Thursday, November 10, 2016

Out of the Box 5: Maria Tries Sensory Deprivation Tank (as seen on Stranger Things)

Photo Credit: Pop Sci 
If you’re up-to-date with pop-culture, you’ve probably seen the TV show Stranger Things and that episode where Eleven was subjected to a sensory deprivation tank. Joe Rogan is trying it, all the hippies are trying it, and now I’ve tried it too! It’s my duty to now report back to you!

Sensory deprivation tank (also known as isolation tank or float tank) was initially invented to promote deep-meditative state, out-of-body experience, and a pain-relief treatment. These tanks contain about 280 gallons of water and 1000 pounds of Epsom Salt. In other words, the water is super dense—as in, 5x denser than the famous Dead Sea! This floatation tank is lightless and soundproof with the goal to shut-off all five senses as a form to meditate, relax, and have an out of body experience.

Back in 1954, John C. Lilly examined the effects of sensory deprivation. He wanted to figure out how to separate the body from the senses (refer to his book, “the deep self"). This study was later revisited by scientists who later renamed sensory deprivation therapy to Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST). Today, the two most colloquial REST methods are Chamber REST and Flotation REST. Both process involve sensory deprivation shutting all five senses; except, those in Chamber Rest lies in a bed, whereas those in Flotation REST lies in a buoyant liquid. For this experience, I chose Flotation REST for a slightly more pizazz experience.

In 2001, scientists investigated whether REST therapy will alleviate muscle tension to those experiencing chronic pain. They enlisted 37 subjects who were suffering from chronic pain, who were then randomly assigned to a control (n=17) or an experimental group (n=20). Those in the experimental group received 9 opportunities to use the flotation-REST techniques over a 3-week period. They found that the most severe perceived pain was drastically reduced, whereas low perceived pain was not impacted at all by floating. Ultimately, they found that such therapy can impact chronic pain suffers temporary pain relief (Kjellgren et al., 2001).  

A more recent study explored the long-term effects of the flotation-REST 4 months after the treatment. They recruited 70 participants (N=70; 54 women and 16 men) who were diagnosed with stress-related pain. Subjects were randomly assigned to either a control group or a flotation-REST group. Those in the floatation-REST group found a decrease in stress, anxiety, depression, and pain. Conversely, there was an increase found in quality of sleep, optimism, and prolactin (a hormone that plays a vital role in sleep). Despite the overall positive outcomes of this study, researchers called out a few limitations in this study. First, they didn’t follow-up with the control group due to financial constraints. Additionally, the small number of prolactin measurement isn’t sufficient (Bood et al., 2016)

Similar to my other conquests, sensory deprivation tank is still considered an alternative medicine. However, unlike the other pseudoscience-like trend that I’ve tried, floatation therapy appeals to me on a meditation standpoint. Think about it, we’re constantly glued to our phones and busy navigating our day-to-day life, when’s the last time that you’ve seriously and consciously shut-off from these distractions? Personally, I can’t recall. I’m hoping to find myself in this process and get in-touch with my subconscious. I’m a very anxiety-driven person and I overthink all the minute details of life. I wanted to subject myself where I’m forced to not think and embrace the silence, and distractions of life.

What to Expect

Floatation at Apotheosis. Photo credit: Apotheosis
Usually, float tanks are chambers where it’s a lot more confined, coffin-like, pitch black darkness with water filled-with epsom salt. The place I went to in Monticello, MN (don’t ask, it was a drunk Groupon purchase, so I traveled for an hour… lol).... =P

Their float room is 8 feet long and 5 feet wide. It features overhead lighting and underwater lighting (which most people turn off; but if you’re afraid, you can leave it on). The water is also skin temperature, so you don’t feel the water, it will feel like you’re simply floating in a near zero gravity environment.

Before you get in the float tank, you’ll have to take a quick shower to remove oils, makeup, and dirt from your body. You’ll do this before and after your session. Once you’re finished showering, you can start your session. Your spa should give you 6 minutes of prep time before they start your session. During that 6 minutes, lights will be on and you can get ready. Once the 6-minutes is up, lights will close and your clock will start. You can wear your swimsuit or your birthday suit, it really doesn’t matter.

