Float tanks, to my surprise, have been around for decades. Yet I did not know much about isolation therapy other then the fact that an individual is sealed in a confined area for a period of time. Some of my friends have mentioned that through their own personal experiences they have had epiphanies, revelations and even much needed solutions surface for them. Am I guaranteed the same? I asked jokingly. After hearing those big claims, I was skeptical to say the least. Yet, now my curiosity was peaked.
An hour later, I pre-booked my appointment online and registered for an evening session. I decided to have my first sensory deprivation tank experience at Float Toronto on Queen Street West (http://float-toronto.com). General prices range from approximately 50 dollars to 100 dollars depending on if it is your first time or if you purchase a package. Fun Fact: at Float Toronto’s location if you choose the 10:30pm slot you get to float for up to two hours (for the price of a one hour session).
Upon my arrival I signed a waiver, watched a four-minute introductory video and got to sit with Sean Lavery, one of the co-founders at Float Toronto. Despite doing my usual investigation online, my mind was racing with anticipation. Can I handle being in a closed space? Will I feel claustrophobic? How sanitary can this be when people are stepping in one after another? Is it necessary to fully close the door? How can one hear that the session is complete when earplugs are blocking out any sound? Then I thought, how ironic is it that this entire experience is supposed to be relaxing yet I cannot even unwind my mind!
In spite of Sean’s reassurance, my nerves began to kick in as I approached the room. It was also interesting to observe how tense I had become of the unknown. Nevertheless, I put one foot in front of the other as I was determined to see what all the fuss was about.
Upon entering your private room, you undress and shower. While rinsing off, prep your body and hair with the necessary pre-float lotions provided. Once that portion is complete, there is an option to put in earplugs. I decided to not use them and then had water in my ears for over two weeks. To avoid such frustration, I highly encourage you to grab those earplugs or pack some of your own. Remember to use the washroom beforehand too; it’s one less distraction once you are in the tank.
There is no dress code when floating so I decided to go in the nude. One always has the option to wear a swimming suit but those carry extra bacteria. I wanted to be cautious and clean for both my sake and those floating after me. The cleanliness issue was a worry of mine but I was quickly reassured that due to the float tank’s high salinity content, this makes it impossible for any form of microorganisms to survive. On the whole, I examined the environment to the best of my ability and saw that these tanks are exceptionally cared for.
Once I was convinced that I was in a sanitary space, my next concern was having the door sealed shut. Although there was more then enough room in there to spread out, I could not fully shut the door. I had feelings of being stuck or worries of being unable to hear the music wake me up. You may be thinking, has she watched too many horror movies? Trust me, it was quite irritating on my end as well. As I folded my hands across my chest and tried to take a few deep breaths, I immediately had critical thoughts of myself. My mind raced onwards and it took me approximately forty minutes to quiet my thoughts. While floating in the chlorine free tank, I soon discovered that our bodies do not need to do a thing, no commands need to be sent out from your brain… you simply let go and just be. Your body is not fighting gravity for once, which was an odd sensation. Now, if only I could get to that state of relaxation faster.
After my session was complete, I saw Sean and admitted that I did not close the door. He informed me that due to this technicality, it ultimately affected my overall experience. Moreover, Sean mentioned that the open door did not allow the temperature in the tank to regulate to perfectly match my skin. To my defense, I still felt warm. Therefore, due to this slight apprehension of mine, I decided to book another appointment in a month’s time to try it out a another time.
Float number two was a lot calmer as I knew what to expect. I entered the room and put in my earplugs when both my hands and body were dry. Quickly after, I showered and sealed myself in the tank before I had any time to second-guess myself. As I began to sit down, the ten inches of saltwater immediately lifted me up and I spread out into a starfish pose. I was floating within seconds and yet I felt a sharp sting on my finger from a cut I did not realize I had. Salt is a natural antiseptic so for that reason alone I knew I would be fine. If you are aware of any minor cuts (pre float) apply some petroleum jelly as it provides an occlusive layer of protection.
The float itself felt effortless, grounding and peaceful. If you are not a swimmer, do not worry as you can literally stand up and leave at any moment. Even pregnant women can use float tanks safely. Most importantly, I must note that there is no proper way to float. Simply be comfortable and go with the flow. I was on my back for a majority of the time, slowly adjusting my arms and leg positions. Also, if there are any swim noodles around, place them nearby as there were a few times my neck was sore. The noodle could have easily eased the discomfort. Once I was able to let go, which took a good twenty-five minutes this time around, I found the environment to be serene. I saw pretty lights, felt a protective energy around me and I truly was at peace. Although I did not have any sort of epiphany, I was okay with my results on the whole.
As the one-hour session was coming to a finish, calming music started to play waking me up. Yes, even with the earplugs in I could hear the soft melody. If I can stress anything it is to not rush getting up as you may feel light headed. Take your time, go on your knees and slowly get out and head right to the shower to rinse off with the provided post float gels. As I was drying myself off, I noticed that my skin was not pruning like it normally does when I am in any sort of water for a long period of time. This is because the skin retains its own water balance. By having a large dosage of the Epsom salts in the float tank, I read that our skin absorbs the magnesium sulfate while discharging harmful toxins in the process. Lastly, be aware that the filtration system will go on immediately after you exit, which personally startled me.
In the end, not only did I achieve a calm state of being but I felt just as good as I do after a workout. Float tanks are open and available to people of all lifestyles. Once you surrender to the warm water, your body begins to release endorphins which in turn manage pain and relieve any stress that you have been holding onto. If on the odd chance you do have any sort of physical pain, rest assured that the Epsom salts are a natural relaxer used to accelerate and heal. Overall, I suppose I should thank my friends for the recommendation, as I would not have looked into isolation tanks otherwise. So if you are looking to elevate your mood and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, or even to add a new experience to your 2016 bucket list, I would highly recommend giving float tanks a chance.
*Specific feelings & results will vary from person to person.
© 2016 Olivia Gudaniec
Model: Olivia Gudaniec
Photographer: Mark O’Neill