Lately, my Instagram feed has been full of semi-naked babes and blokes with a blissed out expression in their eyes. At first I thought they’d been up to no good, and I felt some serious fomo. Then I found out all this nakedness and glazy-eyed-ness was the result of an hour in a sensory deprivation tank, and I was no longer convinced I wanted to join in the fun.
Sensory Deprivation. Floating Naked. Enclosed Pod. My inner, prudish claustrophobe was on high alert.
Nonetheless, I am a sucker for new experiences – anything for a good story – so I offered up my frazzled brain and weary writer’s body to the buoyant folk at Gravity Floatation in Northcote, to discover what this floatation therapy bizo is all about.
The purported benefits of floating are many, from the deep relaxation that comes from sensory deprivation and the soothing mineral solution, to the release of musculoskeletal tension, and even enhanced creativity.
Floatation therapy is said to have the ability to reduce stress and anxiety, improve blood circulation, digestion and skin health, increase serotonin levels, accelerate muscle repair and reduce pain and inflammation, increase cognitive health and mental clarity, improve sleep, and much, much more.
The stimuli-free environment within the pod is designed to allow you to enter a meditative state of theta-brainwave activity, with one hour of floating said to be as restorative as four hours of quality sleep.
After stripping off, showering, and popping in some earplugs, you’ll lie in a surprisingly roomy pod, containing a highly concentrated Epsom Salt solution. With the water heated to your skin temperature, this magic mix enables you to float effortlessly. The pod is light and sound proof, and the lid when closed is still zonks away from your face so it is very, very unlikely you’ll freak out.
To your left is an emergency button (reassuring on your first float), to your right is a button to control the coloured lights in the pod. You might want to leave these on for a few minutes until you settle into the sensation of floating, but ideally it’s a lights out, door closed situation.
Also in the pod are a TV and mini bar – just jokes. But there are a handy, blow up neck pillow and water bottle, which you may or may not become well-acquainted with.
That’s it. All that’s left to do now is stop flicking between those mental tabs and zone out for an hour. Easy, right?
I’m the first to admit that I am not very good at relaxing. Meditation usually involves a lengthy internal battle where I try to wrangle my brain into shutting the hell up. Please. Just for one minute. 30 seconds even. OK, 10 will do…
So I definitely didn’t enter another plane, unlike one completely spaced-out floater I encountered in the change room who claimed to have seen Aurora Borealis. BUT, nevertheless, I loved it.
I had three, hour-long floatation sessions, about a week apart. The first was a bit of a learning curve, where I splashed around way too much and ended up with salt water in my eyes. That’s where that emergency water bottle comes in handy! I also, incidentally, left my contact lenses in – a mistake I did not make twice.
After a few minutes settling in, I was comfortable enough to close the pod and turn off the coloured lights. Relaxing music soothed me into the float (it switches off after a bit), and the kind of non-sensation sensation of the water was heavenly. Occasionally my toe or head would drift to the wall and I’d gently launch myself back into the centre. You feel kind of like you might be floating in circles, but you’re not. A teeny bit of drift is all you’ll experience.
I was told not to use the neck pillow if I didn’t need to, but I found my neck quite stiff and sore (hello desk-job) so used it quite a bit in my three sessions, though less each time.
While my brain definitely didn’t switch off the first time, I still felt relaxed afterwards. For session two, I was nursing a hang over and it was like a miracle cure.
My third session was the best by far. I felt like a bit of a pro by this point – I remembered to snack before, remove my contacts, and even packed a comb for the inevitable post-float hair tangle. While I don’t know what my theta brainwaves were doing, I know that I managed to nod off for a bit. I thought it was just the odd second here or there but it must have been longer as the hour passed way too quickly.
I left feeling relaxed yet energised; calm yet focused. As for my zzzs that night, my sleep app tells me I scored an impressive 98%.
I’ll definitely keep floating. At least until I get to see Aurora Borealis.
I tried floating at Gravity Floatation Centre, which has two locations in Melbourne: Northcote & Armadale