This is how it feels to spend an hour in a sensory deprivation tank

Jul 11 2019, 6:19 pm

If Season 1 of Stranger Things didn’t make you at least a little curious about spending some time in a sensory deprivation tank, I can’t relate.

So when the opportunity presented itself to fully immerse in a tub of skin-temperature water filled with 1,200 pounds of Epsom salt, there was no way not to oblige.

If the concept of slipping into a sensory deprivation tank is new to you, here’s the 411: for purposes of relaxation, soothing muscle pain, experiencing something euphoric, or just quelling curiosities, you can take yourself for a float in a space designed to completely cut its guest off from their senses.

Various spas across the country offer the opportunity to float in solo pods, which are essentially big bathtubs with lids that close like the trunk of a car, leaving you in a shallow pool of Epsom salted water in (what is quite literally) complete blackness.

Your body automatically floats in the water, because the dissolved salts make you buoyant. So, the pod becomes your own personal little dead sea.

Are you relaxed yet?

The view from inside a float tank, essentially (Dark Room / Shutterstock)

The description above is the extent of the knowledge I had when I went into this experience. That is: I would float easily, it would be very dark, and I may come out calmer.

And now that you know what I knew, we can get into the nitty-gritty of what actually went down.

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Arriving to my float half an hour before the scheduled start-time, brimming with a cocktail of nerves, excitement, and curiosity, I entered the H2O Float Spa on the Danforth.

The space’s atmosphere is immediately calming. Pale colours decorated the front waiting room; whites and blues reminiscent of crashing ocean waves coloured the walls and front desk, and the check-in process was straightforward and easy.

Now, what made this experience slightly different from most was that this float would be paired with the music of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I wasn’t sure if this soundtrack plan would be a benefit or detriment to an experience that’s meant to deprive the senses.

More to come on that.

H2O Float Spa / Instagram

As a part of the Dark Side of the Moon experience, I was given five boxes from which to choose at the reception desk. Inside each, I was told, was a crystal that would represent a focus-area to ground into while floating.

I chose my box and retreated to the change room, where, after slipping into a plush white robe and a pair of flip flops (all provided by the spa), I opened it.

Rose quartz. Meant to elicit feelings of love for others and oneself.

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Back into the waiting room I strolled. With crystal in hand, heart on sleeve, and nerves (probably) on face, I sipped lemon water and watched waves crash ashore on a screen on the wall, before being shown to my pod room.

First impression? Definitely bigger than your run-of-the-mill hot tub. Pictures don’t do these things justice.

H2O Float Spa / Instagram

First came the earplugs, next a quick shower (sans conditioner), and suddenly, I was hopping into my tank, turning out the lights, and pulling the lid closed above me.

Now, we all know darkness. The kind you feel when you first turn off your bedroom light, or when the power goes out when it’s not even raining and you weren’t expecting it.

But this darkness is different.

The kind of darkness you find in the pod is absolute. The kind that has you wonder whether your eyes are open or closed. It makes you blink a few times before realizing that you honestly can’t tell the difference.

Staring straight up, the darkness shows you things you might not expect to see. In my case — and for some folks on Reddit — that was purpleness. Purple lines, purple flashes. The type you might see when you close your eyes super tight.

H2O Float Spa / Instagram

In addition to the visual light show, the ease of floating was strange to accept. It’s interesting to note how used to the ground we become in these human bodies, once you’re floating in, what feels like, mid-air.

While I floated and watched the purpleness, I tried to think. Ahead of my appointment, I imagined I may take advantage of this quiet time to work through some of the more mundane struggles I face in my day-to-day life. But while trying to think, I realized I couldn’t.

Floating there, I struggled to grab ahold of any thought that might render itself useful in my everyday routine.

What I could cling to was the following:

  • Purpleness.
  • It is so dark in here. 
  • Where’s my body? Oh, there it is.
  • Purpleness.
  • Where’s the music? Oh, there it is.
  • Relax your shoulders – you don’t need to work to hold your head up.
  • Is this what it feels like to be in a black hole?
  • I could handle a black hole. 
  • I can handle anything.
  • I’m not a body. I have a body. I am a soul. 
  • Purpleness.

In addition to the above thoughts, I noticed that the music wasn’t distracting, as I feared it might be. Through the earplugs and the water surrounding my ears, I mostly picked up on the beat and a few distinct moments of music.

Overall, I felt it added a mysteriousness to the experience, rather than taking anything away.

H2O Float Spa / Instagram

Once the novelty of the pod-lyfe started to settle, I simply felt relaxed.

Every so often, my finger would brush the side of the pod and I would be reminded of where I was and what I was doing. Mostly, I allowed myself to imagine I was floating through outer space while my grounding rose quartz rested on my chest.

Before I knew it, the lights flickered on and the music grew louder; signals that it was time to exit the pod, shower off what was left of my saltiness (literal and metaphorical) and hit the road, Jack.

After exiting the pod room, I returned to tea and the ocean-wave screen.

I noticed there was an awareness of my hand around my teacup that wasn’t there before. Touch felt more real, noises sounded more clear, and colours looked more vibrant. As I walked home, a part of me that felt like it had never really seen the Danforth before.

Maybe sometimes, you need to get out of your body for a little bit to truly appreciate being in it.

H2O Float Spa

Address: 138 Danforth Avenue
Phone: 416-792-4774

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