Today I tried a flotation tank. I was led to a room with a large oval pod that reminded me of something out of a science fiction novel. An escape capsule from a spaceship under attack. As the lid lifted I smelt the murky salted water I saw inside.
Around the room there was a shower, towels, ear plugs and a hairdryer. It was not cold or hot. Clean and well equipped with anything I needed to prepare and to get ready for the world afterwards.
A friend had treated me to this experience and I was nervous. Mostly worried I would feel claustrophobic as the lid closed above me. She went first, sensing my nerves. I had an amazing back and neck massage, while I waited for her verdict.
She had survived and said it was nice. A bit weird, she admitted she got a bit bored. She reassured me, she still thought I would really like it. She reminded me how I love a bath. She smiled encouragingly, as I was led to the floatation room.
Inside, I changed into my bathing costume and showered to wash off the oils from the massage. I pushed the button and the lid automatically lifted in front of me. I stepped into the tank, neck cushion in my hand. The noises were muffled by the complementary ear plugs I had stuffed into my ears.
Sitting down I slid my feet forward and laid back. As the water was highly salted my body floated with ease. I took a deep breath and pressed the close button. No turning back now, off to space.
It was a little claustrophobic at first. I left the little red light, that was glowing at my feet, on and reminded myself I could get out anytime. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine I was in the pool on holiday in Antigua. A happy place for me, hot and sunny.
The music started and my hour began…I tried to push thoughts away and meditate. Focusing on my breathing, I pictured the blue of the sky, listened for the sounds of waves and felt the warmth of the sunshine. I think the smell of salty water helped my imagination.
I thought about a lot of the things, at first, things I am worried about at the moment. I actively had to accept the thought and push it away. Eventually my mind went quiet and, as I focused on my breath, I relaxed.
My limbs felt weighted and I needed to move them occasionally to check they still worked. I thought of each limb slowly relaxing, the water taking my weight with ease. I could have been anywhere; my mind imagined drifting over the middle of a lake, lost in the waves of the ocean, or dreaming in that infinity pool at the top of a Sri Lankan hotel, I once stayed in.
It was relaxing and I enjoyed it. There was a significant reduction of bombardment on my senses, it helped my body to disassociate from the world. This is called Restricted Environmental Simulation Therapy. Some people describe feeling as if in a trance. Emptying your mind is meant to improve focus and mood. Some even experience hallucinations and out-of-body experiences.
Although new to me, floatation tanks date back to the 1950’s. They have been linked to helping with several medical issues; from stress, PTSD, anxiety, to Fibromyalgia, which I suffer with. There is no current science to back up these claims, and lots of people’s accounts come down on both sides. Like most things, it is probably down to the individuals experience and response.
I do feel better from it, I feel relaxed and calmer than I did before. I would recommend it for a relaxation experience. We bought our vouchers from the lovely website Groupon and paid the discounted price of £28. Prices seem to vary, similar to booking a massage.
I do think my mind got to a place of meditation, or even trance nearer the end of the session. Maybe if I did it again my mind would learn to focus quicker. I did feel my mind was much clearer than it was during my massage, a time I used to contemplate the world and put it all to rights in my mind.
My body also feels, on the most part, in less pain than before. I say mostly but that is not down to the floatation. This is because I did the ridiculous thing of slipping as I stepped into the shower, after my tank experience. I ended up on the floor with the shower step hitting the back of my legs as I fell. I think the oils from my massage came back to bite me, literally on my arse. Left a little bruised, a little embarrassed but glad no one was there to witness it.
Here is my relaxed, calm but bruised life in this mental (and sometimes slippery) world.