"The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness." - Sakyong Mipham
Last Sunday I spent my morning with Beyond Rest at their new centre in Wembley. The concept of an 'isolation' or floatation tank for sensory deprivation was developed by neuropsychiatrist John C. Lilly all the way back in 1954 (!) but they have become increasingly popular in recent years as interest in alternative medicine and meditation has grown.
What is a floatation tank?
Well, it's basically a huge, enclosed bathtub. When I first saw it I was a bit worried about feeling claustrophobic - but once inside, in the dark, when I could feel the space above and around me, I didn't feel that way at all. Beyond Rest's tanks are bigger than most (6'11" long) so you can be pretty tall and still fit comfortably.
What are the benefits?
The tank is filled with epsom salts, so lying in the tank for an hour is good for muscle tension and pain, and people with rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension and chronic pain have used floating to help with these. But the main benefit of floating is not physical - it's mental. Lying in a tank, weightless, in the complete darkness essentially helps with relaxation and meditation.
What was it like?
It was SO GOOD. Weird, but so good. Lying in the tank and floating is like nothing I'd ever felt before, almost as if gravity didn't exist and I was floating in space. Time seems to last forever and also no time at all - obviously you know you're going to be in there for an hour but I could not tell at any point whether I'd been in there for 5 minutes or 35.
They play music for you at the start to help you get into the groove of things, and at the end to bring you out. I asked them to play music for the whole duration of my float, because I know I meditate better when I've got some music playing (and I didn't want to just listen to myself breathing for the whole time) but I think after I try it out a few times I might not need the music anymore.
Towards the end of the hour I found myself drifting into an almost-asleep state for a few minutes. When the light came on in the pod I was genuinely disappointed because it was so peaceful in there! Other things I loved: they have a range of Sukin (vegan) bathroom products, which made showering afterwards a total dream because I could wash my hair properly - and trust me, you'll want to wash your hair after this. They also have a super cute post-float room where you can drink some water and tea, read a book, listen to music or just spend a few more moments of quiet before you go back out to the real world.
Absolutely can't wait to go back !