Floatation Tanks – a novel way to calm a busy mind
I’ve recently started tracking my time – taking note of what I get up to and for how long. The goal is to become more effective and efficient by figuring out where the gaps are. Where am I losing valuable time by being side tracked? What jobs can I combine and in which environment am I most productive?
This has come about primarily because I have so many different things to do; from Health Coaching, being a solo mum, pet owner (who knew they took so much time!), running the home, exercising, personal training…you get the gist. Like many of our patients we see in the clinic I can find it difficult to switch off. I’m not talking about switching off completely – you can’t make your brain stop working, but you can give it space. You can encourage the ‘monkeys in your mind’ to chill out for a bit. In such a busy, engaging and stimulating world, how do we do that?
One avenue is floatation tanks. These are known also as sensory deprivation tanks because of the distinct lack of stimulation of the sensory kind. Technology is not available (no iphones, ipods, or any i devices), there is absolutely no noise, no light and the pod water is 40% Magnesium (epsom salts) so you float ‘dead sea’ style. It also set at body temperature so you can even lose sense of where your body is – quite an interesting experience! While they have been around for quite some time, it seems that the modern caveman is yearning for some downtime and float tanks present a perfect environment.
In clinic one of the most challenging and commonly presenting conditions we see that negatively impacts health is stress. We see it every day. It looks slightly different for every patient, but ultimately the impact that stress has on health is significant and it’s up to you to instill the behaviours that promote a state of parasympathetic dominance (rest and digest). This is the default state and where we’re meant to spend most of our time but for many reasons the inverse is true in modern society.
So in order to chill my mind monkeys (you know, the constant chatter in the mind – esp when trying to meditate), and get a little respite from the fast pace of inner city living I went to Beyond Rest in Prahran and was instantly transported by the calming curves of the interior design, smell of gentle essential oils and even the crackling of the wood candle that was burning.
I love this place because it’s all about flow. The walls are curved, the colours are soothing and the private rooms are beautifully tiled – they are wet rooms so the shower, preparation table and pod are all in the one light, clean space.
After a quick shower to cleanse I popped into the sci-fi-esque pod, put the little support under my head and closed the lid. The lights and music stay on for about 5 minutes but you have the choice to turn the lights on at any stage – this is a really nice (and I would say valuable) settling period. I could hear my heart beating in my ears. When the lights went out I felt like I was moving quite a bit and from time to time my fingers would tap the edge of the pod – my perception of how much I was moving was definitely not my reality. I noticed my tummy gurgling and found I had the space to notice things that my body was doing that would normally go unnoticed. And if I’m being completely truthful I did have one moment where I felt a little disorientated so felt for the light switch so I could re-centre myself (read: safe). It was a good thing to put myself at ease and then I flicked the light off and thoroughly enjoyed the remainder of the float.
I noticed I was thinking but in a different way – not hurried. Not urgent. Not requiring immediate action and this is a whole different experience to when you’re out in the world. Just think – don’t do. Sooner than expected the hour was up (time perception in the absence of sensory stimulation is fascinating) and I had a lovely shower and made my way out to the rest area for a cup of herbal and a debrief.
I spoke with a lady who has had a number of floats and she was telling me how she had broken her ankle and she is finding it really beneficial for healing. While our particular focus with this experience is often linked to calming and quieting, it’s worth noting that muscle aches and pains, body tenderness, injury recovery and poor magnesium absorption are all great reasons to float.
So even though I noticed my mind was plodding away with ideas and ruminations and I thought that I wouldn’t feel as ‘chilled’ as I wanted to (must let go of expectation) I noticed that I floated to my car. I didn’t want to talk on the phone. I walked slowly. I felt calm. I didn’t want to listen to music or stimulate my mind or body.
What I have learnt about these floating experiences is that every time it is a totally different experience but I always feel calmer, more centered and more ‘me’. It’s a great way to carve some time out for yourself and do your body a little favour in a beautiful inner city environment.