On Saturday my sister took part in a running festival and decided to treat herself to a float to recover. She also shouted me a float because she’s lovely and also because she thinks I’m completely incapable of switching off. I decided to ignore that fact because quite frankly, hearing about people running IS exhausting.
For those that think a float has something to do with horses, or sex, or both – you are wrong. Flotation Therapy is essentially a way of achieving deep relaxation by spending an hour lying in the darkness, suspended in a warm solution of Epsom salt. Float tanks are also known as isolation tanks or sensory deprivation tanks and are supposed to provide an experience of ‘pure relaxation’.
Basically, they look like the prototype chamber for cryonic freezing that Mel Gibson climbs into during the movie ‘Forever Young’. Like Mel’s character Daniel, you climb into this capsule butt naked. Unlike Daniel, you only get an hour, not 50 years to relax.
The theory is that with no pressure on any of your muscles and no distractions to your senses you can completely switch your mind off and relax, accelerating the benefits of meditation and allowing your muscles and body to heal. My sister promised me that an hour of floating was like four hours of perfect sleep. But I think she read that off the website because she has a baby so let’s face it, she has no memory of what perfect sleep is really like.
You climb into the capsule, and you close the lid. It’s the closest I’m ever going to come to an intergalactic travel experience so I *may* have counted down in a NASA-ish way during the few seconds it took me to do this. I had wondered about feeling claustrophobic or trapped but since you can open the lid with a single finger, you just feel badass.
And then. You float.
For five minutes the music plays to allow you to settle. I thought they had forgotten to turn the music off because that five minutes seemed to go forever. But maybe that was because I was trying to work out what my comfortable position was. Arms by my side or arms behind my head? Relax my shoulders up or relax them down? Okay, that feels comfortable.
Started deep breathing. I was actually feeling sleepy and mentally high-fiving myself because I was totally acing the whole thing, when a very large drop of condensation hit my face, scaring the bejeezus out of me and causing me to jerk my limbs violently into the side of the capsule. Made a mental note to tell the company to add ‘possibility of drop bears’ onto their website. Laughed at my own wit.
Tried smiling deliberately to see if I could evoke a sense of euphoria. My cheeks ached. Perhaps that what euphoria feels like.
Then the music stopped. I was floating in the pitch black with only my heart beat to listen to. Well kind of, I couldn’t hear it over the sound of my breathing to be honest because it turns out that I might actually breathe as loudly as I talk. Remembering I was there to relax I did some more deep breathing exercises. I imagined all my limbs relaxing into nothing. All my worries being washed away. My mind was totally empty.
But it’s not is it? You’re thinking ‘my mind is totally empty’. Which is kind of weird. Because if you are thinking is your mind empty is it empty?
A moment of boredom. My multi-tasking brain kicked into play so I conducted a boob check. No lumps or bumps so that was me feeling quite chuffed that I had indulged in a spot of ‘self care’.
Tried focusing again. Wondered if this was *really* anything like being a baby in-utero so wiggled my body, throwing shapes and what not to see if I could mentally rebirth myself as a new being. Realised that if I didn’t stop making waves I’d probably end up splashing salt water in my eyes. Decided being a foetus was overrated.
Did MORE of the deep breathing. Visualised the air travelling through my body, turning everything blue as it went. Breathed in, breathed out. Wondered why blue? I moved my hands up to behind my head. Felt my hair. It was all splayed out around my head like one of those shampoo adverts. Ran my fingers through it ensuring that the salt in the water was very firmly encrusted by the time I had a shower afterwards. I thought of rose petals. Then thought about how marketing really did have a lot to answer for if I associated hair, with rose petals.
Decided that if push came to shove, I really like berry smelling hair products over floral ones.
I wondered how long I’d been in there. Tried to sleep and by that I mean I resumed my ‘relaxed position’. Got a cramp in my shoulder so stretched out my body and spent some time twisting my body into different poses pretending I was a ballerina dancing. Turns out I am reasonably flexible when floating. Impressed myself with my adagio, brise and partial grand jete.
Then the music started again to signal I only had five minutes left. I noted that the initial five minutes had felt longer than the 50 minutes. Figured that had to mean something. I had a final stretch, opened up the top of the capsule and heard Mission Control say “that’s a safe landing from Alison, well done and welcome back to Earth.”
I showered, dressed and emerged back into the corridor wondering if I felt relaxed. I wondered if wondering about being relaxed meant I wasn’t relaxed. Either way, I’d gone to space, become a prima ballerina and I didn’t have breast cancer. I decided that, yes, I had enjoyed the experience.
What I was though, was hungry. Hungry like the wolf.
My sister was just pleased I hadn’t got out of the capsule after 10 minutes and checked my email. I think she thinks I work harder than I do. Then she said something about work-life balance and breaking the habit of ‘busy’ but I didn’t hear what exactly because I was checking my emails.