Recently I decided to do something that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time now, and that’s go and strip naked, stick some earplugs in my ears (obviously), and then go and lie in warm salty water in complete darkness for an hour… no really.
So I had read a lot about floatation tanks, float-tanks, sensory deprivation tanks, or whatever you want to call them. I had also watched a lot of YouTube videos on the subject. Stories had ranged from awesome total relaxation, to all out psychedelic experiences, although I’m curious about someone’s state of mind on the latter.
For those of you that have no idea of what I’m talking about, a float-tank is a special “container”, that’s large enough to hold enough water for a human to float about inside without touching the sides, but also not too deep that the person will freak out, although as the water is so salty, the likelihood of you sinking are very remote, if not impossible (I’ve done no research).
As well as that, the tank is also sealed off from light and most sound, the provided earplugs help take away the rest of the ambient sound and the lights being turned off in the (windowless) room that the tank is in, help remove the rest of the light. So effectively you are immersed into complete silence and darkness, with no pressure sensation on any part of your body (unless you happen to bump against the side of the tank). It’s just you and the universe, and that’s literally what it feels like.
So the logic around it being a psychedelic experience is that due to sensory deprivation, your mind just starts making shit up, pretty much in the same way that it does when you dream at night. My reservations in this are that I think for the average, sane, person, it is unlikely that you are going to trip balls as your mind is more grounded than that. Maybe if your body were to be physically / mentally stressed, then perhaps it’s more likely, that’s just my opinion so don’t take my word for it (again I’ve done no research).
As for it being the ultimate relaxation experience, hell yeah, i’ll go along with that, as it certainly was for me.
So basically I decided to go for a float session 2 days before I went, on the spur-of-the-moment. I was just lying in bed trying to think of something to do for the weekend that didn’t involve either letching at barmaids, drinking copious amounts of wine and eating a kebab, or a combination of all of the above. I suddenly remembered float-tanks and thought “fuck it, let’s do this shit”. So I Googled “float tank Brighton” and the site that I found was thus,
The Float Spa Brighton
It’s actually in Hove, but that only equates to a 15 minute walk (for me anyway) from Churchill Square, so it’s all good. I noticed they had a special offer of £20 off your first float session, bringing it down to £45 for the hour. Now some people might think that a little expensive, but personally I think it’s a great price, even at the full £65 I would have gone, and plan on going on a regular basis (but more on that later). Sometimes you gotta spend money on chilling out, not involving intoxication of any kind… apparently.
I booked on the spot, whilst lying in bed, using my NVidia Shield Tablet, and being frustrated at just how shit the web browser is on it, and that goes for Chrome and Firefox. After several minutes of swearing I was booked in, so then proceeded to spend the next hour watching float videos on YouTube. Here’s one,
On The Day
My appointment wasn’t until 2:30pm so I had a lot of time to kill, and for someone that’s previously been known to be sitting in their 3rd or 4th pub for the day at that time, it was a hell of a long time. That and my body is now pre-programmed to wake up at 6:00am every day whether I want to or not.
With that said, I decided to make a day of it, as I looked like a tramp and badly needed a haircut and beard trim, my first port of call at 9:30 am was the local barbers. I got talking to the barber (as you do), and mentioned float tanks, thinking I was going to get the usual blank faced expression in response, but I actually got the complete opposite. The barber knew them well and used to have regular sessions. He highly recommended it as a form of relaxation, and there was no mention of any psychedelic experiences, so that reiterates my point earlier. After that was all done, I went home, had a shave and then went off to get the train to Brighton.
I spent time walking around aimlessly, browsing the Guitar Amp Keyboard shop, not for guitars or amps, but for headphones, and they had none of what I wanted in stock. As I edged toward Brighton I had some grub in a pub, and a pint of course, but only 1. I wanted to be sober for my float session so that I didn’t fall asleep, that’s not what I was after doing for an hour. When I got to Churchill Square I still had an hour to spare, so I walked around the shops, had a coffee and read some of a book on the Kindle app on my phone. Yeah I know this is sounding very boring at the moment, and to be honest, it was, I wanted to be relaxed when I got there and not in a blind rush.
My last port of call was the pub nearest the spa, can’t remember the name even after a quick Google, anyway that’s not important. I had half a cider and also took a 5-HTP tablet. The logic in my thinking there was that as they can give you crazy dreams, that I might stand a chance of hallucinating, as long as I didn’t fall asleep. Yeah I know I said I didn’t think I would experience anything like that but I wanted to, damn right I did. Of course it could have the opposite effect, and I could fall asleep, but the coffee I had had about half hour previous was saying otherwise.
