A floatation tank can be one of the most powerful tools for personal growth at your disposal. The benefits are countless. The flotation tank allows you to:
- reduce stress
- manage chronic physical pain, injury and illness
- elevate your mood
- ease depression / anxiety
- fight addiction
- promote clear thinking
- aid in problem solving
- expand your consciousness
If you’re thinking about stepping into the tank for the first time, we’ve put together a guide to help you through this experience. We’ll clear the fog and show you what to expect, how to prepare, and what to do to have a successful first float. Let’s get started.
BEFORE YOUR FLOAT
Before stepping inside a floatation tank, do something physical – whether working out, going on a hike, or even doing housework. Putting a bit of wear on your body will enhance the float experience, as you’ll be fully ready to relax and unwind once you step into the tank.
If you have any cuts or open wounds, be sure to seal them tight. The tank is filled with over 800 pounds of epsom salt and even the slightest cut will sting in the water. On the same note, avoid shaving a few hours before the float. I once shaved right before a session and it felt like my face was on fire for the first 10 minutes. No bueno.
Before your session, eat something light so you’re not hungry in the tank. However, avoid big meals. If not you’ll hear your stomach make all sorts of strange, distracting noises as it break down the food you consumed. You’ll also want to avoid taking in anything caffeinated such as coffee, tea, or energy drinks. The spike in energy could hold you back from relaxing.
Head to the floatation tank center 10 – 15 minutes before your session. This will give you time to settle in, fill out what paperwork needs to be filled out, and allow the facilitator to give you instructions on the session. Plus, float centers usually have super interesting books laying around so I like to peruse through them while I wait for the session to start.
The facilitator will take you to your room, which is usually dimly lit. Here’s a shot of the room I was in during a recent floatation tank session I had in Bangkok, Thailand:
A shower should be in the room, oftentimes right beside the floatation tank itself. Rinse your body down before you head into the tank. This ensures its kept hygienic, as you don’t want you or others people’s random cologne, hair gel, or other bodily collecting in the water. If you wear contacts, be sure to remove those as well, as salt water on contacts can cause problems.
You don’t need any swimsuit gear to float with. First, it would be unhygienic if everyone brought clothes into the floatation tank. Secondly, wearing clothes would take away from the overall experience. Floating is a powerful vehicle to have an outer body experience and expand your consciousness. Reminders that pull you back into your body such as clothing would detract you from this aim. Be sure to also remove any jewelry or small accessories, as these can also be distractions during the experience.
The center should provide you with ear plugs. Give them a squeeze, slip them in your ears, and get ready to head in.
You might be feeling some nerves at this point. Heading into some strange chamber in total isolation could be scary, but it’s perfectly normal to feel this way. Allow the fear to arise, let it be, and be willing to head in regardless. You’ll thank yourself by the end of the session.
Before you hop in, set an intention. Be clear what you want out of the experience. Your intention might be having a deep meditation, solving a particular problem, de-stressing, or simply doing nothing during for 1 hour. Whatever your case may be, in order to get what you want you need to give your mind clear instructions where it needs to go. That said, once you head into the tank, let go of the intention. Being attached to any particular outcome will take away from the experience. Let things unfold as they will during the experience.
DURING YOUR FLOAT
Once you’re in the tank, it may feel unnatural to let your head fully sink into the water. Your instinct may be to hold it up, but this only puts strain on your neck. Remind yourself you’re floating on hundreds of pounds of salt water, and there’s no way your head can’t float. Relax your body and you’ll find yourself floating effortlessly.
If you have an itch on your eyes, be sure not to scratch it, as your fingers are covered with salt. Many floatation tank centers come with a small hand spray and towel hung in the tank. You’ll be able to spray your eyes and scratch yourself with the towel if you need to.
You can keep your arms floating beside you, or raise them up above your head. Do whatever feels right. There’s no right or wrong way to float, and there’s no right or wrong experience to have. The great thing with floating is the experience is uniquely your own. Whatever pops up is the exact thing that should be happening, so let it be.
