Eleven steps off the gymnasium floor and into the kiddie pool her friends have crafted for her. She places goggles covered in duct tape over her eyes and leans back, allowing the heavily salted water to support her Eggo-filled body. “That looks lovely,” I say to myself, sighing. I’m completely ignoring the fact that Eleven is about to be transported to the Upside Down, a terrifying otherworld.
Though the Upside Down is someplace I’m not sure I’d like to visit (never say never), I found Eleven’s sensory deprivation experience to be fascinating. (Not referring to the one her “papa” put her through.) You want to put me in a completely dark, silent room filled with water that’s going to support my tired body? SIGN. ME. UP. I mean, we all have our relaxation techniques, right?
So, as you can likely imagine, when my roommate told me that she was planning to make an appointment at Just Float in Pasadena, I got way too excited (and a lil scared, okay?). I booked my appointment for a Saturday (a $40 deal for first-time floaters!) and did just a tiny bit of research. According to their website,
Um, yes please?
After you arrive, what happens is you sign a waiver and watch a short (super helpful) video. You are taken to your private room, where you undress and shower all the oils off your body. They provide everything you need: shampoo, body wash, ear plugs, a towel, a robe, and petroleum jelly (to cover any cuts you have). You also have the opportunity to see the tank before you go in, so you can get a good look at the layout and where the spray bottle (filled with fresh water) and small towel (for getting distracting droplets off your face) are.
Once you’re done preparing, you hop in the tank.
Close the door, lean back, let the water support you, raise your hands above your head (a more comfortable position), and then press a button on the side of the tank. This will cause the lights to go out and the music to slowly die down over the course of five minutes.
At any point, you can press the button again, which will cause the lights to go back on so you are not left in complete darkness.
You are then left in complete darkness, silence, and salt water for one hour straight.
Because I was nervous – though the man who gave me a tour before my float was totally chill and made me feel more at ease – I completely forgot to cover a cut on my thumb. This was revealed to me when, after dipping my right hand in the water, my finger began to throb. Totally my fault. I then cleansed it with fresh water (provided in the spray bottle) and felt much better.
Once that debacle was over, I began to fully enjoy the experience. I closed my eyes, focused on my breathing, and allowed myself to enjoy the freedom of floating. They say that if you begin to bump into the sides of the tank, you can stabilize yourself by putting your arms out to touch the sides of the tank. However, I actually enjoyed lightly bumping into the tank, gently pushing myself off the sides and feeling like a mermaid.
My inner child was THRILLED.
After an hour, the lights came back on in the tank, the music slowly returned, and the jacuzzi-like jets began to spray. By that time, I was ready to get out and didn’t feel rushed. I opened the tank, exited, showered to get the salt water off my body (and to use the post-float conditioner, which was lovely), dressed, and left my room. Just Float has a Grooming Room with hairdryers and post-shower products, along with a chill-out area for people who are done floating.
Their tea and adult coloring book selection was BOMB, by the way.
In an e-mail, Just Float explained, “Floating combines mindfulness, meditation and relaxation to create an experience that has been studied and used to aid vets and those suffering with concussions, PTSD, depression, insomnia, addiction, anxiety and more!” I can definitely see why.
As I made my way through the halls, I felt different. My body felt as though it wasn’t my own, which is to say it felt totally relaxed. Emotionally, I felt calm. Mentally, my stress melted away. That night, I slept better.
So basically… I felt GREAT.
Now, would I go back? Definitely. If I’m ever feeling weighed down by a world of worries and need to get away from it all, I’d be more than willing to return to a sensory deprivation tank for some peace, quiet, and calm. (And also for some of their “Zen” tea.)