The Floatation Tank Adventure: A Tool for Mindfulness and Relaxation

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

floatation tank, health room

The floatation tank. Looking like something that belongs in space.

Last week I took a trip to London Floatworks to experience the wonders of the floatation tank.

Read on to hear about my short adventure, and discover whether floating may be the answer to your problems…

STRESSED OUT

Our predominantly left-brained world can get pretty stressful sometimes. Almost every day we’re trying to work things out; calculating this, planning for that.  On and on, over and over.

For a long time, meditation been presented as the answer to all our stressful woes, taking us to a mindful state and helping us make better decisions. However, two problems:

1. With stress very often comes spinal misalignment. This means many stressed out people struggle with the process of sitting still for twenty minutes a day.

2. Modern day life is more stressful than when the Buddha was around. So perhaps sitting meditation is not enough. Perhaps we need something more powerful to help us shut off and zone out. (J. Scott, 2014).

So what if there was a way we could reach an enhanced, peaceful, meditative state and completely rest the body at the same time?

There is supposedly, and it’s called floating.

WHAT IS FLOATING?

Floating involves lying down in a purpose built floatation tank, sometimes also called a sensory deprivation tank. The tank is filled with about ten inches of salty water – so dense that you float on top.

The water is maintained at the same temperature as your skin, so after a few minutes of lying still on your back you appear to be weightless, almost like you’re a head floating in space.

You can then choose to close the door of the tank and turn the lights off, leaving you alone in complete darkness.

WHY FLOAT?

Floating is designed to isolate your mind and completely disconnect you from any sensory input from the body. Because of this, it’s promoted as one of the best methods of relaxation and de-stressing.

The complete sensory deprivation also sometimes induces psychedelic experiences, due to the increased production of DMT in the brain. Trippy.

Some of the other benefits, nabbed from the Floatworks site:

  • Floating promotes total calm and peaceful relaxation, alleviating stress, depression and anxiety
  • Eliminates fatigue and jet lag, and improves sleep
  • Facilitates freedom from habits, phobias and addictions
  • Stimulates left/right brain synchronisation
  • Creates mental clarity, alertness and increases creativity and problem solving
  • Deepens meditation
  • Expands awareness, intensifies acuteness of all the senses, accelerates learning 
  • Decreases the production of cortisol, ACTH, lactic acid and adrenaline and increases production of endorphins
  • Speeds up rehabilitation and recovery, and improves athletic performance
  • Relieves pain (arthritis, migraines, injuries and so on)
  • Boosts immune function
  • Improves circulation and distribution of oxygen and nutrients
  • Reduces blood pressure, pulse, heart rate and oxygen consumption

FLOAT ON

I’d heard a lot in the past about the wonders of floatation tanks, mostly from Joe Rogan on his podcast. So last week I took a trip to Floatworks London to try it out.

After a quick shower, I stepped into the tank – a giant, futuristic looking pod with about ten inches of water in.

I was a little tentative at first, unsure whether the water would hold me completely, but was pleased to find that it did. As I laid back, I realised I’d forgotten the ear plugs the girl had recommended, so hopped back out of the tank to put them in.

As I did so, I somehow managed to get salt water in my eyes. Don’t ask me how. This hurt pretty bad. I don’t recommend it. Think seawater, times a thousand. Not a great start.

After a few minutes of mild swearing and spraying cold water from the emergency eye rinsing bottle, I managed to settle down again. I closed the door of the pod, turned off the lights, and laid back; submitting myself to the will of the tank.

My head rested near set of speakers playing quiet, relaxing music. The first thing I noticed was the tension in my neck. It seems that being weightless highlights any areas of the body where you’re tight.

The peaceful music died down after about ten minutes, and I was left lying in silence. I began to practice deep breathing, counting my breaths, but my mind was wandering a lot. Because there’s little sensory input, in the tank your thoughts are magnified. They can start to take over a bit, even more so than with regular meditation. Whenever it happened, I tried my best to bring my attention back to the breath, but I’ll admit I found it difficult.

After a while, I started to relax a little more. The tension in my neck was released, and my body seemed to melt away. I felt completely weightless. For a fleeting moment I had what seemed like a very mild psychedelic experience. It was more of a daydream really, but psychedelic experience sounds way cooler.

I was disconnected from my body, watching myself sitting outside the doors of some sort of Shaolin Temple. Apparently I’d been there for days, waiting for the monks to let me in so I could train with them…

Things were just about to get interesting, when I bumped into the side of the float tank, bringing me back to my senses. I went back to focussing on breathing, but my mind was still quite restless, and I kept hitting against the tank wall. Perhaps floating in a larger tank would be better.

I felt an itch on my face and scratched it without thinking, but paid for it a few seconds later. A load of salt water trickled down my brow and into both eyes. For a tank that’s supposed to induce sensory deprivation, I was getting my fair share of sensory stimulation via pain…

This time the salt was a bit more difficult to get out, probably made worse by the fact that I kept wiping my eyes with hands covered in salt water. Once this little ordeal was finished, I managed to lie back down and settle in again.

This time I managed to relax a little more, although I was still bashing against the sides now and again. After a bit more mindfulness meditation, the relaxing music resumed, signalling the end of the hour long session.

WRAP UP

Although I did feel a little more zen by the end and my body felt relaxed, I think I went into it focussing too much on the outcome. I was waiting for something crazy to happen, and struggled to completely let go. My mind kept drifting towards what I was going to write about later on the blog.

It was a valuable experience, and I’d recommend it to others to try, but through fault of my own I don’t think I got the most out of it.

It’s definitely something I’d consider doing again in the future. Maybe next time I’ll approach it differently, and be prepared for any salt water eye attacks…


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Luke Jones
Luke Jones is a mover, blogger and wellness enthusiast. He spends his time exploring and sharing ideas in mindful movement, healthy living and adventure.

2 Responses to “The Floatation Tank Adventure: A Tool for Mindfulness and Relaxation

  • Great post – I am a huge fan of floating, and Floatworks is a great place to reduce tension, align your body and feel lightyears younger! I also found the first couple of sessions difficult to switch off entirely and noticed the contrast between areas of my body that were tight vs. relaxed, but now I find it’s a meditative experience that leaves me really refreshed. Yes, you definitely need to give the salt water respect – once in the eyes is enough!

    • Thanks Laura!

      Yeah it’s definitely something I’m interested in trying again sometime in the future!

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