Let your worries drift away through sensory deprivation therapy

By Christina Orlovsky

CONFESSION TIME: I’M A WORRIER. An overthinker. I have an active mind that’s going all the time. I’ve tried yoga. I’ve tried mindfulness. Even in a 50-minute massage, I usually am not fully relaxed until minute 45. So when I heard about sensory deprivation—an experience that immerses you in a light- and sound-free tank filled with 12 inches of water mixed with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt—I thought, one, I’m going to panic from being in a dark, confined space; two, it still won’t be enough to get me to completely tune out; and three, it’s at least worth a try. 

There are a number of float spas throughout San Diego County. Some offer a pod-like experience with dim light and music, while others offer complete sensory deprivation in pitch-black chambers. I visited flot, which offers the latter. After being greeted in a spa-like lobby, I was escorted to my room, which was equipped with a personal shower and float tank. On first sight, it was undeniably intimidating—a stainless-steel door that opens into total darkness—but flot staff assured me that the door could be opened at any time.

After showering, I stepped into the tank, sat cross-legged in the warm, foot-deep water and laid back. Initially disconcerting—your mind doesn’t expect your body to be able to float effortlessly—it didn’t take long to let go of gravity and let the salt water do its trick. And that’s the beauty of floating.

“Floating is one of the only times the human body doesn’t have to work against gravity and external stressors,” explains flot owner Fred White. “Every day, your brain and body are working nonstop. When you remove all the external stimuli—light from your eyes, sound from your ears and gravity from your vertebrae—it’s the only time they get a break from having to process the outside world. Your muscles can release tension and your mind can abandon any conscious responsibility of supporting your body, allowing you to fully let go.”

I spent the first portion of my float experience listening to my heart pounding from nerves. As my heart slowed and I began to focus on my breathing, I realized I’d achieved something I hadn’t been able to achieve before: I wasn’t thinking about anything. In fact, when I tried to conjure up some of my usual worries, they simply wouldn’t come. They had truly floated away. An hour passed, and while I didn’t fall asleep—many people use floating as a sleep aid—I did experience a sense of relaxation that I haven’t felt before. I left feeling refreshed and calm.

Asked who would benefit from floating, White says simply: “Everyone. I tell people it’s the fastest way to go on vacation. No matter what your day is like, you can step into the tank and it feels like you’re 1,000 miles away from everything.”

TO SCHEDULE YOUR FLOAT, visit flotsd.com