Now, this isn’t your usual floating atop an inflatable flamingo while someone passes you an Aperol Spritz - this is floating in a purpose-built sensory deprivation tank. There’s no sound, no light, and no physical sensation whatsoever. And it’s all in the name of wellness.
The idea behind it is to relieve the mind of the relentless stimulation it is forced to process every day in order to provide the space needed to address any underlying issues or emotions and stress that have been pushed to the wayside. Makes sense, right?
I head over to 3 Tribes in South London feeling a little apprehensive. I’ve read that floatation tanks are like a diluted version of ayahuasca - the hallucinogenic brew that also works on the premise of opening up the mind to suppressed emotions and memories - which is way more than I signed up for. What if I start freaking out? Plus, it’s an hour-long treatment in a confined space, totally cut off from the outside world. Will it feel claustrophobic? What if the fire alarm goes off and I can’t hear it?
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Upon arrival, my concerns are quickly put to rest. The tank is indeed dark, silent and self-contained. But it doesn’t have a lock - I am able to get out at any point without help. And if the fire alarm goes off, I’ll definitely be able to hear it.
How do flotation tanks work?
The tank itself looks like a massive egg - a lot bigger than I was expecting, which alleviates the fear of claustrophobia slightly. As it fills up, I remove my makeup, take a shower, and pop in a pair of ear plugs. I brought my swimming costume, assuming I would need to change into it. I don’t. I’m instructed to enter the tank totally starkers (I’m assured it’s been thoroughly cleaned after each use).
The water inside the tank has a supremely high salt content, which is what allows you to float. I step inside and lie down. It feels warm but otherwise unremarkable. I pull the door to, and the process begins. The blue lights within the tank switch to red before going out completely. The music fades and I’m left with nothingness.
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What does a flotation tank feel like?
At first, my mind is racing. I notice how quickly my thoughts jump around in a disjointed narrative of things I need to do, recent encounters, and musings over otherwise irrelevant oddities in general life. It takes a good 15 minutes before my mind begins to still - at which point I start to get bored. My arm keeps twitching to reach for my phone in an alarming demonstration of muscle memory. But I can’t take to Instagram or my emails to alleviate my boredom. Nor can I look out of the window, or talk to someone. I have nothing to distract me. It’s excruciating at first and I start to think I may just get out. But then something happens - I become self-sufficient, which I later realised is a skill we never normally need to call upon. I start pushing myself off the walls of the tank, gently floating from one side to the other. I make shapes with my arms and stretch out my legs, noticing how each muscle feels when I do so. My imagination begins to kick in, and I think up ideas that I didn’t realise I was capable of.
Suddenly, the lights begin to come back on. It’s been an entire hour. I get out, shower off the salt that has collected on my skin (which btw feels silky smooth), dress and head straight for reception, where I book in for my next appointment.