Let me start off by saying that even though this was my idea, this experiment scared the life out of me. Lying alone in silence for an hour is a hell dimension crafted specifically for me. When scheduling my appointment at Urban Float, I was asked if I was someone who lets go easily, to which my answer was “absolutely not.” Urban Float recently appeared on Shark Tank and received the investment from guest shark Matt Higgins (to the dismay of shark Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary). And while that is not the lone reason I went — the float spa comes with a great deal of amenities — Mr. Wonderful’s approval played a big role in my decision-making process.
What is it?
A sensory deprivation tank, or floatation tank, is a pod filled with approximately ten inches of purified water and 1,200 pounds of Epsom salt. The idea originated in 1954 by John C. Lilly who wanted to isolate the brain from external stimuli, so he built these soundproof tanks where all your senses cease to exist.
When your body floats, all the pressure is removed, resulting in complete pain relief. The spine then elongates, and your posture improves. Floating has also shown that individuals in the pod produce theta waves, the brain waves we associate with meditationand creativity. As someone who now writes for a living, I could definitely use a boost in creative juices. According to a study at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, flotation is a promising technique to reduce symptoms for those suffering with anxiety and depression.
For my germaphobes out there, the salt water is highly sterile and filtered four times between each float through a three-stage filtration process. The pod is also sanitized with a UV light and disinfectant.
While the concept of being “trapped” in a bean pod does not appeal to me, Steph Curry is known to float and for that reason alone I give it a shot because nothing grinds my gears more than a high-performer’s life routine. Keep in mind that I am not someone who enjoys anything that raises my blood pressure. I will never jump out of a plane for my birthday or climb Mount Everest. YOLO to me is defined as a game night with close friends. I chew on my banana toast (you are supposed to eat prior to floating so your mind does not wander to how hungry you are) and wonder if this will mimic the feeling of a long bath. My friends keep telling me that I am going to panic based off my hyperactive nature, but I am attempting to redefine my identity as someone who is “chill.”
I arrive 15 minutes early and am handed an iPad to both sign a waiver and watch an instructional video. A kind woman tells me that I have the option to choose between no music, music for the first and last five minutes, or music throughout. For first-time floaters, it is recommended to play music throughout to help you relax, so that is the route I take — after I ask her to play each track for me so I can ensure an optimal experience. This is the same tactic I use at ice cream shops — sample everything so I do not settle for a subpar experience when greatness is possible! I settle on my track (meditation music with piano), and I enter my private room for a quick shower.
You are urged to take a cooler than normal shower so that the pod does not feel cold. The water is heated to 93.5 degrees — your skins natural temperature. Petroleum jelly is also available to cover up any open cuts that would burn due to the salt. You then put your ear plugs in and hop in the chamber fully nude. Pro Tip: if you have small ear canals it is best to bring your own ear plugs. Mine kept falling out throughout the float!
You have the option to keep the chamber open or close it with the attached handle. There are two buttons inside — one to call for help if you are suffering from a medical emergency and another to turn the lights off. There is also a spray bottle of fresh water in case any salt gets in your eyes. I spend the first 10 minutes squirming to get into the perfect position. There is a pool noodle for those who want something to rest their neck on, but I choose to forego it and place my arms above my head.
About 20 minutes in I turn the lights off. As the world goes dark, you come to terms with the fact that you are a tiny blip in this infinite universe — that nothing you have been stressing about matters in the grand scheme of things. For the next half hour, my mind peacefully wandered from one idea to the next: Is this what it feels like to be dead? Is this what the womb feels like? Is this meditation? Should I start meditating every day? How much money do I need to make to afford one of these in my home? What is this blissful euphoria I am experiencing?
When the lights turned on to signal the end of the float, my heart breaks. In an ideal world, I would remain in this state of tranquility forever. I hop back into the shower to rinse all the saltwater off my hair and body. There is also a tube of vinegar to splash in each ear to remove any remaining salt. Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) is great for your skin, hair, nails and acts as an exfoliator. If nothing in this article convinced you to try floating out, here is a vain and superficial reason!
Believing that the salt had my back (do not pardon the pun) and that I was not going to sink was a good practice in letting go. Not being able to check my phone for an hour or interact with anyone all while being forced to pay attention to my body and its needs was good for me. I am still surprised by how mystifying and enjoyable the experience was.
As I drive back into the real world, I feel an overwhelming surge of gratitude for life. The colors are more vibrant, and music sounds sweeter. Slightly dehydrated due to the salt, I chug my water, thankful to be alive and finally at ease.