Recently I decided to try a float tank. These things are touted to be extremely relaxing, detoxifying, pain and stress relieving, blood flow increasing, endorphin releasing and probably more. The way it works is this: you go into a room with a shower and sink and a big trailer-like tank with a door and no windows. You take a shower and then climb into the tank. It is about four feet wide and maybe seven feet long, all the walls and ceiling are black plastic, and it has about ten inches of water in the bottom. The water contains about
175 over a thousand pounds of Epsom salts, so as soon as you sit down you begin to float. The water is about 96 degrees. I thought this sounded great, and at $40 for an hour and a half, I decided I just had to try it.
I arrived a few minutes early and the owner offered me a glass of champagne while I waited for the filters to finish their job. I rarely drink any alcohol and the idea of drinking before entering this strange environment just didn’t sound right to me, so I declined. Finally it was ready and the gentleman led me into the room. He showed me the towels and shampoo and soap and said I could stay as long as I liked since I was the last floater of the day. He said he didn’t know if I’d brought a bathing suit, but if I did please don’t wear it. He asked if I prefer breathing warm or cool air, said he’d knock after 90 minutes, then closed the door and I was alone.
I took a shower and washed my hair and opened the door of the tank. It was all black inside. The walls and ceiling looked like they were lined with black plastic bags. (The picture above is as close as I could find to it. If you look at images of float tanks on the internet they either look like incinerators or romantic sea shells. This wasn’t like either of those things.) Gingerly I stepped in and sat down. I laid back, and sure enough, I bobbed right up to the surface of the water.The water was body temperature, as was the air. At first I searched for relaxation. I floated to one side and then turned a little and floated to the other. I was not at all relaxed in those moments. In fact it was a little icky. Despite the lovely shower and bath products, it seemed a little like something that someone just made up. Like, take an old trailer, line it with black plastic and put some water in the bottom of it with a lot of salt in it.
After the first while, I finally let go and just relaxed. I don’t know how long that part was. I seemed to go in and out of thinking and not thinking. When I was thinking I was noticing the walls of the thing, and the salt crystalizing on the edges of my head. Then I’d kind of forget about it all and just bob around. Every so often I heard noises like a jackhammer out in the parking lot. That put a crimp in the relaxation, for sure. I had no idea how long I’d been in there. Twenty minutes or an hour can seem about the same when there’s no outside frame of reference. Finally I heard a knock and I got right out. I showered again, shook my hair out (because I forgot to bring a hairbrush) and left the room. The woman at the desk said I’d been in there for almost two hours, and she thought she should knock because she had to go home soon. I’m not sure how they think you’ll know it’s time to leave without knocking or otherwise calling your attention to the passage of time. I wish they’d consider a little music to warn you that it’s time to go. It would be so much more humane, a gentler return to regular life.
So, will I go back? I’m not sure. I will probably give it another chance, but I am not convinced it’s for me. All that lukewarmness and thick water, bumping into those black plastic walls and all that relaxing. Detoxifying. I think I expected some sort of spiritual revelation and that definitely didn’t happen, so I’m not sure. I’ll definitely choose a no coffee – no caffeine day the next time I try it. Or maybe I’ll just get a massage next time I need some relaxing.