Next stop, The Float Spa.
First thing to point out, that I wasn’t aware of was that the hotel next door (upstairs) were having building work done, I was worried that it was going to ruin the experience but luckily it didn’t. So I entered the spa, and very nice and relaxing it was too.
I was asked to fill out a questionnaire, presumably just for their own marketing purposes, it wasn’t very long and I still had 15 minutes to wait anyway so it wasn’t a problem with me. There were people currently using the tanks and another woman waiting to use one of the tanks at the same time as myself (not the same tank though of course). The tanks have some pretty hi-tech filtration systems in them that kick into action at the end of every float session, so you can be assured that everything is clean. Also the tanks and spa in general is spotlessly maintained by the staff, very clean and welcoming.
I was offered a glass of juice of some kind, which I declined as I had already drunk a lot and emptied my bladder in preparation, then given a short induction as to how to get in and out of the tank as well as what I should expect to experience, told about the ear plugs and Vaseline… lol… The Vaseline is meant to be put onto any cuts or dry skin that you might have, the reason for this is the high levels of Epsom Salts in the water will make them sting to buggeration, unless you put a thin layer of that on over the top. I was asked to don flip-flops prior to walking about, in order to keep the place clean, that was a little awkward for me as I never wear them, and I kept falling over my own feet as they slipped off. But that was a small price to pay and I think it adds to the chill-out ambiance.
Shortly after, my session began.
First things first, you close the door, lock it, have a shower. It makes sense for people to be clean prior to getting into the tanks, it makes for a much pleasant experience for everyone and I’m sure there’s only so much the filtration systems can do. I put some Vaseline on a cut on my leg caused by whacking the side of my bed the night before, put in the ear plugs and got into the tank. The ear plugs by the way, were pretty cool, like lumps of plasticine you squish into your ears, they cut out a lot of sound.
It’s pretty warm in the tank, and once you close the lid, it feels a little like a sauna, but it wasn’t so hot I was sweating like a pig, just hot enough to glow. I laid back in the water and started to float, now at this point I still had the tank light on, which you control via a switch on one side of the inside of the tank, on the other side is a panic button (which the member of staff assured me no one had ever used). I wanted to get used to the floating sensation as I can’t actually swim, so it was a new feeling for me. After a few minutes I turned off the light.
This is where things started to feel very weird. I was trying to stay in the centre of the tank so that I didn’t bump against the sides. What was quite difficult about that is that as you can’t see shit, your body hasn’t got a clue what way is up, and you actually feel like you’re moving about quite erratically, even though you’re just bobbing up and down gently (unless you’re freaking out of course).
The first 30 minutes or so I spent trying to relax into it, it wasn’t easy to begin with I must admit, but once I came to terms that I wasn’t going to die even if I did feel like I was doing 360s in all directions, I started to properly relax.
Feeling like you have absolutely no sensory input is a very weird experience, eyes open or closed, it was black, no change whatsoever, I could only hear my breathing which was getting lighter and lighter the more I relaxed. Soon enough you can’t even feel your limbs, and you’re just a giant invisible face floating about in space (the best description that I can think of at 8:50am on a Tuesday morning). Relaxing is how it felt, and relaxing is what I did.
Time seemed to pass by pretty quick, I tried guestimating the passage of time by feeling by finger tips to see when they started to wrinkle from being in the water, but I didn’t know the Epsom salts stops that from happening, soon enough the sound of waves started in the tank, that’s its way of gently getting you to sort your shit out and vacate. After the full hour, there were no hallucinations of any kind, which was a shame, but I was super relaxed. So relaxed in-fact that when I attempted to get out of the tank I almost fell over. It took a few seconds for the blood to return to my limbs properly and get them moving.
Once I regained my faculties I had a shower (being covered in Epsom salts makes you a little slimy) and then got my shit together before heading back into the main reception area where I was given a sorbet and a green tea.
Making It A Regular Thing
All in all, my experience was pleasant enough for me to want to make this a regular thing, I felt extremely relaxed for the rest of the weekend, and as it was Saturday afternoon at the time, that’s a good thing and it made returning to work on Monday quite easy. Plus, I need to do it again, I think next time I will be able to relax much sooner and get even more from the experience, plus it’s good for your health and I’m on a health trip at the moment (until I next fall off the wagon anyway).
It also gives me something to look forward to each month and gets me out of the pub, so it’s win win for me.
I would totally recommend going for a session to anyone if you get the chance, most of us don’t spend enough time relaxing and meditating, this has the opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone.