I tried sensory deprivation therapy in a float room, and it wasn't for me

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      I like floating in pools and have a fondness for baths, so I decided to try a float room on the weekend.

      Float rooms or tanks (also known as isolation or sensory deprivation tanks) are plastic pods filled with water and enough Epsom salts so that a person easily floats when lying on his or her back. Typically, there is no sound, smell, or light in the room, and this experience is considered therapeutic and relaxing.

      In Vancouver, float therapy is still relatively new, but it seems to be on the rise. Last year, Float House opened in Gastown and Kitsilano. I went to Pure Float (1197 Howe Street), which opened downtown recently.

      After a quick orientation of the spa, I was shown one of two float rooms. The room had a place to store my belongings and a shower area that led to the separated float room. I was told to shower before getting into the water and wear ear plugs so that the salt wouldn’t bother my ears. After a few more instructions about how to turn the lights on and off from within the float room and what to do if I got salt water in my eyes, my Pure Float attendant left the room for my one hour session.

      I stripped down completely, which is recommended since bathing suits can sometimes cause pressure on the body. After showering, I inserted the earplugs and stepped into the water. The float room was white but lighting inside the pod made everything appear blue. The water was warm and actually quite shallow, reaching below my knees, and the roof of the tank had blue and yellow star-like lights.

      I was told that I could either close the door of the float room and be enclosed completely, or leave it open since it sometimes gets a bit hot. Since I was slightly worried about feeling claustrophobic, I left the tank door ajar. I also decided to not switch off all the lights and left the starry lights on. The idea of lying in a pool of water, naked, in complete darkness sounded slightly nightmarish to me.

      I sat in the middle of the float room first before extending my legs and lying down. Magically, I was floating...but also I was stinging. Turns out, I had some cuts and scrapes on my legs and hands, and that saying about “pouring salt on a wound”? Well, it’s true. It was hard for me to relax as I waited for the stinging to stop, but eventually it sort of did.

      Floating was an interesting experience. At one point, my ankle joint cracked when I moved my foot, and that sound magnified in the water. My skin felt cool and tingly, and I did lose sense of where I was floating within the room (I’d occasionally lightly bump into one of the walls, and my guess is that the room was around 6 feet wide and 8 feet long).

      I have no idea how long I lay there, but it wasn’t the full hour I had booked since I was told that music would play in my room once my time was up. After a while, I started to feel a bit nauseous, so I stepped out of the float room to shower the Epsom salts off me before getting dressed to leave.

      The lights in my room were softly dimmed, so when I stepped back outside into daylight, my eyes—and my head, in general—felt “funny”. To be honest, I felt a little bit high and disoriented, which I read later can happen to some people in isolation tanks. A part of me did feel relaxed at some points, but I was also nervous and tense because of how new and strange the experience was to me.

      Would I recommend sensory deprivation therapy to others? Sure, if the idea of floating alone in water sounds appealing and relaxing to you. It isn't for everyone, obviously, but it’s worth a try if you’re curious.

      Update: a previous version of this blog post referred to "float tanks"; however, Pure Float offers "float rooms".




      Dec 1, 2014 at 6:29pm

      What a poor article... no... review... wait... story? Journal entry! What is this? Do you even know what sensory deprivation is about? What was your goal in trying this out?

      Chris Burnett

      Dec 1, 2014 at 6:36pm

      I love the feeling of floating. So relaxing....clears the mind. The purest sleep possible :)

      Free your mind

      Dec 1, 2014 at 9:29pm

      man that was a bad review ... Critique?
      Perhaps you could have researched prior to your assignment.

      The way your eyes adjusted to the light hardly is part of the experience

      Leaving the light on and door open is like sitting in a bath, not a proper float.


      Dec 1, 2014 at 10:56pm


      I think her goal was to try it out and see what she got from it, and then write her opinion so that you could be a dick about it.

      James Blatchford

      Dec 2, 2014 at 4:32am

      Thanks for sharing your isolation tank experience...did you happen to run into our provincial premier? She's missing.


      Dec 2, 2014 at 10:18am

      Floating is a practice. For most people it takes at least 3 sessions to get orientated and fully comfortable with the ancient practice of entering into a sensory reduced space (such as a cave, temple, pyramid or sweat lodge), the float tank is a modern day refinement of this truly unusual yet potentially beautiful experience. In a chronically over-stimulated materially driven world, it can be a haven for some people to go into a space where the perception of form is gone for a period of time. Ironically sensory deprivation actually heightens your senses. You come out more aware of your self and your surroundings.
      I would encourage the author to try it again, now that the initial experience is complete the next ones will most definitely be very different. The novelty and unawareness of what to expect is no longer there and you can dive deeper into the actual experience instead of worrying about superficial things like stinging salt or when is the music coming on. This practice of floating is truly the art of letting go, something we all could do better at. Eventually you'll have to let everything go in this life, no body makes it out alive ;). So consider it something different, something deeper, perhaps inquire as to why you feel uncomfortable simply being just with yourself, alone, and unstimulated.
      Like the first yoga class or workout in a gym, there is no way you'll get the full experience of floating after just one shot... It's simply not going to happen. Try it again, relatively soon, as there is a learning curve and an accumulation effect with floating.

      Nicholas Trainor

      Dec 2, 2014 at 10:28am

      It's only scary if you allow your mind to make it so. A floatation tank is my healing sanctuary that clears my work week out of my mind, and relaxes my body beyond any massage ever has.


      Dec 2, 2014 at 10:43am

      The mind is a very powerful thing. In a float tank, it's easy (and in many cases, our default response) to allow our minds to become agitated. Similar to yoga or working out, there are periods of said agitation when the mind tries to hold on and require control all of the time. This is experienced when putting down the weights at the gym just as the lactic acid begins to set in, or leaving a posture early in yoga because it's 'too difficult', or getting out of a float tank for various reasons. Learning to relax into 'nothingness' and allowing yourself the space and time to be with your thoughts is a beautiful, beautiful experience. Floating, without exaggeration, IS for every single person, as long as they can remain open and let go of control. The health benefits are practically innumerable!

      Derek Gray

      Dec 2, 2014 at 10:56am

      I am an avid floater and had the chance to tried out the float rooms at Pure Float last week and LOVED it. Compare to the tanks, the rooms are much more spacious and the air is less humid.

      Agreed you probably should have done some research prior to floating especially if it was your first time. Shaving prior to floating is definitely not a good idea... and the whole floating experience is about "sensory deprivation" so you need to deprive all your senses, meaning no lights!

      Yet another circle...

      Dec 2, 2014 at 10:58am

      My partner and I were trying to decide if this is the fourth or fifth iteration of this "new" experience in popular culture. Heck the Simpsons already did it over a decade ago in an earlier trend cycle. Do it, don't do it, whatever just don't pretend the folks selling this aren't in it for the money or that it isn't a retrend.