I close the door behind me and find myself in the “Nothing”. The nothing is the sensory deprivation tank that holds my Epsom salt bath.
It’s pitch dark and my eyes are trying hard to adjust but still they see nothing. My ears are eager to catch a familiar sound from the busy world around me but they hear nothing. The smell buds (did I just invent a new word?) in my nose capture nothing but a light scent of humid air. Nor do my taste receptors contribute to any data input about the “Nothing” I’m in.
The only sensory system working is my touch. And it is busy. It’s busy collecting data from the “Nothing”. The pressure receptors on the skin of my toes and feet sending information to my brain, which translates into “It seems like you’re surrounded by a warm liquid, about 9 inch deep”.
The bottom you’re standing on has little buckles here and there just like in a wading pool.” My hand reaches out into the darkness and feels the inner coating of the “roof” that separates me from the outer world. I slowly kneel down, carefully with my arms spread for balance. The hair follicles on the skin of my bum and fingers let the master of my nervous system know, that these body parts have also reached the line where it starts to get wet.
The sound receptors in my inner ear decode vibrations as splashing water. Other body sensors report that the liquid I’m about to bath my body in causes a stinging sensation on a small cut on my finger. It also doesn’t feel like water but more like a gel consistency. I lean backwards and as my weight shifts my bum and legs are mysteriously lifted horizontal. This is it, the absence of gravity.
I get why some people might freak out in a sensory deprivation tank.
That’s how Sandra Bullock must have felt like when she was in space with George (she was, was she?). Admittedly she was in a bit more of a stressful and peculiar situation there. If I had no clue where I was, I probably too would have freaked out by now. If I understood the friendly guy on the reception desk right, this ride will only take up to 90 minutes, I can leave my new space ship anytime and at no point during this journey will there be a shortage of oxygen (which is crucial information for me).
However, the survival kit I’m taking with me consists of a bikini bottom (which gives me a sense of protection), a short floating water noodle (something to hold on to in case of unexpected currents) and an inflated airplane neck holder (I was promised relaxation and can not relax if I have to worry about the master being accidently drowned).
My residence is a tank filled with water and 850lb of Epsom salt. The water is kept at 93.5 F, which is neutral to my skin receptors. This means that they can’t quite distinguish where my body ends and the water begins. Furthermore the tank is insulated against sound and light from the outside. However I can hear whatever sound I make. That’s difference also compares to Sandra’s situation.
People have done it in the Middle Ages, UFC fighters do it today.
Bathing or floating in salt water is not a new invention. People knew about the healing and nurturing benefits of Epsom salt bath in the Middle Ages. Epsom salt is high in magnesium sulfate, which has many important functions in the body. The arguments that sold me are:
- Floating helps muscles and nerves function properly.
I’m a wanne-be athlete. Anything that contributes to a better functioning me is highly welcomed and worth exploring.
- Floating relieves pain and muscle cramps.
Pain and cramps just make running so much less enjoyable.
- Floating eliminates toxins from the body.
Yeah, anything harmful has to leave. Here it works via osmosis (remember the chemistry class? Things move from higher concentration to lower levels?). The skin is a porous membrane and the minerals in the water pull toxins out of your body. Fancy, hey? (Can you tell that I’m living in Canada?)
And apparently there are more health benefits to it like improved heart health, increased effectiveness of insulin in the body (anyone feared about diabetes?) and relieve of constipation. So why not getting an extra serving by absorbing it via the skin? But some people do not really care about insulin effectiveness or constipation. I read that business people and UFC fighters take up floating for stress relief purposes. And of course, now I want this too.
Do you want a break from the 70.000 thoughts you have in a day?
Our minds are crazy busy. It’s been said that we have about 70.000 thoughts every day. That would be about 2.900 thoughts an hour and 48 thoughts in a minute. Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it? You didn’t know that you’re life was that stressful, right? In the tank you are suppose to calm yourself and focus on controlling your breathing. If your thoughts just keep galloping away like a wild horse then be mindful of that. That is the point where you have to realize and admit that you don’t have as much control over your brain and thoughts as you might think you have. Simply stopping thinking isn’t that simple at all, is it?
Stress (and lots of thinking is a lot is stress) drains the body of magnesium and increases levels of adrenaline. Floating in Epsom salt helps to produce serotonin, which creates a feeling of calm and relaxation. Furthermore the lack of stimuli to the nervous system (you can’t hear anything, can’t see anything, can’t taste anything (unless you sip the water), can’t smell anything) triggers a spontaneous chain reaction in the body. Your muscles relax, your blood pressure and heart beat decrease and the body uses less oxygen. Blood vessels expand, which allows for greater transport of nutrients and oxygen to the tiniest and remote cells in your body.
Sudden insights, inspirations or increase problem solving skills.
Be aware. It’s also been said that with floating comes the synchronization of the right and left hemisphere. Don’t say I didn’t warn you if you find yourself coming out of the tank with sudden insights, inspirations or increases problem solving skills.
Anyhow, the best thing is you try it yourself and be your own judge. But I can tell you this. If you spend 90 minutes in the floating tank searching for the build-in iPad to keep you from deadly dullness (my dear friend you know who you are), you’ve missed the lesson this tank was supposed to teach you. Relaxation, controlling your thoughts and giving your nervous system a well deserved break.
I floated at the FloatHouse.ca in Vancouver and paid $150 for three 90-minute floats. If you don’t have a “FloatHouse” near you or are on a budget, you still can enjoy the health benefits of an Epsom salt bath at your home. Epsom salt is available (approx. $10 for 2 kg) at drugstores, Costco or amazon. Two cups of salt per bath should do it.Floating in the "Nothing" - Epsom salt bath not only for stress relief by Tanja Knapp