Once the lights go out anything is possible
When did you first hear about floatation tanks?
I heard of them back in the eighties. They were as exotic as the Loch Ness Monster and as difficult to find, at least in Ireland. Deep relaxation wasn’t easy to find either back then.
I was an impressionable teen, and the world seems boundless, full of possibilities and wonders just waiting to be discovered. The sensory deprivation isolation tank was one of those wonders.
I read about them in the psychedelic classic The Centre of the Cyclone. It was written by Dr John C Lilly, the man who invented the floatation tank. He was an American neuroscientist interested in the effects of sensory deprivation and LSD. I read his accounts of floating on acid and was intrigued.
I got to try a tank a few years later, in a dingy basement of a grubby hippy centre. It was different from what Lilly described, but I enjoyed the float tremendously. And doubtless it will be different for you.
For one thing, the trippy acid connotations are a thing of the past. And for another, there is nothing dingy or grubby about a float in Zero Gravity, Cork. In fact, it feels more like a visit to a health spa. Floats have gone mainstream.
So what can you expect?
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and luckily Zero Gravity nails it. The centre is ultra-modern and tastefully decorated, and the staff are warm and friendly. After a brief orientation you are led into the tank room itself. Spotlessly clean, there is a large shower and plenty of space. But the tank itself dominates the space, looking a little like an escape pod from a Star Wars movie. It is a white plastic egg-like chamber around the size of a small car, glowing strangely from the coloured lights inside.
Using the pod is easy. You just step in and lie back on the water. It does the rest. The water is denser than that of the Dead Sea, and maintained at perfect body temperature. So even the most nervous swimmer will float perfectly in the 20cm pool. Lie back as if it were a mattress and stare up at the roof. Within seconds you will feel the disconcerting sensation of floating in endless space. Then you pull down the lid and hit the switch to kill the lights. Don’t worry, there is nothing claustrophobic about this. Some gentle music will come on, easing you into a state of deep relaxation.
So what else besides deep relaxation are the benefits of floating?
The first benefit is an immediate deep relaxation of the body. We hold on to so much stress in our lives. After a few minutes in a floatation tank blood pressure begins to drop and cortisol levels – a key indicator of stress – also lower. The Relaxation Response kicks in.
Due to the buoyancy of the water all your muscles will relax, relieving tension and muscle tightness. And the skin absorbs the magnesium sulfate from the Epsom salt. It further relaxes the muscles and softens the skin, so you emerge glowing.Magnesium is something we are often deficient in, as it is not a big part of most people’s diet. Magnesium we absorb when floating helps prevent high blood pressure and osteoporosis, and relieves the symptoms of menopause.
Float tanks are rich with Magnesium Goodness
Magnesium also reduces free radicals in your body, making a float a detox session as well.
But perhaps one of the most dramatic effects of a float is the reduction in anxiety and pain. Study after study have shown that even an hour of floating reduces anxiety, and chronic pain can be alleviated in the tank. It is effective in treating tension headaches and muscular tension. Whiplash symptoms such as neck pain and stiffness, and reduced range of motion, also improve when all the muscles release and the body experiences deep relaxation. Endorphins flood the body and relieve and reduce pain.
An hour float can give the benefits of a full night’s sleep.
While all the good stuff is happening to your body, what is going on in your head?
A float is a bit like a massage. We know it is good for us, but most of us do it because we enjoy it. It is a luxurious treat.
Deep relaxation feels good. Once the lights go out in the tank, the worries and tensions of your outside life fall away. And you begin to feel good.
Floating can boost creativity
Some people will find their head buzzing with new thoughts, and a session can boost creativity. But more typically thoughts will drop off. People can actually fall asleep in the tank, and that is perfectly safe. The density and shallowness of the water mean it is virtually impossible to come to harm through dozing off. But often people will think they have fallen asleep when really their mind has become so silent they lose themselves in the serenity.
It is not uncommon for people to drift into the dream-like state that precedes sleep, called the hypnagogic state. These people might see things in the blackness, giving a float a psychedelic feel. But it is different for everyone, and different every time you step in.
Feelings of overwhelming happiness and euphoria are not unknown. Mild euphoria, increased well-being, and feeling more optimistic are very common. Some floaters report spiritual experiences, deep inner peace, and sudden insights. Anything is possible when the lights go out!
Medical Science Concurs Floating Causes Deep Relaxation
But the bottom line is that medical science agrees with the experience of floaters. A session in an isolation tank is very enjoyable and does great things for your body and mental health.
When they come out of the tank most people take advantage of the chill room in Zero Gravity Float. You can sit in a relaxed environment and sip a herbal tea while your body gradually reawakens and your mind adjusts to reality once more. For most it is too profound an experience to just jump in the car and drive away.
The real benefits of floatation can be seen in the contented smiles and light steps of the people leaving after a session.
Our bodies and brains need a respite and a reboot especially when things are tough. Come and get the good kind of self-isolation — we’re taking deep relaxation bookings now.