In this float room, I decided to float facing the door since it’s a lot narrower that way. I like being coccooned in the corner and bumping in the edges once in a while. Floating in sensory deprivation tank is not the same as floating in a pool. Floating in a pool requires conscious paddling and effort whereas, floating tanks allows you to flow naturally due to the 800-1000 pounds of epsom salt.

The Main Experience

Lights off. Ear plugs in. It’s pitch black. My body naturally floated. It made me anxious for a solid 10-minutes. I was definitely overthinking too much. I was fascinated how I’m actually floating without trying. I tried forcing my weight down but I just keep going back up! It was entertaining, I thought. But I really have to get serious. I took a long and deep breath and attempted not to think.

My arms supported my neck as I float. I was flooded with worry or questions. I was thinking about why I’m doing this. When should I let go of thinking? Will I actually feel tired after 60 minutes? After 5 minutes of excessive worrying, my mind switched to talking to myself. (lol). Logically, I thought, hey, it’s too quiet. Let’s talk. So I tried just talking about my life and what I want and essentially, I figured I should stop talking or thinking for that matter. (If you know me, I’m a chatterbox so quietness intimidates me a little).

It's not until 20-minues of floating (I’m guessing) since I was finally able to let go. All of a sudden, the natural movement of my body no longer bugged me. I forced myself not to open my eyes, and not think. Many equate their floating experience analogous to being in your mother’s womb. Except this time, you’re an adult and have consciousness. You can think of floating as a vacation for your thoughts. Your body will float ever so naturally. As you lay in absolute tranquility, and your muscles/joints/overall body at ease.Essentially, you won’t think about anything. You’ll sleep while floating even. For the first time, your entire body will be completely rested and at ease.


Apotheosis located in Monticello, MN
There were times during my 60-minute float where I was overthinking about how much time I have left. At one point, I thought, shit, I have to do this for 60 minutes?! Once you get into floating however, the time will go by relatively quickly. The blue light will turn back on to signal that your session is over. Since your body is not used to floating—sitting, standing, and opening your eyes will take a while to readjust from the pitch black darkness and weightlessness. Veterans of floating claimed hallucinations or psychedelic like experience. I’ve never really done psychedelic drugs in my life but I could see how veterans of floating experiences this. I’d say, I’ve experience mild-form of out-of-body experience. To me, floating is such an eye-opening experience. It allowed me to let go of all my problems, worries about life, and just…let go. Shutting-off from the world for an hour without seeing or hearing anything sounds terrifying. Though in reality, it’s rejuvenating. After my post-float shower, you walk into this meditation room where you can sit for a while and reflect. I took advantage of that to soak every moment of my post-float high experience.

The Verdict

HIGHLY RECOMMEND. I genuinely have never felt so clear-minded in my life. After I got out of the tank, I was shocked. I was so elated and full of joy. It’s partially due to “I can’t believe I just did that” and also, I’ve never had a chance to reflect/meditate to that extreme. Floating usually cost about $70/60-minute session. But you can get it for cheap (as low as $49) on Groupon for Minneapolis ; (Float with Apotheosis here). I CANNOT wait to go back and do it again. I’m hoping that for my next session, I will be able to relax a lot quicker. It takes a while to adjust, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. I legitimately had the best sleep that night and clearest mind the next morning. I am not endorsing floating as an alternative medicine with the hope of curing whatever ailment you have. I am endorsing it as a mental break from the busy world. Our problems and stresses is mostly mental, but that’s usually the hardest part. It’s worth every dime in my opinion. So if you’re currently stress and need a vacation ASAP but only have $50, this is what you need! I recommend it for everyone! Majority of floaters claims that it’s best to float at night vs day (I floated at night). It definitely calms you down and gets you ready for some good night’s sleep! DO IT!!!!! J

1 comment:

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