It may take you a few floats to acclimate yourself to the experience. The first time I floated, I didn’t fully let my guard down. Everything was so new, and the strangeness of the darkness, the thick water, and being encapsulated in what felt like a coffin made it difficult to settle into the session. It was only after my third float where I started to let go and experience all the incredible benefits of floating. Since this is your first time, don’t expect to have a life changing experience right off the bat.
You may have a hard time settling your mind when you first. There are a few ways you can bring the volume down of this mental noise. Counting down from 10 to 1 and back again is an effective method for quieting things down. Focusing on the breath is another solid technique. One approach that was given to me by a floatation tank center owner in Bangkok was to recall the events that took place in the previous day. As your mind attempts to work this out, you’ll notice yourself slowly easing into the experience.
As your mind settles in, you could reach an almost hypnotic state. You conscious mind has quieted, and you begin accessing the inner workings of your unconscious mind. As this door opens, it isn’t uncommon for unpleasant thoughts or memories once suppressed, to rise to the surface. If it happens, simply watch it all from a place of curiosity and detachment. Allow the experience move in whatever directions it’s meant to head and don’t feel the need to control anything. Watch it all as if it were watching someone else.
In the water, there’s no goal to hit, nothing to achieve, no point B to move towards. In fact, the motto for the annual floatation tank conference is “Looking Forward To a Whole Lot More Nothing.” It’s in this state of nothingness where things like peace, contentment, and happiness flowers out of. The tank is one of the most powerful tools to help bring more of this nothingness into your life.
For the inexperienced, moving towards this state of nothingness can initially be unsettling. If at any point you start freaking out, simply lift your hands in the air press the walls above you. You’ll find the door and it will pop right open. There aren’t locks on any of the commercial floatation tanks you’ll step inside, so there’s no way the door will be locked shut. In certain tanks there’s even a button you can press that will notify the facilitator to come and help you out. Many units have LED lights illuminating the water around you, which you’ll be able to turn on or off from inside the tank.
If you find yourself snoozing during the experience, it’s normal. As you relax, your brain waves begin slowly down oftentimes at the same rate of sleep itself. Again, there is no right or wrong experience to have so if you find yourself sleeping in the tank, then that’s what was supposed to happen.
There are a few ways you’ll know the session is over, which all depends on the floatation tank center. In some centers, the facilitator will come to the room and knock on the door of the tank. In other centers with fancier tanks, you’ll find speakers in the tank allowing you to hear music even within the water. The sessions will start and end with soft music.
AFTER YOUR FLOAT
Many say the tank can feel like you’ve pushed a system reset button as all the stresses and worries of your life tend to fade away. Hopefully you’ve gotten a taste of that during your first experience. Once the session has come to an end, slowly make your way out of the tank.
As your senses are removed in the tank, it might be hard to tell the difference between up and down, left and right. Leaving the tank, it might take you a few minutes to get your bearings back, so take it easy. Slowly head to the shower and wash your body. The facility should provide you with a towel, so no need to bring your own. They’ll also provide cotton swabs – be sure to clean out your ears or you’ll find a buildup of salt in them later that day.
Throw your clothes on and head to the waiting area. Float centers will typically have hot tea available in the room. Pour yourself a warm cup and relax on the couch. If you’ve come with friends or family, you’ll find them walking into the room as if they’re walking on clouds.
Floatation tank centers will usually have a communal book where floaters can write about their experiences. If you have anything to share, write it down in the book. Either way, the book is super interesting hearing about other people’s experiences.
If you had big takeaways from your experience, be sure to journal about it. Putting it on paper will allow those “a-ha” moments to crystallize inside you. If your takeaway involved putting something into action, try acting on it as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the more momentum that idea will lose and it will become a fading memory.
If possible, try scheduling your float late in the day or evening. That way, you’re able to head home, have a meal, and hit the sack. It’s best to ride the high you get from the tank straight into sleep. Chances are you’ll wake up the next morning feeling better than you’ve had in some time.
Congratulations on your first successful float! Hopefully, you’ve seen the profound benefits this tool has to offer and will harness it more and more throughout your journey.
For more information on floating, check out WR 002 : How Glenn & Lee Perry Created The Flotation Tank Industry
Have you ever stepped inside a floatation tank? We want to hear about it! Share your experiences in the comments below.
Cover Photo by lacabezaenlasnubes