Have you heard of a Floatation Tank or the use of floating for sensory deprivation and/or relaxation?
I’m not going to go into detail about the Floatation Tank and what it is, the rationale for its use and some of the benefits that have been derived from its use. Instead for all of that information you can follow this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isolation_tank and read all about it on Wikepedia.
Suffice to say that I’d not heard much about the floatation tank or the experience of sensory deprivation using this device before. No I haven’t seen Altered States, although I believe that is now on the must watch list given the number of times I’ve since been asked. Enough of this chatter, let me tell you about my experience of the Floatation Tank!!
On arrival at Sandhill and during my initial tour, I was presented with the float tank and the offer to go in it. I was initially quite apprehensive and said no. However after a wise conversation and keen reminder that there is a difference between theoretically understanding and experientially understanding something, coupled with some self reflection about really learning and understanding neurodevelopmentally informed interventions, I agreed to give it a go.
Now I get a bit claustrophobic! I do not like enclosed spaces or the sensation that I’m trapped or cornered. Needless to say my stress response was a somewhat active and my initial heart rate was a little elevated after 1. getting into my bathers and coming out in front of a relative stranger and 2. considering the idea of climbing into the contraption pictured above and knowing the door was going to be closed and there wasn’t going to be much light. In fact I think from memory my heart rate was somewhere in the high 90s. My blood pressure was also taken, it was pretty normal, if anything a bit on the low side but not clinically low.
So the time had come and in I climbed, laid my body down in the epsom salted water, put my head back and began to float. The door was closed and the space became dark. I’d like to tell you that I quickly came to feeling relaxed, but that’d would be a lie. My first 5 minutes (well it felt like 5 minutes) was spent just trying to calm my heart rate, which upon closing the door had cleared passed the 100 barrier – I could feel it in my chest. I found myself wondering how the children and young people we see at Take Two, with significant abuse and trauma histories would go in this situation? I’m still not sure I have an answer on this one and I think it could be tricky for some of our kids.
After I’d managed to calm the anxiety about being enclosed, I let myself relax into the water that was holding me afloat and just experience what was going on. Now this is when I started to learn all sorts of things about myself. Things I probably knew, but because of a world filled with sensory distractions I’d not ever really taken notice of. You know, every time my body was almost or had just tipped over the edge into a state of relaxation, I found the need to sensory seek. I’d pull at my togs (bathing suit), scratch an itch (there was a bit of itchiness in the first bit of the float), need to push myself off a wall and move about in the tank and then try and work out where I was positioned or as I do best, have a string of thought processes to keep the mind busy.
This went on for some time, and then out of no where I could hear my heart beating slow and steady, in fact at that moment that was all there was. I just listened to it and found myself experiencing the beginnings of a deep sense of calm and dare I say it, even relaxation. I found myself thinking “now if I had one of these at home, I could do 30 mins in one of these and feel relaxed”. Before I knew it the door was opened and out I climbed, wet and salty but feeling really relaxed (note I’m not someone who relaxes often or really even takes the time to relax). Post heart rate measures saw a 20 beat per minute drop to somewhere in the 70s and a slight (still healthy) increase in blood pressure. What’s interesting is that my results were consistent with the patterns Sandhill are finding in their children. I can’t wait for them to do some research on this and get it published.
What blew my mind more however was the fact that I honestly believed I was only in there for 20 minutes, 30 at a push! I was in the tank a whole hour, 60 minutes and that’s when I realised that I had experienced the state of such relaxation that I’d lost sense of time.
Floating is an interesting experience and I will definitely be doing it again and again. I highly recommend it, even if you just try it once. If nothing else, like me you might learn things about yourself you didn’t really know beforehand.