Thinking About Floating? The Truth about Float Tanks

The world of ‘floating’ is often a misunderstood one. The idea conjures visions of hippies holding hands and talking about spiritual out-of-body experiences after their recent experience in a float tank or pool. Although people have described the experience as the ‘losing of one’s body’, the purposes and benefits of the experience are ones that are starting to filter into the mainstream.

One of the world’s biggest proponents of float tanks is sports commentator and stand up comedian Joe Rogan. 

“The first time you do it you’re just figuring out this very unique experience, because that’s what it is. It’s something we are not used to in this world where we have never been more stimulated than we are today. So to just suddenly immerse yourself into this place where it’s just you and your mind can be very confronting. You need a couple of attempts to get good at it and then start getting the real benefits. Like anything, it takes a bit of practice but it is without doubt the most important tool I use for developing my mind today.”

Like many other advocates of the floating experience, Joe’s focus is mainly on the mental benefits associated with floating. His point about our society never being more stimulated is maybe the most important when it comes to why should we potentially all give this a go?

“I think everyone should be made to do it. People are scared of being alone with their thoughts for an hour. An hour! How is that a good thing that we are so uncomfortable with ourselves and what our minds are able to do that we can’t stomach it for an hour of our lives? That we need to be distracted all the time…that to me isn’t a healthy thing.”

Maybe the concept of self thought, the idea of really just letting everything else go and allowing your mind to run is so foreign to us in our smartphone, digital, everything now world, that that’s why the concept of floating is so misunderstood. Instead of saying, “Why would anyone want to do that?” We should be asking, “Where can I find that?”

If anything, in our busy corporate world of today the idea of float or wellness centres makes complete sense. Instead of driving for two hours to find a quite spot in a nature reserve, or walking a trail to get to the top of a isolated peak (both of which often require days or weeks of planning to fit into our busy schedules), we can now immediately access this part of ‘real’ relaxation efficiently and quickly without much disruption to our day.

Whether you call it meditation, decompartmentalising, relaxation or internal perspective, author Doe Zantamata describes the importance of doing nothing in a simple yet important way:

’Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective.”

We have been taught that in order to succeed, we have to be busy. That the most successful people in the world are the ones that never stop, never sleep, are always on the go. Maybe that’s true, but we were never told about what or if those successful people do to rest or relax. What do they do to recover effectively from their schedule?

“I like to describe it as taking a moment to have a seminar on my life. It gives me a chance to evaluate the way I think and to learn a new way to think. That’s not saying I enter a new consciousness or some other bull****, but it helps me optimise my thinking and there’s nothing bad that can come of that,” says Rogan.

“You will learn more about yourself in a float tank than you will anywhere else in that amount of time. For some people that’s terrifying but if that’s how you feel, I would argue that you need it more in that case! Facing yourself is extremely important. It takes you out of your own s*** and makes you a lot more compassionate, and for want of a better word, connected or concerned about others. That’s the best way I can describe the mental side of it. But besides that component it’s amazing for your body in terms of muscle and joint relaxation.”

The combination of mental and physical relaxation and recovery is what is mainstreaming the concept of floating more than ever before. For example, sports scientists and physiologists can now combine techniques of visualisation and muscle recovery into one session, whereas in the past those two recovery and preparation techniques used to be separated between a classroom and massage bed.

Muscle growth and strengthening takes place during relaxation, usually 30-40 hours after the exercise. The deep relaxation of something like a float tank enhances blood circulation and the growth of the muscle tissue. This not only enhances rehabilitation but also healing and recovery from injuries. It also allows the person to manage pain more effectively by removing the pressure from sore muscles and joints.

As we continue to develop new technologies, new medicines, and new ways of getting the most out of ourselves as a species, maybe approaches to relaxation and recovery will become more relevant to our everyday lives. Float/wellness centres will start to become more commonplace as we start to understand the importance of what our bodies and minds need in terms of recovery from this search for optimisation. Instead of swimming pools or ping ping tables, homes and offices will have float tanks. Maybe instead of distracting ourselves from ourselves, we’ll start to understand the importance of taking time to look in and truely let go.

Photo credit: Marco De Waal @marco_de_waal

Photo credit: Marco De Waal @marco_de_waal