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Beginner’s Guide to Your First Float Tank Experience

My First Float Tank Session

Yesterday, I had my first float tank session!  I first heard about float tanks/sensory deprivation a couple years ago while listening to the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast.  Ever since that time, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at a floatation session.

I guess I talked about float tanks enough that, this past Valentines Day, my awesome wife bought me a gift certificate to Better Being Float Center, just outside of Indianapolis, IN.  The rest is history…

What is a Float Tank?

float tank img

A float tank is also known as the following:

  • Floatation Therapy
  • Isolation Tank
  • Isolation Chamber
  • Sensory Deprivation Tank
  • Floatation Chamber

A floatation tank provides a light and sound-free environment and contains a solution consisting of water and approximately 800 to 1000 lbs of dissolved Epsom salt.  The overall depth of the solution is approximately 10-12 inches.  The water temperature is maintained at external body temperature (around 95˚). Inside the float tank, the participant floats effortlessly without gravitational requirements and full sensory deprivation.

What are the Benefits of Floatation?

According to Crash from Float Labs (One of the pioneers in floatation therapy) the benefits can include:

  • Reduced stress
  • Detoxification
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Normalized blood pressure
  • Enhanced ability to focus and concentrate
  • Improved creativity
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Pain relief
  • Reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD
  • Decreased feelings of vertigo
  • Accelerated recovery from jet lag

“Why Would You Do This??”

There are typically two responses I received when people found out what I did…  Either, “Why in the world would you want to do that?” OR… “That’s awesome, how did you like it!?”  I guess either of these are normal reactions when telling people that I went into a completely dark, sound proof tank, filled with an Epsom salt water solution and floated in isolation for 90 minutes with just me and my mind/thoughts…

What To Expect From Floatation?

Going into my first float session, I really didn’t want to have a firm plan.  I had a general goal for the floatation session, but I wanted to go into my float session not fully knowing what I was going to get into, but let myself figure it out as the session progressed and just enjoy the experience.

I knew that I didn’t want to allow myself to fall asleep, because I wanted to experience relaxation, focus, concentration, and creativity.  My main goal was to go inside the float tank, clear my mind, and dissect certain portions of my life.  I wanted to allow the float session to take me on a journey and see where it took me…

I recently started a new position within my company as Director of Sales and it has been a whirlwind of a past few months.  This was perfect timing to be able to relax and clear my mind of the clutter.

How Your First Float Session Works…

I arrived to Better Being Float Center and was greeted by a very calm, friendly, long haired, gentleman that had an extremely relaxed demeanor about himself.  My first thought was… “Yep, that’s who I expected to be managing a float center!”

I was also greeted by a table full of Onnit Supplements (some of the best plant-based supplements in the industry).  Solidifying my justification that Joe Rogan (Co-Owner of Onnit) has really put his stamp on this industry!

The manager was finishing up with a couple who just finished their session and pointed me to the liability waiver and restroom (just to get that out of the way).

Once I returned from the restroom with an empty bladder, the manager greeted me at my private room.  The room was very welcoming and clean.  This where I first came face to face with my companion for the next 90 minutes…  The float tank!

The manager gave me a run through of the whole process which was as follows:

  1. Shower with luke warm (so the float tank water doesn’t feel cold) water before getting into the float tank
  2. The jet inside the float tank will turn off in 5 minutes, then your 90 minute session will begin
  3. Insert ear plugs to keep out sound and salt water from your ear canal
  4. Turn off the main light switch
  5. The dim sub-lights are on a motion sensor and will automatically turn off in 5 minutes once inside the float tank
  6. Get into the float tank and close the overhead door
  7. Situate yourself inside the float tank and shut off the internal light
  8. Get into a good float position (he recommended hands behind your neck)
  9. Relax and focus on your breathing (he said you can and he recommends, depending on your goals of the float session to fall asleep)
  10. 90 minutes later the jets will turn back on to gently alert you that your session is complete
  11. Shower and clean off the excess salt water solution

Showering

shower inside float tank room img

The manager made it very clear that cleanliness was important to everyone.  Before starting your floatation session, you have to completely shower to clean your body of any deodorant, lotion, hair products, etc…

There were showers in the room, right next to the float tank.

He made it clear that you need to shower before your session and immediately after your session.  Keeping in mind that you are floating in an extremely dense epsom salt water solution.

Inside the Float Tank

After I showered, I got inside the float tank, shut the door and went to close the door, but then a thought went through my mind… “Shit!  I forgot the ear plugs!”

