First Time Experience Sensory Deprivation

So there you are.  You’re stressed.  You have aches and pains.  You haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in longer than you can remember.  There are only so many massages you can get, melatonin you can swallow, and yoga you can do before you want to try something different.

You did your research online and floatation therapy seems to be exactly what you’re looking for.  It’s relaxation, it’s recovery, it leaves you feeling physically and mentally rejuvenated in a way that nothing else does.

But hearing that online and experiencing it for yourself are two different things.  One of the most common questions asked about floating is – what is it like?

What your first float tank may look like - MUCH bigger on the inside!

What your first float tank may look like – MUCH bigger on the inside!

And THAT is difficult to answer.  Floating means different things to different people.  To a pregnant woman early in her third trimester – it’s a relief from swollen, aching joints, a back ache that hasn’t left for months, and possibly even hearing her baby’s heartbeat underwater!  For the high school football player, it’s a treatment for sore muscles and bruises from full-contact two-a-days, and a quiet tranquil place to visualize the competition ahead.  For the stressed out business owner – it’s a place to gather one’s thoughts, a reprieve from constantly trying to do absolutely everything possible to make their dream succeed.

So, in an effort to provide you with some idea of what to expect, WiF is going to take you through a typical first time experience floating and give you the tips and helpful hints to make it the best it possibly can be.

First – when to float?  Are you a morning warrior, jumping out of bed to seize the day before anyone else or are you the night owl, burning the candle well past when the neighbors’ lights go out?  Your answer may inform you as to when you should try to float.  Floating in the morning, many report, gives you a jolt of energy for the day ahead.  Not a wired feeling, just like what you’d feel after getting a really great sleep.  People report that they are more able to focus and have more ‘left in the tank’ as the day goes on.  If you are more prone to night time to settle down, or just naturally wind down in the evenings, maybe an evening float would be best.  Many report that after an evening float that they feel completely tranquil, ready to sleep, and not at all like the floatation will make it difficult to do so.  It’s like a natural come down after a day of hard work.  Still others prefer the afternoon floats as a quick respite from the pressures and demands of the outside world.

Many people also ask what to bring with them to float.  Usually, if the floatation center you are going to is any good, they’ll have supplies on hand.  Things like ear plugs, towels, contact solution and case, shampoo and body wash will likely already be there.  In fact that may be a question to ask where you’re going to float so as to not be taken unaware.  (As for contacts – some people float with them in, others do not.  It’s all personal preference.)

Floatation therapy is usually a solo, nude activity so a bathing suit is not required.  That said, if you cannot get comfortable without clothes on, bring a bathing suit.  Nothing on the bathing suit is going to harm the float tank, and nothing in the tank is going to do lasting damage to a swim suit (provided any contact between the water in the floatation tank means the clothing needs to be washed – getting Epsom Salt stains out of a good pair of blue jeans is just the worst), so go float in your bathing suit.  Comfort is key!

Now before you go floating, there are a couple things you probably should avoid.  Don’t go down to the cafe and have an espresso (or any caffeine really) before you go float.  Nothing makes it harder for a brain to ease off the gas pedal than caffeine.  It’s going to make it harder to get the full mental benefit from floatation.  Probably skip shaving anything, too.  The Epsom Salt in the water will make whatever body area you shaved into a very distinct burning sensation.  (If it’s too late, just take some white petroleum jelly and smear it liberally over the newly-shaved areas and you shouldn’t have an issue).  And lastly, but possibly most importantly, get the right attitude.  Now we know, we know – you’re stressed out, you’re at your wits end, and now some joker is coming to you with this feel-good, “it’s all in the mind, bro”, faux-spirituality garbage and you don’t want to hear it.  Here’s the thing – you wouldn’t be trying floatation if you didn’t believe there might be something in it for you.  Instead of thinking of how ridiculous this all seems, try going in completely neutral.  I’m absolutely not saying you have to believe before you do it, that by convincing yourself or some placebo effect that floatation therapy will help – all that is recommended is that you pay attention and note how you felt before you walked in, how you felt when it was happening (hold off until the end to think back), and how you felt after it was all over.  We at WiF are willing to bet that if you take those things into consideration, you’ll note that you legitimately feel better after your floatation session is complete.

