It was with an open mind and a mild case of anxiety that I arrived at the Theta State Float Center earlier this week for a float session.
Floating is the experience of spending a period of time inside a sensory deprivation tank, lying atop a small volume of water packed to nines with epsom salt so you’re floating as if you’re in the Dead Sea.
There’s no light, no sound and practically no gravity.
The saltwater is set to be at body temperature so you barely feel where your body ends and the water begins.
A pretty surreal experience, sure.
So, what’s the point?
According to floating evangelists, you can expect deep relaxation, the potential for self-discovery, pain management, and a level of stress relief after float sessions.
Not to mention the s*** ton of health benefits that accrue from bathing in magnesium-rich epsom salt for an hour or so.
So with my curiosity piqued, off I trundled.
The Theta State Float Center is found in the 24th Avenue mall near Rama IV on Sukhumvit 24. It’s spotlessly clean, with friendly staff and a spa atmosphere, which helped quell any nerves I had about hopping stark naked into a float tank.
After a quick demo about how to use the tank – I went for the float pod while claustrophobic customers are encouraged to use the more open-spaced rooms – I showered, dried myself thoroughly and turned the lights off.
The pod itself is equipped with underwater LED lights that illuminate the tank for you so you can get your bearings as you climb in and acclimatise yourself.
I got comfy pretty quickly, allowing my head to drift back and my ears to go under with my arms naturally settling themselves into a position that I imagine was reminiscent of Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia – had Ophelia been naked in a float tank rather than adorned, fully clothed, with flowers, singing sweetly, as she drowned herself in a Danish river.
After turning the interior light off, I had a minor freak out as I started drifting around the tank. Worrying that I was going to lose my bearings and accidentally press the emergency call button instead of the light switch on the opposite side of the tank, I decided to hold on to the hinge of the pod door to stop myself drifting around.
In time, I realised this was stupid as it dawned on me that I couldn’t really relax – the whole point of floating – if I insisted on holding onto a door hinge for dear life.
So I let go.
Unsurprisingly, this was fine – and after a short period, I stopped drifting and settled motionless into the saltwater.
The light music which had been playing into the pod stopped after around 10 minutes and all I could hear was the sounds of my own body. I was worried that I’d grow restless and bored at this point but I actually felt quite soothed listening to the steady rhythm of my heartbeat.
I marvelled for a while at being able to hear the sounds of my eyelids opening and closing. I can’t imagine another environment where this would be possible.
Predictably, my mind rolled around with aimless chatter for a while. I was making to-do lists, wondering if my boyfriend was having a banana muffin in Gloria Jeans without me, cracking jokes – your usual crackpot mind in overdrive stuff.
Gradually, all the chatter came to a halt.
I’ve dabbled in meditation a few times over the past year but generally I find it very difficult to be without any mental stimulation when I’m alone – if I’m not working, I’ll be reading, watching Netflix, or sending people unwarranted Disney GIFs on Facebook.
Pretty standard millennial fare.
In the float tank, however, I was able to just be. No thinking, no worrying, no anything.
Certainly no Disney GIFs.
Some people report entering a state of supreme creativity or reaching new depths of self-discovery in the tank. That didn’t happen for me although perhaps I would be able to get there in a subsequent session.
It was like being in a deep sleep yet with the conscious notion of being awake.
The time went incredibly quickly and when I exited the pod, my watch told me I’d been inside for almost an hour and a half. I genuinely thought it had been closer to 20 minutes.
As far as the after effects go, I felt deeply relaxed for the rest of the day. Small niggles that I would normally find irritating, I just let pass me by without judgment.
For the two nights after the float, I had the BEST NIGHTS’ SLEEP I have ever had. I slept through a pneumatic drill going off right outside my condo (11.30pm is obviously prime drilling time #ThailandOnly) as well as a marauding Pomeranian sharing my pillow and snoring all night. If you suffer from insomnia, floating could be the solution.
One minor disappointment was that I’d been suffering from delayed onset muscle soreness from a particularly gnarly squatting session the night before, which I had hoped the float would diminish – there was no discernible improvement, however.
Regardless, I’ve been waxing lyrical about floating since my session and will definitely be booking up a second session at some point. I should point out that this is a genuine recommendation – this isn’t a sponsored post, although I was invited as a guest by the Theta State Float Center. I even wrote a Tripadvisor review – my first ever! – as I was so impressed by the experience.
The centre have a 2-for-1 promotion on floats throughout November 2015 to celebrate their first anniversary. Your second float is meant to build on the work you’ve done in the first session so it’s certainly a worthy deal.
You know what to do…