and forth at a slow speed for a hot minute until you're settled. Relaxing music (which you can control) plays in the background, and after about a minute, the light inside the tank turns off.
As you can imagine, your mind tends to do some funny things when you're left to float for an hour in total darkness, and mine definitely started to wander. I started to think about how floating in the tank probably felt similar to what it would be like to be a mermaid, if they actually existed, or how it's probably a similar to an astronaut floating around in space. I tried different positions—one of the experts at the front desk said the cactus position was her favorite, so I crossed my feet, held my arms in an upward position, and did my best impression of a saguaro. I thought about writing this piece, and how it was weird that I was thinking about the post and would later write it and it would be meta as hell, and then wondered if I was really in total darkness. I started waving my hand in front of my face to determine if I was, and although I didn't see my hand (proving I was in total darkness), I succeeded in getting salt water all over my face, which I had to towel off. Once I had calmed down from that, I focused on my breathing and allowed my mind to walk the line between awake and a fluid dream-like state.
After what seemed like three hours later, the light turned back on and slowly got brighter, and a voice alerted me that my session had come to an end. I had no idea how long I had actually been in there, and pretty much slinked my way over to the shower to rinse all of the salt off. A bottle of Herbal Essences Wild Naturals ($5; walmart.com) helped my hair return to a softer state, and I remained very, very zen, occasionally questioning if I truly was on a new spiritual level. Living in New York, you always hear people talk about how nice it is to get away from the rush, which can be kind of cliché but also completely true. It felt fantastic to be able to unplug for an hour, and I fully intend to float on (not unlike a certain https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opDB5bY3YCg) again, sooner than later.