So now that you’ve arrived, meet the people that work there!  If you have questions – ask them!  If you are wondering about something, or if something comes up right then, they are the best resource you have.  The Floatation Community is filled with interesting, helpful, caring people.  People that started businesses because they wanted to help people reduce the unpleasantness of stress in their lives.  They are positive and they are there to help.

After answering your questions and taking you through the procedure they prefer you use at their floatation center, go ahead and strip down and take a quick shower.  Just a rinse down, no need to use shampoo or body wash just yet.  Some floatation businesses ask that you do, some ask that you don’t – it usually comes down to what’s in their shampoo and body wash.  If either have Parabens or some Sulfates, then their residue will adversely affect the water in the tank.  After rinsing off, go ahead and get some earplugs in and get in the tank.  Yes, it is advised you wear earplugs – when Epsom Salt dries, it leaves behind a fine, crystallized particulate.  That particulate does not belong in your ear canal.  Whichever ear plug is comfortable for you and water-resistant will suffice.

When you’re floating, there are a couple things you should do.  When you first get in and lay back, go ahead and get acclimated.  Stretch out your limbs and get a feel for the solution you are floating in.  Most likely, you are floating with a buoyancy even greater than you’d feel in the Dead Sea!  With external pressures like gravity removed from your body, you’ve probably become a little more flexible.  It’s totally normal to hear like cracks and cricks as your joints pop a little.  Another thing that is recommended is, at the beginning of your float, go ahead and spend 3-4 minutes floating with your hands interlocked behind your head, gently cradling your head and neck.  A common complaint of first time floaters is that a minor amount of discomfort was felt at the beginning and went away towards the end when their muscles relaxed.  By gently cradling your head and neck, then allowing your hands to float down to where they are most naturally comfortable, you’ll be doing a couple of things.  First, you’re allowing your neck time to adjust to giving up control of your neck – having your head drift lazily is not a normal thing for your neck to do.  Suddenly, all that tension in your neck is slowly releasing and falling away.  Secondly, you’re finding the position most comfortable for you to float in.

There are several different positions to float in.  Hands raised above you head, hands by your sides, a combination of the two, or something in between.  Point is, whichever position feels the most natural and the most relaxing – that’s the position you should use.

Mentally, the advice is similar to what you’d learn when you’re first starting out with meditation.  Yes, the floatation tank is a great place to organize your thoughts, but for your first time, focus on a small, almost erroneous thought.  Make it unimportant, forgettable even.  As other thoughts invariably come to you, don’t get upset or distracted.  Acknowledge that other thoughts are coming to you, but at this exact time, they are unimportant, and allow them to leave.  Slowly, allow your eyelids to grow heavy and relaxed.  Forget about sleep.  Forget about the water.  Forget about floating.  Just…drift.

And before you know it, the session is over.  Climb slowly out of the tank, and shower down quickly.  Get dressed and exit the room.

Feel the stress melt away!

Feel the stress melt away!

After you’ve floated, it’s important to do a few things.  First, make sure you are alert enough to drive.  Some people that are more prone to relaxation may find that it takes a few minutes – no worries!  Many floatation centers have a comfortable lobby or green room for post-float.  Epsom Salt also is useful for natural detoxification.  Because of this, you may feel a little dehydrated – drink plenty of water throughout the post-float time.

That night, go to sleep a little earlier than you normally would.  You’ll be able to see that you slip off to sleep much easier and deeper than you normally would.  And when you wake up, note how much more relaxed you feel.

That is a typical floatation therapy experience.

So – was your first experience like this?  What happened?  What would you have changed?  Let us know on our facebook page, twitter, or instagram (@thefloatspot)!

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