My husband’s company was having a big meeting in Nashville, TN. It was right on the heels of an extra busy time at work for me, so we booked an extra ticket and I joined him for a mini-vacation (for me). Since I had the days to myself, I did some research about what I should do around town.
Float Nashville came up as one of the best-rated Nashville businesses on Yelp. I had never heard of flotation therapy, so I did some research. Basically, you lie in a pitch-black and completely silent tank filled with about ten inches of water and 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts. And you just…float.
According to the Float Nashville website (and research), floating can help with stress, pain, anxiety, muscle recovery, and sleep issues. Plus, it can be great for meditation and boosting creativity.
I was intrigued and impressed by the reviews, but didn’t book a session right away. But when I had a bad week, complete with an eyebrow twitch that just wouldn’t quit, I scheduled a 90-minute float for my first full day in Music City.
Here’s what happened:
After checking in, I was shown to my dimly lit (private) room, complete with a bench and hooks for my things, the tank, and a shower. When I was ready, I got undressed, put in wax earplugs, and took a shower with shower gel and shampoo (but not conditioner!).
Then, I opened the tank and got in. I was warned that there is no graceful way to enter the tank and I can confirm this. I closed the door behind me.
There was a little magnetic light on the inside of the tank so that I could get situated. Once I felt comfortable (I chose to use the inflatable pillow provided, but this is not necessary), I turned the light off.
And then I just…floated.
It took me probably five minutes to calm my thoughts and breath and find the best position for my arms (which turned out to be bent, on either side of my head, like a cop had just ordered me to put my hands up). Once I took care of those things, I had 85 minutes to go.
I was struck by the temperature of the water and the tank itself. I thought my exposed skin should be cold because that’s what happens in the bathtub, but it wasn’t. The water and the tank were exactly the temperature of my body. After the temperature, I noticed the weightlessness I experienced. Since the water has so much salt in it, I floated half above and half below the surface. I would experiment with forcing my toes down all the way underwater and letting them bounce back up. I eventually folded my hands and placed them on my belly, but I ended up switching back to my “surrender” position and kept them like that for the majority of my float.
I focused on my breathing, trying to take note each time my mind wandered and redirecting my thoughts to my breathing. I used to meditate fairly regularly for about 30 minutes at a time. 90 minutes is much longer.
My mind wandered a lot. I found myself thinking about work and my professional future, and what I was going to eat for lunch also crept its way into my thoughts on several occasions. What I thought about most, though, was what I was going to say about my float experience. Only half an hour in (I guessed), I thought about if I would recommend it, what I would title this piece, and if I would want a membership at the new flotation therapy place opening up near my office back home. I was being somewhat mindful about my experience, but I wasn’t totally present in the moment: I was thinking about it as if it was already a part of my past.
When I kept perfectly still and succeeded at focusing on my breath, my body would twitch like it does in those moments as you start to fall asleep. Those twitches would wake me up, so to speak, and I’d focus on my breathing again.
When your time is up, music loud enough to be heard in the tank plays; and at some point, I’d had enough. Surely, it’s been close to 90 minutes, I thought. I was relaxed enough, I had done enough thinking (and not thinking), and enough twitching, drifting in and out of pre-sleep. My ears perked up, expecting the “wake up” music to start. I was on alert and agitated, ready to continue my day and finally eat that lunch I had been thinking about.
But the music didn’t come. I calmed myself down again. I got into position, focused on my breathing, and let the womb-like environment carry me back to pre-sleep.
And I stayed there for a while.
Just when both of my biceps twitched in unison, the music blared. It was so jarring, like the sudden assault of my alarm clock, I realized I must have dozed off—or managed to find myself in an unadulterated meditative state of nothingness. So flustered from the sudden arousal from sleep, I practically threw the tank door open and flew out, back into the shower (though I can’t guarantee my exit from the tank was any more graceful than my entry).
While showering again (this time with shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner), I let my heartbeat slow back down and I focused on my breathing again.
As I dried off and got dressed, I was angry with myself for wanting to give up when I felt I’d had enough. I guessed my body was done with relaxing at about the one-hour mark, but once I made it to 90 minutes, I couldn’t imagine cutting my experience short. I wouldn’t have had the chance to savor that last surge of meditative bliss!
I left my room, blow-dried my hair, and sat on the coach in the tiny waiting room while I waited for my Uber to arrive.
It was time for lunch.