I am such a huge fan of floating, and it easily became an integral part of my wellness routine. I enjoy it so much that I have a subscription at a local float spa, so I've pretty much made it mandatory for myself to float at least once a month. If you've never done a float before but are highly interested, here are some tips from my own experiences that could help you prep for your first float.
The Sensory Deprivation Tank, which looks like a futuristic space egg, is the pod where you float in complete isolation. There's about a foot of water in the tank, which goes up to your ankles or shins at the very most. It contains gallons of Epsom salt so you shouldn't have any issues with floating, but contact the spa directly regarding any weight or height concerns you may have.
I've been to two different float spa locations, and their requirements for pre- and post- float are exactly the same. The room where your pod is located should have a shower. You'll need to take a quick rinse with soap and water before the float in order to remove any oils, lotions, or dirt. After the float, you'll need to take a shower again to remove the salt off your body. Be sure to read about additional rules. The spas are strict about safety and hygiene, so you'll need to review conditions around freshly dyed hair, open wounds, etc. A float session is typically for an hour, but you can schedule longer sessions depending on the spa.
Are you claustrophobic? I get it. I had a bit of anxiety during my first float, because I felt so closed in. My workaround was keeping the pod totally open during the float. I had temperature issues that made me feel uncomfortable though. Since the heat from the pod escaped, the ventral (abdomen) side of my body felt cold the whole time. The more floats I did, however, the better I got at keeping the door less and less ajar. I now close the door all the way, and I really like the warmth from the humidity that blankets my whole body.
Afraid of the dark? No worries. The pod has ambient lighting that you can keep on. Some pods even oscillate colors. There's always the option of turning the lights off completely if they bother you.
Is total silence weird to you? The pods also let you toggle the music on and off as you like. I prefer having the music playing in the background for additional relaxation and mood-setting.
If you're susceptible to ear infections or swimmer's ear, I highly recommend wearing water-proof ear plugs while you float. The float spa I go to provides them for the clients, but I find that Mack's AquaBlock Earplugs are excellent if you need to bring your own.
There really isn't a specific posture as a best practice while you're floating. It's whatever makes you feel good. I personally float like I'm in Savasana, but I've heard of people floating either in crossed legged or butterfly poses.
A challenge for me during my first float was learning how to relax my neck and shoulder muscles. I didn't want to get salt water in my eyes, so I remember freaking myself out and tensing my shoulder and neck muscles for the first 5 min. I had to rationalize with myself that the tank was holding gallons of Epsom salt, so there's no way that I could have submerged my face unless I really tried to. It's funny how much I tried to control my body when I really needed to surrender to it. You may find that some float spa offer a floating ring to help support your neck during the float. If you don't need the ring, try not to use it so that you don't depend on it. Trust your body.
If you still have concerns about getting the salt water on your face, I recommend using a shower cap to cover your hair and plugged ears. The water gets trapped in the shower cap and won't go past your hairline.
My Top Reasons for Floating
Mind-body connection. Floating helps me check in with myself. I'm in total isolation and deprived of external factors inhibiting my ability of being connected with my body. I often notice areas around my body where I feel pain that I didn't notice earlier that day.
Releasing muscle tension. Floating is kind of like physical therapy for me. Lots of athletes do it. It helps reduce muscle pain and soreness especially after a workout-intensive week.
Restful sleep. Some people are fully awake and can meditate during their float sessions. I can't make it past the first few relaxing breaths before going into deep sleep. I don't even remember dreaming during my floats. I don't wake up until the jet streams brush against my legs at the end of the session. With restful sleep comes with feelings of relaxation, peacefulness, and reduced stress, so I always come out of the float better than when I started.
I think it helps me with relieving my acne?! I don't know for sure, but I suspect that the salt from the float helps. The humidity inside the pod probably helps open my pores. Even though salt can dry out skin, it supposedly has anti-bacterial properties and help deep clean pores. All I know is that I tend to get pimples around my hairline, but after a float I've noticed that they disappear in a day or two.
I don't have the luxury of taking baths at home. This is my alternative to that.
Quick breathing exercise/meditation
It's so easy to tell yourself that you need to relax, but sometimes it's easier said than done especially if you've never done a float before or don't typically meditate. Here's a simple breathing exercise and meditation that you can do if you're having trouble settling into the water:
Close your eyes.
Take three long deep breaths all the way down to your belly.
Breathe continuously and deeply at a slow and steady pace.
Allow your feet and arms to fall to the side naturally or position your body that feels the most comfortable.
Do a body scan starting with your toes. Relax your feet, ankles, and calves. Don't hyper-extend your knees. Bring your attention to your torso area. Relax your glutes, abdomen, and chest. Bring your attention to your arms and back. Relax the muscles around your shoulders and neck. Lastly, bring your attention to your face. Unhinge your jaw, soften your face muscles, unfurl your brow.
Try to clear your mind. Think of being on the a grassy hill on a sunny day. Imagine that all your thoughts are on a train. This includes any to-do lists, issues, and emotions that you were feeling up to that point. They're all on this train and are passing you by. Acknowledge that these thoughts are there, but they're just fleeting and unimportant in this present moment...
Enjoy your float!
Are you in the Bay Area and looking for a great float spa location? Check out my blog post on the Float Realm spa.