This has always always been on my wish list ever since I watched an episode of Absolutely Fabulous called ‘ISO Tank‘ where Edina has the crazy dream about adopting Rumanian orphan babies whilst she was in a floatation tank (also known as Isolation tanks or Sensory Deprivation tanks)… I have no idea why the this was my initial inspiration-but I think perhaps this was simply the first time I had heard about the experience. More recently I had seen it advertised at a few luxury spas and was intrigued by the concept and the many great health benefits it claimed to have.
This year, my partner treated us both to a floatation tank experience at Floatworks near London Bridge, a facility that claims to be the largest floatation centre in the world; and it would be well placed in London’s financial commuter hub. I can imagine lots of stressed out bankers and business people must pass through their doors seeking some respite from the daily grind.
The floatation tank contains a super-saturated Epsom-salt solution, about 25cm deep… This creates an environment similar to that of the Dead Sea, which lets you float effortlessly on the surface of the water and enjoy a feeling of weightlessness-it has to be experienced to be believed!
The salt-water solution is heated to body temperature, and their site claims that once you are settled, ‘it is almost impossible to tell which parts of your body are in the water and which aren’t. This will trick your brain into thinking that you’re floating in mid air.’ I would question this. I felt that the air was a fraction cooler than the solution in my tank, and I was aware of the temperature difference, although it wasn’t uncomfortable. My partner however said he genuinely could not tell where the air stopped and the liquid began, so perhaps the ambient temperature in his was slightly better adjusted.
The buoyancy created by the Epsom-salt solution effectively removes the effects of gravity on the body and is a surreal but beautiful experience that made me imagine I was floating on a cloud weightlessly. They claim that it allows every single muscle in your body fully relax, and I can honestly say from personal experience that I did feel completely relaxed.
I chose to wear the earplugs and turn the light in my pod off to truly experience the sensory deprivation that I had heard made the experience so great from the point of view of unwinding. The pod plays soft ambient music to you for the first 5-10 minutes of your time inside to ease you into the experience, although with the earplugs in, it was easy to imagine it might be coming from somewhere much further and more distant, especially since I chose not to use the pillow and allowed my neck to relax back as far as the ‘water/salt’ solution would allow so that my ears were also just submerged.
The quietness and darkness allowed my mind to drift into a deep state of relaxation… Their own website states:
The brain uses a lot of power to deal with the huge strain that gravity places on the body. In a floatation tank, your body is totally supported and you feel weightless. So because there is little for your brain to do, every muscle can fully relax.
With no commands needing to be sent out, activity in the logical side of the brain slows down until it synchronises with the creative side.
This will leave you in a dream-like state, similar to that experienced just before you go to sleep. In this state, the brain releases vast amounts of endorphins, a ‘feel good’ chemical.
While the state of relaxation may be deep and profound, your brain will stay dreamily alert. To get technical, the brain gradually shifts from its usual alpha state to generate theta waves.
This is also the state of mind that Buddhist monks try to reach through hours of meditation and years of training. And you can achieve this in just a few minutes using floatation!
I had imagined that with sensory deprivation, my mind mid become over-active and my mind would get very busy, but actually my mind seemed to completely empty of the cluttered noise and stress of day-to-day life and I was able to lay there in a calm, relaxed, blissfully empty moment where I could simply ‘be’.
Ten minutes prior to the end of my time in the tank, the music began again to help indicate that my time was nearly up. I lay there wishing the time to pass slowly, but eventually the little blue light inside came on and the pod door raised without me pushing the button to let me know that I needed to get out and shower.
My skin felt lovely afterwards, and I felt great, very relaxed. Both of us commented that we felt ready for bed early that night, which I think was a sign that we were so well rested and relaxed from our floatation therapy, and we probably had the best night’s sleep either of us had experienced for quite some time. I can see this experience being something that both of us would choose to repeat. I have looked into places closer to home, but the only one I have found closer is a floatation room, which can be shared with others rather than alone, and subsequently you would need to wear a bathing costume.
This doesn’t appeal nearly as much, and I would recommend for the best experience to book with a company that has the individual pods with the ability to float in the nude to avoid tight elastic bathing costumes from ruining your sensory experience. A friend of mine who tried it in the room, also commented that she noticed feeling very cold in the room, so I would hazard a guess that it’s harder to regulate the temperature in the larger space?
If you are looking for a quick fix to totally unwind, this experience is a bargain even at the £45 price tag that Floatation works charge. That said, we managed to book this using a ‘2 for 1’ offer in a network rail book, and I know that they also do block discounts for booking multiple floats-something I imagine a lot of people in London must do-I certainly would if I had to do the city commute every day-once of twice a week for me is already more than enough for me!
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