FloatNL @ The Winterholme
It's unlikely that you would know that I am a huge Joe Rogan fan. I listen to his podcasts daily and have taken a lot of inspiration from his lifestyle and personal drive. If you're a listener to his podcast you'll be aware, or even if you aren't, that float tanks are having a moment. More than a moment, actually. It's becoming evident that there are serious benefits from floating and well worth stepping out of your comfort zone.
You may be wondering what "floating" is. FloatNL's website can give you a great rundown of what this is, and you can read that here. Essentially, it's an opportunity to reduce and eliminate all stimulation by climbing into a tank of body temperature water and air. This temperature is set so that you can't decipher between the two, and within the water there is 1100 lbs of salt that makes you perfectly buoyant. While you lay in the tank you feel nothing, touch nothing and once you close the top and turn off the light, you see and hear nothing. It's pure sensory deprivation.
The benefits of this are claimed to be extensive including the elimination of stress, better sleep, increasing creativity, improved mental clarity as well as reducing anxiety and depression. Further from this, it's said floating can reduce pain from things like migraines or arthritis, speed recovery, reduce blood pressure, boost immune function as well as help to prevent sports injuries. If you're a fan of Joe Rogan, you know what else it can be used for, but I'll leave that there.
As a beginner at meditation and an avid runner, I was excited for both approaches of improvement. I always need help with sore muscles and learning to calm my mind has been a recent focus of mine, so, I was stoked. Lauren, however, was not so happy when I told her about our next adventure. The idea of climbing into a sensory deprivation tank didn't seem as exciting to her as it did to me, and maybe these lowered expectations heightened her experience - but I'll let her tell that part.
We also had the super cool experience of getting to visit the Winterholme, where FloatNL is located, with Jason Piercey (and Director Joe) who filmed a segment with us on this incredible spot. Keep an eye for our interview on Out of the Fog!
As I entered the dark room, glowing with the blue light from the float tank, I got so excited to climb in and see what kind of an experience this would be. I had just finished a great spa massage upstairs and was feeling relaxed, which I hoped would put me in the right headspace for a chill float experience. I did a quick Instagram story, undressed in the warm room and started preparing for my float.
It's required to take a full shower, hair washing and all, pre-float which is when I realized getting a massage beforehand wasn't the smartest because I was covered in lovely oils that I was sad to wash off. I then fitted my ear plugs, and climbed in. I lowered my body into the warm water and sure enough, my whole body is floating! Then it happened, very salty water in a fresh scratch on my chest from one of my cats refusing to cuddle me - ouch! They do provide you with vaseline to cover cuts, I recommend using it, and do your best not to forget like I did! I hopped out quickly, wiped the salt water off, applied the vaseline and climbed back in. Now I was ready.
The calming ambient music and my own breathing was all I could hear once I closed the top of the tank. At the 10 minute mark, the music cut out and I turned the light off. I have never experienced such a shocking lack of, anything and everything. I opened my eyes, and closed my eyes. Nothing - it was all the same, just dark, and quiet. I felt nothing on my body, I heard nothing and I saw nothing. So began my attempt to calm my mind.
As I focused on my breath (as my minimal meditation practice taught me) I began to slow my thoughts and focus on being present in the tank. However, that isn't what happened. In my mind I reread every email I sent that morning, planned this blog post layout, remembered texts I needed to send, and everything else unnecessary. Once my mind was finally present, I became acutely aware that I was spinning, and rather quickly! I put my hands out to touch the sides of the tank - nope - I hadn't moved at all. I brought my arms back by my side and immediately again, I was spinning! I quickly sat up in the tank and opened the top and said out loud with wide eyes "what is going on here!" I realized then, this was a terrible thing to say out loud had anybody been nearby and heard that, they would surely be concerned.
I closed the top, vowed not to say anything else out loud, relaxed my muscles again, slowed my breath and in succession all of my muscles began to twitch - it's like I was fighting myself to do something. I lowered one foot to the bottom of the tank, suddenly I felt so grounded and a visceral feeling overcame me, I could never move this foot. As soon as I moved this foot, I was sure to sink. Slowly, I convinced myself, inside of this dark and quiet tank, that it was okay and I lifted my foot toe by toe - I didn't sink. Why was my mind tricking me like this?
The majority of my float, regardless of how prepared I thought I was, was spent trying to decide if what my mind was telling me was real - and none of it was. It is a very interesting experience to know that what you're feeling is truly all mental and really brought to light for me the necessity to work harder on true relaxation and learning to stop my incessant thoughts.
The last portion of my float was more relaxing, once I realized that all of these fears I was having weren't real and that my mind could just shut up. As the music cut back in for the final 5 minutes, I turned the blue light back on and looked around the tank and at my body floating effortlessly there. I have spent a lot of time and research finding what I need to make myself healthy, and this float revealed to me exactly what I had been neglecting - relaxation. As I crawled back out of the tank and back into reality, I felt so much more aware of my surroundings. The lights were bright, I couldn't hear my breathing anymore but now I was aware of what the room smelled like and my first thought was wondering how quickly I could return to try it again, with a clearer mind.
When Jess first told me we were going to "float" I didn't know what to think. It was the first I've heard of it, and the idea of floating in a pod with no light and no sound scared me. My first thought was claustrophobia - that I was going to be stuck in a small pod for an hour in the dark with no way to escape. However, once I entered the room and saw the size of the pod and had the benefits explained to me I was more open to the idea. I'll try anything once.
Unlike Jess, I do not tune into Joe Rogan and I'm not someone who has a mediation app but I am someone who sees the benefits of relaxation and I do put time into it. Whether it be yoga, massage therapy, or a bath, I try to fit relaxation into my weekly schedule. I also have some back pain due to a car accident I had, and I was curious to see if it would help.
Once I entered the tank, I was so amazed by how buoyant the water was. As soon as you sit down your legs float to the surface of the water. I closed the lid, laid back and tried to relax. The first 10 minutes of music, I'm not going to lie, seemed extremely long to me. I kept thinking that it was going to be the longest hour of my life! Once the the music cut out and I turned the light off I was shocked - the sudden loss of all ability to see, hear, or feel was too scary and I quickly flicked back on the light. It took me a minute to get used to the idea, then just let go, turned off the light and relaxed. The next 45 minutes went extremely fast. I found myself spinning a few times and I had to spread my arms and legs like a starfish to get back in the middle again, but for the most part it was very relaxing.
The best part about it is that it forces you to take the time to let go, and clear your mind. It gives you the ability to have an hour to yourself without any distractions. I realized that I need more time like that. And although I didn't find any immediate help for my back, my muscles did feel very relaxed. One tip I do have if you do plan on floating is to be very careful putting in your earplugs! I didn't put mind in well enough and I just could not get the water out of my ears for days!
Ultimately, every person is going to have a completely different experience when they're inside a float tank. We have since spoken to numerous people about floating and the consensus seems to be it's truly a unique experience that everyone enjoys and each person we spoke to has found some value in it whether it's relaxation, disconnecting or helping injuries.
If you've tried out FloatNL or any other float tank, we would love to hear your experiences! Of course, when we go back for round 2, we'll share more. Thank you to Winterholme Wellness Center & Spa for having us - read more about our visit there here.