Sensory deprivation has long been a tactic for meditation, but research into the benefits of restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) moved into the public eye in the 1950s. It applies the deliberate reduction/removal of stimuli from the senses. John C. Lilly, who explored the effects of sensory deprivation extensively, developed the first isolation tank in 1954. The tank is vast and hosts approximately 200 gallons of body temperature water with around 850lbs of epsom salts, which causes you to bob about like a cork. This treatment provides a quiet sanctuary in which to retreat from the relentless outside world, potentially reducing anxiety and stress. As a burnt-out Londoner with a penchant for alternative wellness treatments, this is a practice that has been on my radar for some time.
I’m welcomed into a private room complete with shower and the enormous clam-like float tank. It’s all extremely high tech and once I’ve had everything explained to me in depth, my guide taps several buttons on the touchscreen by the door and as soon as he’s left, the tank starts filling with water. Coloured lights blink around the edge and soothing music soars from its basin like whale song.
I shower, dry my face thoroughly and lower myself into the tank, complete with a small buoyant pillow. I close the lid and after five minutes, the soothing coloured lights and gentle sound effects fade. It’s pitch black and all I can hear is the sound of my own breathing. I try to remember the last time I experienced this level of silence and solitude as I drift around the tank, forgetting which end is which.
For the first few minutes I work hard to soothe my worries. My mind races, conjuring boogeymen from the darkness. The first third of the session feels achingly slow as I try to ignore all my usual signals to fidget, open the lid and reach for my phone. I’m not someone who finds relaxation easy at all but eventually I relinquish control and fall into a state somewhere between sleeping and waking. Everything slows and my breathing deepens. I feel truly peaceful, like I’m floating through space with no watch, no time constraints or appointments.
Suddenly, my time is up – those final two thirds of the hour zip by unfathomably quickly. Sounds wake me from my trance and the gentle lights fade up. Reluctantly, I open the lid and lift myself from the water, my body slick with salt. It feels like my day has been one long unbroken sentence of to-do lists, meetings and conversations – the sensory deprivation tank offers punctuation. I realise how rare and valuable an hour uninterrupted is in today’s world and I’m already looking forward to my next float.
Yue Float, Trafalgar House, Juniper Drive, SW18 1GY, 020 3579 6100, yuefloat.com
Yue Float also boast a private sauna, state-of-the-art zero gravity massage chairs and an ajna light to aid in meditation.
Picture courtesy of Yue Float and iStock.