So, I sat back up, turned on the light.  Sprayed my hands off with the clean water in the spray bottle which was inside the tank and also dried my hands with the towel provided inside the tank.  I put in the wax ear plugs, then situated myself back inside the float tank and shut the light back off inside the float tank.

One note about being inside the float tank:

I’m not a claustrophobic person, so I may not be the best to provide this information, but I felt that there was a ton of room inside the float tank.  It’s not a small and tight space…  I am about 5’11” and I could sit up inside with the overhead door closed and still have plenty of head space.  You also control the door and the light.  You can always open the door if you feel any type of anxiety.  There’s even music you can play in the float tank if you’d prefer.

I wanted to experience the sensory deprivation aspect, so I kept the light off and no music…

Sensory Deprivation

Once I got situated into the tank and experimented with hand placements for optimal floatation (I preferred hands behind my neck or up above my head) it was time to relax.

I could still see light coming through the crack in the overhead door from the dim motion detection lights outside the float tank, but then it happened…

Motion lights went out and pitch black darkness arrived!

The first thoughts that went through my mind were “Shit, this is darker than I expected!” and “What the hell am I going to do in here for 90 minutes!?”

At first this was somewhat startling to me.  I could tell by my breathing that I had a bit of anxiety going on.  My breathing was a bit choppy as I laid there in pure darkness.  I tried to really focus on taking deep breaths in and out until my breathing began to smooth out and the anxiety disappeared.

I’d estimate that it took me about 15-20 minutes to fully relax, have my breathing get evened out, get into a couple comfortable positions, and be able to get into a zone.

It was crazy to me how the smallest bump against the side of the float tank would slowly send me back to the other side of the tank.

I’d say that it’s impossible for someone not to float.  The salt water solution makes your body do buoyant that you immediately float!

Just Me and My Mind

For the first 20 minutes it was hard for me to really concentrate on any one thing.  I had so many thoughts running through my mind early on.  My mind felt cluttered…  It wasn’t until I was able to fully let go that I could actually concentrate on one thing at a time.

Once I was able to fully relax and get into a good zone, I began running through things in my mind.  From family, to friends, to finances, to my personal self, to my career.  I went through one by one and really tried to dig deep and understand things to their root.  Some of these items were easy to concentrate on and some items I had a hard time with concentration.  I took those as a sign that I probably need more than one session to be able to dissect certain items.

There were periods during my float session where I truly felt zoned out and like I was actually floating weightless through a dark space.  Somewhat like I’d assume the feeling is while floating without gravity.

There were also periods where I couldn’t tell whether I had my eyes opened or closed.  I had began focusing on my breathing enough that it almost felt like a meditative state…  Disclaimer: I’ve never meditated before, but the feeling was what I’d assume it feels like.  Maybe I was in a meditative state?  Who knows…

It was probably 60 minutes in where I was able to fully let go.  I’d assume that during future float sessions I’ll be able to let go sooner, but it was an interesting sensation once I was fully zoned out.  Once I made it though my initial thoughts and everything I wanted to think through, there were periods where my mind felt blank.  That is a feeling that I never get in daily life…

The Gentle Nudge

As I was in a deep mental state, I felt two “clicks”.  I assumed that was the jets kicking on…  But I didn’t feel any jets…  I opened my eyes and there was a strange glow…  My first thought was, “what is happening!?”  “Am I hallucinating!?”  Then I came to my senses a bit more and felt the jets and realized that in addition to the jets, a very dim light also came on inside the float tank.

I sat up and turned on the main light inside the float tank, opened the overhead door, and sprayed off my hands, dried them, stepped out, all while still a bit in a dazed state.

Once I stood up, took out the ear plugs, and turned on the shower water, I came back in a normal state…

My Final Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed my first float tank experience.  Once I was able to fully relax and get closer to a meditative state of mind, I feel like it was beneficial.  Yes, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t experience any type of hallucinations as some people have reported, but the deep meditative state I was able to get into was well worth it.

I will be back to the float tank now that I have one under my belt.  I feel like it will take a few sessions in order to be able to pilot the ride better and not just be a passenger.  I’ll probably follow up this session in a month with another.

Some people may feel like sensory deprivation is a gimmick.  To those people, I’d say…  Try it for yourself and find out.  Everyone is different, it all depends on your goals for the floatation, but it can be powerful if you let your mind and body go.  Once you think you’ve let go, you haven’t…  I was able to get extremely deep towards the end of my session.

I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Float img

First Float Tank Experience

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