I have benefited in a variety of ways from “floating” and I’ve only experienced it a handful of times. Let’s start with what a sensory deprivation tank is and then – the benefits.
A sensory deprivation tank, isolation tank, floatation tank (they go by many names) is either a pod-like or more cylindrical styled tank that is filled with shallow water containing a high amount of Epsom Salt. The solution is similar to that of the Dead Sea and it is so dense that one floats effortlessly on top. The salt-water solution also heats to the temperature of your skin, which makes it difficult to distinguish between your body and the water around you.
Tanks/pods are then closed and “floating” in the tank is typically done in complete darkness. Once dark, one loses the sense of sight. Closed off in the sensory deprivation tank, you quickly enter into a lucid and relaxed state undisturbed by the outside world.
A floating session is quiet. The quiet and dark setting, coupled with the salt-water solution and temperature allows the brain to shut off all of its senses and just be. You are free to stretch out and get comfortable in any position you desire. Oh, and did I mention that you should float completely naked. Removing your clothes makes it easy for the water to match your temperature and for your sense of touch to remain undisturbed. I have found that resting with my arms behind my head or crossed on my chest works well.
The places I have seen tanks typically allow a floating session to last anywhere from 1 – 4 hours, but people will have personal sessions that last any length of time. Because you are deprived of your senses and shut off in the tank/pod, you have no idea how long you’ve been in there. If your mind begins to race and brings any bit of nerves into play, I suggest simply reaching out and touching the wall of the tank/pod. This snaps you back to reality and reminds yourself that you are just hanging out in a sensory deprivation tank.
Now – the benefits.
Once you have floated even just once, you can begin to use a session for mental contemplation. With your body completely relaxed and out of your hands, the mind is left to wander on whatever topic you choose. This is great for exploring any lingering thoughts you might have. The physical benefits are always there though.
Your body is in a state of complete relaxation. It is great for relieving stress and tension. I have even found myself to fall asleep during sessions. Sometimes it may be hard to tell if you are awake or asleep because of the conditions of the tank/pod, but it is perfectly fine to fall asleep. Waking up at the end of a session is wonderful. It is a sleep comparable to the best you have had in any bed and it is safe to nod off because the salt-water is so dense that you won’t sink, and it will irritate your eyes if you get it in them – you will notice this and it will sting. Most places provide a spray bottle of freshwater and face towel inside the tank/pod for this very reason.
I would compare a sensory deprivation session to some kind of cross between a sauna, dream, and massage all rolled into one. Floating is great for those dealing with anxiety. It relaxes the body and the mind. Floating increases your energy level and releases endorphins. Every time I exit a session, I can’t help but smile. It’s also great for anyone with a physically demanding profession or anyone who simply wants to improve his or her overall physical comfort.
I encourage you to seek out sensory deprivation locations near you and see if it fits into your lifestyle. Understand what you are doing and getting into before you float. That way, you get the most out of it and you float in a way that best suits you.