Fun with sensory deprivation


Last Sunday evening, I made my way across the Bloor line, stripped off my clothes and got inside this thing for an hour. I learned about float therapy from someone’s personal essay about it somewhere (Maissoneuve or Hazlitt, I thought, but annoyingly, I can’t find it now to link to it) and I have been dying to try it ever since. It took a few years after I read the essay for it to become a big wellness trend but now it has and float locations are springing up all over Toronto. The long and the short of it is, you hop in this lightless, soundproof tank and float effortlessly in a couple of inches of highly concentrated salt water. The supposed benefits include all the usual things that alternative therapies promise. I was having a lot of focus problems last week so I decided it was time to give it a whirl.

I did not have the transformative experience the author of the essay I read had. Something I maybe should have thought about before I went, is that it is impossible for me to relax the back of my neck. It is like I just can’t believe anything besides my neck, not even a floor or the Earth itself, can hold up my head. Even after more than a decade of yoga practice, I still have instructors coming over to me when I’m laying on the floor trying to adjust my head and shoulders to relax my neck. Yeah, it’s just not going to happen, bud. Needless to say, my neck wasn’t having anything to do with being supported by 1000 pounds of dissolved Epsom salts. It laughed and said, “Nice fucking try, mini Dead Sea.” The spa provides a little inflatable pillow for your head so I tried that, which weirdly made the situation worse. Eventually, I discovered that putting my arms in cactus position rather than by my sides relieved the pressure on my neck and I could then finally get down to the business of relaxing.

Wicked. Couldn’t wait to relax. I had so many communications theories and ideas for imminent assignments buzzing around in my head that I couldn’t concentrate on anything.

I have no idea how long I actually enjoyed the float once I got comfortable because it’s completely dark and you obviously do not have any gadgets or access to time inside that thing. If I had to guess, I would say it was about fifteen to twenty minutes, max. But honestly, there is a good chance it was one minute. There was a clear moment when I thought, “This could be over now.” But it wasn’t, not for a long time. I started shifting myself up and down, side to side in the tank. That amused me for a while. Then I realized I was kind of hungry. I started thinking about all the delicious options there were nearby on the Danforth. Omg, should I get a shawarma??? Mmmm, Ali Baba. But then again, I am in Greek Town. Souvlaki?? Fuck, maybe I should get a slice? Is there a poutine place around here? I mean, I could have gotten out at any time, but the price is the price whether you stay in or get out so you might as well stay in and try to get your brain to shut the hell up. Perhaps a first-time float should be half as long and half the price. For me, it would have been an hour better spent if the isolation tank had been filled with pizza or kittens.

If you are curious about float therapy, I definitely think you should give it a try. If you’re worried about being claustrophobic, it’s probably not an issue because you almost entirely lose the boundaries of the tank when you turn off the light. Plus, it’s gigantic. I did feel great when I was finished; my mind was clear and I was absolutely relaxed. But I didn’t feel better than when I get a massage or an acupuncture treatment or go for a swim. I am glad I tried this, but I don’t think it’s for me.

2 thoughts on “Fun with sensory deprivation

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