“Float spas” and sensory deprivation tanks are one way adventurous spa seekers are really getting away from it all this year. Like, all external stimulation—light, sound, everything. This totally engulfing flotation therapy experience been called the “next big thing in mindfulness.” Introverts: this could be your dream spa treatment. Read on, stressed-out Sally.
Flotation therapy, known as perception isolation or Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST), offers an environment so totally free of distractions and external stimuli that you pretty much become unaware of yourself. It’s about achieving deep relaxation and recovery through a seriously meditative experience, but one you can just step right into. Floating promises benefits including lasting calm (it’s been said to lower cortisol levels—the stress hormone), heighten creative thought and increase blood circulation.
Float tanks can be personal-sized pods or enclosed hot tub-like rooms filled with Epsom salt-y water. You get naked, get in, shut the lid and hit a button to turn off the lights and music. And you stay there for an hour. Here’s where it gets weird:
Read one NYMag writer’s takeaways from a spa’s guest book: “Some visitors described experiencing intense relaxation, a state that was almost sleep but not. Some people said they’d hallucinated and had out-of-body experiences. The more colourful reports compared the experience to dying, being reborn, or dying and then being reborn multiple times in the hour.”
Turns out that when you’re not receiving sensory input or dealing with gravity, your mind is free to navigate itself without distraction and so it can generate it’s own stimuli. Hallucinations (visual and auditory) can happen, or unrecognizable images, songs or new ideas might come to you as a result. Floating has actually been proven to generate more creative ideas in folks who try. So, not your run-of-the-mill body massage.
After a session you head back out into world with heightened senses, improved brain function and generally, a renewed perspective. Mediating might be a good way to prep for this, for those who dare. Aside from that, be ready to shell out about $50 to $70 for a single float (comparable to a massage), and don’t shave before you go—salt water can sting shaved or nicked skin.
Here are five spots to try floating in Toronto: