What Really Happens in the Tank
Float tank, isolation tank, salt water spa, sensory deprivation tank, REST chamber. [Note to self: stop starting blogs with explanatory keywords.] If you are at all into spa treatments or New Age experiences, you’ve heard of float tanks. First used in the 1950s to test the effects of sensory deprivation, they’ve gone in and out of public fashion. Researchers, however, have continued their studies and documented an impressive array of effects.
That is not what this entry is about.
What “Typically” Happens
This entry is about my experiences, or lack thereof, in a 90-minute session. I will jump to and say that nothing happened– well, at least, nothing exciting or especially noteworthy. The physical sensation of floating without effort in the super-saturated Epsom-salt solution is interesting. I did enjoy “playing” in the tank by gently bouncing off the walls and trying to force my knees under the liquid. Basic internet research will relay that this is not supposed to be the highlight of a session. Here are a few “common” effects you will find listed:
- relaxation via reduced levels of stress-causing cortisol
- improved sleep patterns
- improved health via absorption of body function-regulating magnesium (present in the Epsom-salt)
- reduced pain for specific ailments
- reduced depression
- hallucinations / altered state of consciousness
Pondering the Lack of Effect
That last bullet is the one most commonly touted in other blog entries and the easiest to assess. I experienced nothing close to an altered state. While I felt relaxed, I didn’t drowse or experience any sensory hallucinations. Nor did my muscles “feel like jelly” afterwards (as many practitioners mention). My dreams that night were more lucid than normal but not exceedingly so. I have no starting point against which to measure potential improvements to my cortisol levels or general physical or mental health. All in all, the float yielded no directly ascribable effects.
My point is not to say that floating is whack, but more to wonder aloud if there is such a thing as being too relaxed or somehow not the right physical makeup to enjoy “relaxation” exercises. I respond in similar fashion to back massages. Hearing people talk, getting a back massage is the second to next thing closest to a divine experience [insert saucy wink], but unless I’m in immediate physical distress, they do nothing for me.
Perhaps a mix of general good health and control tendencies make me less needing of and less open to sensory manipulations. If so, that’s a bummer. Who doesn’t want to experience something new, something hyper-sensory (in a safe, controlled environment) at times? Or perhaps people are afraid to admit when their own experiences aren’t the same as those listed on the box. Whatever the reason, I suppose I’ll now be even more skeptical of having a transcendent experience.