Experience a Sensory Deprivation Float

Reader Contribution by Tonya Olson
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Adobe Stock/vlorzor
A sensory deprivation tank can provide therapeutic benefits.

Life is so busy, I often feel overstimulated. This past weekend was no exception, and I felt pulled in many different directions, with loads of stimulation. I worked at Ogden Publications’ annual Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania. We brought in thousands of people ready to hear speakers, and see our vendors and hands-on classes.

I arrived home sore, super tired, overstimulated, and in need of some TLC, — I was zapped. I thought about what I could do to make a comeback. I have been in a sensory deprivation tank once before but I wasn’t sold, ergo the owner gave me a free visit. If I had time, I would have walked off the plane and into a tank but, alas, family comes first. I knew if there was ever a time I’d see results it’d be now, so I set an appointment for the next day.

Yes, You Really Float!

The tank is filled with 800-plus pounds of magnesium sulfate, which is just a fancy way to say it is filled with a lot of pharmaceutical-grade Epson salt. All the salt makes the water denser than your body, allowing you to float and reap the benefits of an Epson salt soak. If you listen close enough, you can hear the salt crystals crackling when you move.

I was super self-conscience the first visit and somewhat uncomfortable in a new place, not to mention buck naked to boot! I chose a pod and my first question was, “How do I breathe in there?” I was told there is a vent at the back of the unit to let air in and if I needed I could leave the lid open for my comfort. I’m not a super claustrophobic person; however, I indeed did feel a little air on my face.

I removed jewelry, covered a small scratch with petroleum jelly (for a natural alternative, you could use a beeswax jelly), and inserted molded earplugs before showering excluding conditioner. I prefer to wear ear plugs instead of drying out my ears super well after. They are great for sound reduction; on the other hand, you will need to listen up when the voice calmly instructs you to lie down and clear your mind. I grabbed the head floater as a crutch and draped the dry washcloth as instructed over the inside arm of the tank just in case I had to itch my face.

Inside a Sensory-Deprivation Tank

I hear saltwater stings if it gets in your eye or an open wound, and you will want to avoid shaving 12 to 24 hours before. For five minutes, I felt a tingling sensation on a small blemish I didn’t know was there. The head floater is not necessary, but nice to have for the first float. Some spas keep a spray bottle with water close for you to rinse saltwater out of your eye.

The pod has soft meditation music with controls and soft blue light on at the beginning and end of the float. I focused mostly on my breathing during my float; I believe I reached a meditative state. The temperature of the water is around 93.5 degrees Fahrenheit, about the same as our skin. It’s easy to stop feeling your body, which makes it much easier to reach your relaxed state. The best way to describe this feeling is that, if I didn’t know any better, I’d almost think it was just my brain floating in the water. I’m guessing this is the feeling of an altered state some people report.

I was ready to get out after my thoughts started to bounce around at the end of the float. I didn’t focus on my breathing the second time around. There was no rhyme or reason to my thoughts; I wanted to stay longer. Most pods offer a 60 minutes or a 90-minute option. Next time I’ll try the 90 minutes.

I walked into the tank with the thought that I might fall asleep; I do not fall asleep just anywhere. If you are the type to fall asleep in the theater, dentist, or car at a drop of a hat — there’s a chance you might fall asleep while floating. I know some will question, what if. Floating takes away all pressure points off the body so you will have no reflex to flip over. However, most locations will have you sign a waiver covering several things, including recently dyed hair. Even as worn out as I was, I still did not fall asleep. Perhaps that’s just the magic of the float.

Keep in mind, very salty water can cause a lot of damage to everything it repeatedly comes in contact with. Go directly to the shower after stepping out of the tank. Take a thorough shower to wash off all salt. All the salt in my hair made it feel like I had used a whole bottle of hairspray. However, my hair was so soft after washing it.

The pod will start its recirculation routine after you exit, making it pass through the tank’s filtration and the UV disinfection system. After dressing, find a place to relax and acclimate yourself to the world around you. This is a good time to rehydrate, because the salty water will make you thirsty. You may notice an inner calm, which some call the afterglow. Enjoy!

Benefits of Saltwater Immersion Therapy

  • Reduced pain relief
  • Aids chronic fatigue
  • Helps PTSD
  • Increases dopamine and endorphin levels
  • Aids anxiety and depression
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Helps fibromyalgia
  • Aids hypertension
  • Helps arthritis
  • Helps athletes relax sore muscles to aid recovery
  • Improved learning
  • Enhanced creativity

Floating is not recommended for people with kidney disease, low blood pressure, epilepsy, any contagious diseases, open wounds, skin ulcers, or severe skin conditions. Unplug from technology, silence your phone and avoid drinking caffeine before for maximum benefit. If your hair is dyed, the water should run clear during washing before floating.

Tonya Olson is a digital content manager for Ogden Publications’ magazine titles. She was born and raised in Northeast Kansas swimming in corn, jumping hay bales, and driving go-carts as a child. College took her to Arizona, life moved her to North Idaho, and her heart brought her back home. She’s an artist by nature, her usual outlet is her eye behind the lens of a camera. You can find her on Instagram. Outside the office, Tonya enjoys kayaking local waters, digging in the dirt and wrangling kiddos. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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