Our mission at Sirens & Scoundrels is to go find every cool off-the-beaten-path adventure and bring it back to you so you can try it yourself. As a meditation teacher, I’m always especially curious about anything that promotes increased presence and self-awareness. So what do those things have to do with locking your naked self in a pitch-black soundproof weightless saltwater chamber voluntarily? Well, step inside and let us show you…
Sensory deprivation tanks originated back in the 1950’s as a means to research the brain’s dependence—or lack thereof—on external stimuli. What they discovered is that controlled sensory deprivation (the removal of all external stimulation) over short periods of time had the same effects as entering a meditative state—moving from beta or alpha brainwaves into theta waves for deep relaxation. Starting in the 1980’s, centers began providing float tanks to the public seeking their restorative and rejuvenating properties.
Over the years, we have heard about several float centers in L.A. But we knew the time had come to dive in with the opening of Just Float in Pasadena—the world’s largest float center, right here in our own backyard. Unlike the small pods that are used at many spas, Just Float has custom-designed eleven private float tank rooms. Each room is equipped with its own shower, dressing area and amenities. The private float tank inside is a huge walk-in chamber big enough to stand in (thankfully for all of us claustrophobes) filled with about a foot of heavily salted room temperature water to keep you buoyantly floating on the water’s surface with zero effort on your part.
Stepping into Just Float, you immediately begin to feel your stresses melt away. The quiet, immaculately clean spa environment and friendly staff instantly make you feel more at peace and put your mind at ease. Be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early so you can fill out your paperwork and watch the short video that explains the floating experience. This is a helpful step in the process—you get just enough pertinent information to understand the logistics of what is about to happen, without laying on too much expectation for your personal experience. If you get a chance to say hi to the owner, Jim, we highly recommend it. Jim has a passion for floating that is contagious and his genuine care is so evident that you can’t help but feel inspired to just completely relax and give in to the gift he’s about to give you. This is a man on a beautifully peaceful mission who clearly practices what he preaches.
From the lobby, you’ll be led to your own private room where you take a pre-shower with provided shampoo and body wash. (HOT TIP: We recommend shaving the day before your float, not on the day. The water has very high salt content and can sting if you’re too freshly shaven.) We also recommend using your time in the shower to start letting your mind settle and your cares fall away from you. Treat it as part of your meditative experience so that you’re already “in the zone” when you step into the chamber. After your shower, open up the door to the float tank and step on in. They provide ear plugs if you need them, as well as a spray water bottle and towel in case you ever need to wipe the saline water from your face. They have truly thought out every step to ensure your maximum comfort. Once inside, you close the door while soft spa music plays and dim lights shine overhead. Lay down in the tank and push the large white button on the side to turn off the lights and begin your float. The music will fade away on its own. You also have the option to leave the music on, as well as the lights, according to your comfort level. But we recommend going full blackout to really get the most from the experience. The chamber is pitch black and silent while the water holds you effortlessly. You can move your hands for a bit, but it feels great to just let them float where they wish and then stay there—your entire body perfectly held and supported by the warm water without you having to do anything.
Now this is where every experience will differ. It’s something that truly cannot be explained, just has to be experienced, because it is unique to each individual and will be different every single time. I always advise my meditation students not to “chase experiences”—meaning that each time you sit to meditate, you are a different person with a different set of circumstances and you will never have the same meditation twice, so don’t try to. Just go with whatever shows up as it shows up—there is no “one right way”. It’s the same with a float session. The whole point is to be absolutely present. The benefit of the chamber is that it acts like a fast track to presence by removing all distractions for you so you don’t even have to think about it.
But if you do find yourself in your head as you start your session (which I did after a morning of running around), just take care of yourself so that you can make the most of your session. When I felt my mind ricocheting away, I just took a brief moment to sit up, connect to my breath and get grounded into my body in the darkness BEFORE slipping into the water. Taking 2 minutes to do this up at the top allowed me to just melt away peacefully for the next 58. When the soft music and lights came back on to signal the end of my session, I was surprised at how quickly the time seemed to have passed and suddenly understood why experienced floaters will do two hour sessions. Once you hit the yummy spot, you really wanna stay there for a while.
Once your session is ended, you have 15 minutes to shower again and wash off any salty residue, get dressed and come outside. There is a lounge with hair products and blow dryers if you need to get ready for your next destination and a relax room with tea, adult coloring books and a spa journal if you would like to make note of your experience afterwards. Flipping through the journal and reading about other people’s floats is pretty fascinating and makes you feel like you’re taking part in something much bigger.
After my float, I felt like I was gliding on air. I had such a deep sense of peace and relaxation that I was almost giddy. I just felt lighter in every single sense of the word. I can see why people keep coming back for more. And with monthly package deals that can even be split between two people, it’s a surprisingly very do-able option. I personally already have my next trip planned and can’t stop telling people about this place. Because, really, if you have the opportunity to literally lighten up your entire mind, body and soul just by laying in a room for a bit…take it at every chance you can get.
Be sure to subscribe to Sirens & Scoundrels for more Local Adventures delivered straight to you! Enter your email address on our home page & hit “SUBSCRIBE”! For exact hours, scheduling & pricing, visit Just Float’s website: http://justfloat.com.
Words by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl
© 2016 Sirens and Scoundrels
Nice blog. Thanks for sharing about the sensory deprivation chamber.