The first thing I thought of when I heard about sensory deprivation tanks was Prince, because doesn't he have one of those in his house or something? (As it turns out, no, he doesn't; it was Michael Jackson and a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, but whatever, same idea).
The second thing I thought was that I 100% had to try it even though I'm a little afraid of the dark, don't really like baths, and am very fidgety. That said, I am also a little lacking in impulse control, so I googled "sensory deprivation tank toronto" and booked an appointment at Float for that night.
The tank has a door on it like the ones submarines have in old movies, and once closed it is pitch black and completely sound proof. A little spooky, but totally worth it as far as I’m concerned.
I'm terribly slouchy, and tend to hold my shoulders up and forward, like I stopped shrugging halfway and just stayed there forever. The first thing I noticed when walking home was that I was standing upright, my shoulders were relaxed, and it felt natural. Even now, days later, standing and walking with proper posture feels right. And when I do slouch, I can actually tell that I’m slouching, whereas before it just felt like my natural stance. This is a lasting result that, besides the in the moment quiet and relaxation, makes me definitely want to do it again.
Should you find yourself wanting to be closed off in a watery soundproof vault for an hour, here are some things you may want to know:
1. Getting into the tank is horrifying
Horrifying! The door is placed on an angle, so when you're lying in the tank it ends up being above your head, and all I could think of once I closed it was "holy shit what if my arms aren't strong enough to open it again?!" I immediately started flailing around in the dark trying to find the handle, and when I found it I was very relieved to find that even my sad noodle arms could swing the door back open no problem. Crisis averted.
2. You'll get up close and personal with your heartbeat
Once in the tank, I became especially aware of my heartbeat. Not just the sound (though it is really the only thing you can hear in there), but the actual beat. Every time I thought of something a little panicky (What if I fall asleep - will I drown? What if this super salt gets in my eyes? What if this is really the intro to a Criminal Minds episode and a serial killer comes in and locks the door?), I actually felt my heartbeat speed up, and then go back to normal once the thought passed. It was cool to be that in touch with my body and its stress responses.
3. It’s a little trippy
Something about the combination of dark, silence, and water made me feel like Wilson drifting away from Tom Cruise in the ocean. And while you're obviously not actually moving, it really, really feels like you're moving. This is a cool feeling once you relax into it, but is definitely a little disconcerting at first.
4. You've never experienced dark like this
Once inside, it made absolutely no difference whether my eyes were open or closed. It's that dark. It's the kind of dark that made you run in fear from the light switch to your bed and right under your covers as a kid (or adult, nobody's judging). Though oddly, I think the fact that I was nestled in a cozy little metal cocoon made this a little easier to deal with.
5. You have muscles you’ve never felt before
For skeptics who, like me, have a hard time believing the “no gravity” claims these tanks make: the salt actually does hold you up. Completely. And realizing this allows you to relax every muscle one by one until you start relaxing things you didn’t even know were tense. Like the muscles in your wrists that keep your hands from just flopping around like jello whenever you move your arms. You can relax those!
Overall, I’d say do it. After the initial 10 minutes of sheer panic, the quiet is amazing and the absolute darkness is something new and nice. At best you’ll leave feeling like a whole new person, and at worst you’ll have a great story to tell about that time you willingly locked yourself in a warm, salty, metal tomb.