I eat ice cream on most days. My Spotify never stops. I travel as often as possible. Most yoga I teach incorporates partner acrobatics. I hopped in the Sensory Overload Chamber (below) long before giving sensory deprivation a passing thought.
Needless to say, I'd never thought about external sensory deprivation as a means of internal relaxation. Ashtanga yoga has always been my go-to for "controlling the fluctuations of the mind," which is the traditional purpose of the practice. In order to calm the whirring thoughts, breath control is used to complete primary practice, which takes about as long as a floating session. By the time I get to rest, or shavasana, I've been focusing on my breathing and alignment for at least 75 minutes prior. Blissful? Absolutely. Meditative? Often, but not without completing a series of poses that could double as my audition to circus school.
Back to sensory deprivation. The thought of hopping in a pod that takes away all the distractions, without taking me to my physical limits first? I was intimidated by the thought.
It was mostly curiosity that led me to the reception area at Float Yaletown. As I sat there, thoughts like, "what if I can't relax?" and "what if I fall asleep?" crossed my mind. I'd talked to two people who didn't like it... "what if I hate it?"
Then I laughed. Watching myself run through the hypotheticals and rationalize my possible behavior in a space that only existed to relax people is the beauty of trying something new. Clearly, anything can happen, even when the goal is to make nothing happen for 90 minutes.
New situations allow us to recognize our tendencies, and better equip us to navigate future unknowns, no matter how big or small they feel at the time.
Diving into it allows us to think past the initial reaction of, "I guess I know myself." It helps us evolve the way we think.
Nothing like pondering the magic of neuroplasticity in a waiting room.
After a couple minutes, I'm brought back to my room -- all wood & stone everything. It's very zen, except for the glowing, futuristic, white pod taking up 70% of the space. There's a stone shower to rinse off in, a robe, towels, two kinds of earplugs (go for the wax ones), and petroleum jelly to cover any battle wounds you might be sporting.
Inside the tank, there's a spray bottle of fresh water and a towel in case things get salty (you're floating in Epsom salt, by the way), and a mini pool noodle for added neck support. There are also adjustable light settings, as well as a music button, just in case you want to bring back two of the senses.
So there I am, external distraction-free, entirely alone, comfortably naked, and I've got 90 minutes to do whatever I please.
I stepped into the water and was immediately rushed back to the feeling of entering the Dead Sea for the first time. To say the least, it was trippy. Climbing into what resembled an alien incubator, only to feel like I was floating in the Dead Sea, except it's glowing like a European trance club? Hardly deprivation. Ultimately, I found the experience to be more like a sensory modification pod.
After a few slow breaths, light show changes, and fiddling with the pool noodle, I started to drift away. The appeal of floating quickly became clear: it's a space to exist without the temptation of distraction. In a way, it's a lot like showing up to your mat. What happens once you get there is up to you. Breathe deep, float in circles, bounce off of the walls, sing, take a nap, or simply experience the subtle sensations of something unusual. What you can't do? Check your phone, change the song, hear construction work outside, get a snack, or look at your nails... all of which were welcomed limitations of the experience.
When it was over, soft music came on to let me know I had five minutes left. I rinsed off, got dressed, and wandered back out into the "real world," which felt a lot less real, and a lot less serious this time around. Spending 90 minutes in your own head just might do that to you, and I'd recommend the change of perspective to anyone who's ever felt like they get "too caught up in it all" sometimes.
All in all? The Dead Sea rocks if you happen to be in the Middle East, but on a two-hour lunch break, floating is a worthwhile endeavor. Do it for the newness, and don't expect to feel any type of way. Just let whatever happens happen. Practicing non-attachment to the outcome of a situation is a great use of 90 minutes as it stands.
Pro tip: Clean your ears in the shower after you're finished, or they might be full of dried salt when you get home. Live and learn.