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Float Tank Review

Float On: Bella Spends an Hour in an Isolation Tank

Claustrophobics beware: this story is not for you. Everyone else, welcome to my float-tank adventure. If you've never heard of floating, the idea is pretty simple. A windowless plastic tank is filled with 800 pounds of Epsom salt dissolved in about 10 inches of water. You crawl into the tank through a hatch, then float on your back in complete silence and darkness. The theory is that after about 40 minutes, your brain shifts into theta waves, bringing you to another plane of relaxation and clarity. That sounded good to me, so I booked an hour-long appointment and got ready to float. For the scoop on how it went, keep reading.

I went to Float Matrix in San Francisco, where an hour cost $75. (You can search for local float tanks at this site.) After talking with the owner about what to expect, I stripped naked and entered the tank. It was equipped with an optional light, and I could also leave the hatch open a tiny bit. Surprisingly, though, the light made me feel more aware of the enclosed space, so it was more comfortable to just float in pitch-black darkness. Here's what wasn't comfortable: that salt-choked water hitting my lady parts. Sorry if that's TMI, but I wanted to warn you of the intense burning sensation that will hit you for about two minutes. (Apparently, the alkaline water and acidic body don't play well at first.)

So! After the crotchy inferno died down, it didn't take long to lose awareness of my body. That's because the water is body-temperature, so it's hard to tell where your skin ends and the water begins. Trippy, right? Even more surprising was how quickly my senses sharpened. Without any sound, my ears began picking up on things we normally take for granted, like the sound of our breath. I could even hear my eyelids as they blinked, no joke.


Visually, you'd think that darkness would be just that — darkness. But you know how sometimes you close your eyes and see little squiggles against a black backdrop? With my eyes open, I saw a lot of that, but it was more intense, and somehow emotional. Another surprise is that just as my mind would drift off into total relaxation, it would try to snap itself back into focus. As the Float Matrix owner had told me, that's pretty typical for first-time floaters; our minds aren't used to resting.

Although I didn't fall asleep while floating, I completely zoned out and lost all sense of time. I know I wasn't asleep, but I don't remember any of my thoughts, either. It was just spacey and peaceful. When the session was up, I felt somewhat relaxed but also dog-tired. That sounds bad, but it was akin to the feeling you get after a big ol' cry session — you're exhausted from processing the emotion, but it feels good to have gone through it. After showering to remove the salty residue, I went home and napped for a good hour or so. Later, a friend said that I seemed "different." Interesting.

Would I do it again? Sure. Is floating for everyone? Probably not. I think you'd have to be ready to be alone, really alone, with yourself. (I personally think that's a good thing, but it could freak some people out.) If you go, don't expect the same kind of relaxation that you'd get at a spa — floating is indeed balancing but in a different way. But if you have an open mind, it's worth trying at least once. Have any of you floated before?


Join The Conversation
Matt72 Matt72 6 years
Part of the thing that puts people off floating is the look of tanks like that, unfortunaely most of them out there aren't much better, they look uninviting and they aren't very big inside. I've used this one in London, they sell it worldwide, there's some in Scottsdale.Now to me this makes me want to float.
Mar132 Mar132 7 years
This is best relaks for me :) I tried in Poland
miss-leanne miss-leanne 7 years
You're much braver than me! I'd die of an anxiety attack, but I'm claustrophobic ;)
koreansugar koreansugar 7 years
hmm this sounds interesting. i've heard about this before, i believe Ben Affleck was in one during the movie "Daredevil" where he would sleep at night to get away from all the stimuli and sounds. too bad i'm in the SF area and $75 is pretty steep.
venjen venjen 7 years
Altered States!
starangel82 starangel82 7 years
I'm so glad you did/wrote about this. I'd never heard of it, but it sounds like an experience I'd love to try. Unfortunately, there isn't a single place in a three state radius for me, so I'll have to wait until I go on vacation in February... but I can't wait to try it!
Beauty Beauty 7 years
The air is somewhat humid, but it isn't thick or cloying. It isn't like a steam room at all, so you can breathe easily. Ren_kr, thanks for that mention. I'd never heard of Joe Rogan, but I tracked down a piece he wrote, and it's interesting stuff. Snarkypants, do it! Let me know if you do, and what you think about it.
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 7 years
crotchy inferno could be one of the best phrases ever - hilarious. Is the air heavy or feel like a different consistency? I get panicky when they place the hot towel on your face during facials or if I have to sit in one of those hot rooms with like 100% humidity. I fear I'd have the same reaction to this although it sounds so neat!
ren_kr ren_kr 7 years
cool! I just heard about this from joe rogan's comedy show when he spoke about it saying how this was the most natural and the highest safe high you can get (brain's dht? or something). I definitely want to try it
snarkypants snarkypants 7 years
this is so weird, just because i was thinking about trying it the other day! not TMI about the lady parts at all! i was wondering the same thing. i've been in the dead sea before, and imagine it's kind of the same lovely feeling.
Zigggy Zigggy 7 years
Cool- I've always wanted to try this since I saw that Simpsons episode where Lisa trips out. They don't have such a thing in my little town though. The intense and somewhat emotional squiggles you saw reminds me of scrying. Next time you go I would go with a question in your head, something you want to see or have revealed to you- you never know what your mind will create for you. Most people scry into a crystal ball or obsidian sphere or bowl of water, but I bet being in one of those tanks would really highten the experience. Thanks for the article!
Paromita Paromita 7 years
This sounds scary.. but I will try it once! :P
mek123 mek123 7 years
This sounds interesting but since I'm so claustrophobic I'll experience it through you.
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 7 years
PS Bella I live in Manhattan and looked up where I can do this near me --- $125 minimum. Cost of NYC living!!
Beauty Beauty 7 years
oni1, they're cleaned kinda like swimming pools — there's a filtration system. Akasha, I have never heard of that. interesting!
Akasha Akasha 7 years
This sounds great I'd love to try it. It sounds like the less extreme version of the total liquid ventilation that they have been working on. Something I would love to try in theory, but I'm not sure how I would react to drowning in liquid oxygen. Until it's available for me to try I guess I'm going for the float tank.
oni1 oni1 7 years
i'm concerned how often the water is changed. i know salt is supposed to be cleansing, but still.
rivekkah rivekkah 7 years
I'd try it at least once!
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