If you’re wondering what on earth is depicted in the photo above, you have the exact same question in mind that we did about a month ago. Well, today we’re here to explain what exactly happens in this sensory deprivation tank, and what our editors thought when they did their first ever hour-long float sessions at Pause Float Studio in LA.
So, you must be wondering, “What is a sensory deprivation tank?” This “flotation pod” as they call it at Pause Float, is essentially a personal pod that contains clean, body-temperature water blended with 1,000 lbs. of therapeutic Epsom salts. When you submerge your body into the water in this soundproof tank, the large amount of salt in the water allows you become buoyant. And, since the water is body temperature, it becomes almost impossible to be aware of the water around you when lying still. Because these flotation suites are soundproof, dark, and full of body-temperature water, they allow you to lie back in the water and unplug, creating the perfect environment for complete relaxation and meditation.
Sensory deprivation tanks have been around since the 1950s. They were invented as an experiment to see if a tank full of body-temperature water would allow the brain to pause from responding to external stimuli (aka everything happening around us), and therefore create a sense of relaxation. The first ever users of these tanks reported feeling not only relaxed, but had even deeper experiences including “personal discovery” and “self-actualization” (to read more science behind recent studies, click here!). Today, three of our editors are going to do their own bit of reporting. After reading our thoughts, be sure to tell us if you’ll give it a try in the comments below!
Ilana, Managing Editor:
Prior to visiting Pause, my knowledge of sensory deprivation tanks was limited to Stranger Things and a few things a friend who had done one had told me. So, I tried to go into it with a pretty open mind. When we got there, the receptionist gave us a rundown of what to expect, said that because of the deep state of sleep you’re able to get into while floating, an hour sleeping in the tank is equivalent to four hours of sleep elsewhere. As a sleep deprived mother of an infant and a toddler, I was convinced I would fall asleep pretty quickly.
When I stepped into the tank, I really liked the feeling of floating. You are so buoyant that you can just enjoy the water and the feeling of weightlessness while you relax. It did feel soothing, but I couldn’t really turn my mind off or come close to falling asleep like I had hoped. The water is lukewarm, but as someone who loves a nice, hot bath, I found myself wishing it was warmer (although that would go against the whole “sensory deprivation” aspect). I think that if I already had a strong meditation practice going into it, I would have gotten a lot more from the experience. It also might have been harder to fully relax just because it was such a new and different thing for me. I think that if I went again and the whole experience wasn’t so novel, I would enjoy it even more.
Rachel, Managing Editor:
I’ll be honest, I had no idea what to expect when I was headed to Pause Float Studio for my first session. The day I went in was a super busy workday, with tons of calls and a super long to-do list, so I was a little more stressed than usual when I arrived. However, within 2 minutes of being there I already felt more relaxed. I was walked through the process, and taken to my room (which was beautiful). I immediately saw the huge floating pod, which looks like something out of the future, and was instructed to shower quickly, put in earplugs, and get in the water. The lovely lady at Pause told me that to have the fullest experience, she recommended turning off all of the lights and also turning off the optional music once you get in the pod, so that’s what I did. At first, it’s a pretty weird feeling to be completely in the dark, floating in water, in complete silence. But once I settled in, I got used to it, and did my best to relax.
I was floating for an hour, and I think I dozed in and out of sleep a few times, but I couldn’t really tell how long I’d slept… I also couldn’t tell how long I had been floating. The thing I noticed most while I was floating was how much tension I hold in my neck and shoulders. I was able to completely let the rest of my body relax and float, but no matter how hard I tried to relax my neck and shoulder muscles, I could feel how tense that area was. I guess when your body is completely supported by the water, you can really feel the areas where you hold your tension. It was definitely helpful to realize how much tension (and likely anxiety and stress) I hold in my shoulders and neck so that I can pay more attention to relaxing those muscles during the day. The other thing I noticed was how hard it is to quiet my mind. I was trying really hard to turn off my mental to-do list, but I can’t lie, it was extremely difficult. This experience made me realize that I have a long way to go when it comes to really quieting down my thoughts and actually relaxing. It’s something I’m going to work on and hopefully by the time I go to my next float, I can have a clearer head and a more relaxing float.
Allison, Managing Editor:
I have to admit that I have a little hippie side to me that believes in the power of Himalayan salt lamps, crystals, Chinese herbs, and Feng Shui. Let’s just say, that stuff speaks to me. So, when I was on my way to my session at Pause Float, I was excited and super open-minded about discovering yet another wellness practice to add to my arsenal.
After hearing the basics from the receptionist and rinsing off, I was ready to step into my pod and in deep need for some relaxation. It was a little tough to get into a mental state of calmness in the middle of a work day—the minute I laid down in the water in my pod, my brain started going through my mental to-do list of outstanding tasks I needed to complete that day. But eventually my brain (and body) relaxed. I must have needed it because the minute I felt my brain shut off, I entered a deep state of relaxation.
I’ll admit that I did fall asleep during my session, and was gently awoken by the lights slowly coming back to dim and a gentle voice telling me it was time to rinse off again. After toweling off, my skin and hair felt so soft and clean, and my body felt elongated—as though each vertebrae had expanded—and my joints felt at ease. It was pretty amazing. Each person discovers something different during their float, and mine happened to be 50 minutes of snooze time I must have needed. The next time I float, I’m hoping to try to meditate and really be aware of the relaxation I’m experiencing.
Now that you know a bit about our experiences, we want to know…
Will you try a sensory deprivation tank?
XO Team LC