Is this the cure for stress? What it’s like spending 90 minutes in a sensory deprivation tank
I remember being targeted by a stream of ads for sensory deprivation tanks shortly after watching Stranger Things. Marketed as the newest, hippest way to meditate and relax, it piqued my interest until I learned that each session costed $100 and up. I filed it under my mental folder of bougie treatments I can’t afford, and haven’t thought about it again until our managing editor, Den, asked me to try it some weeks back. The newly opened Saltwater Float Center in Ortigas invited us for a session and I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to access the upside down to de-stress from work.
Going inside the Saltwater Float Center in Ortigas, I was welcomed by a video of Steph Curry talking about floats. The NBA superstar is apparently a big fan and uses it to unplug from the noise and distractions of daily life. The receptionist welcomed me into the facility, introduced the floats, and gave me a liability waiver and professional agreement. Basically, I am not allowed to use the tank if:
I have not showered thoroughly and still have oils, creams, or makeup on my body
I have had any type of hair color/treatment in the past two weeks
I am under the influence of drugs or alcohol
I have a communicable skin disease or open sores
I am diabetic, unless my diabetes is under medical control
I have a history of heart trouble, epilepsy, seizures, or blackouts and have not obtained a doctor’s permission to use the floatation tank
I am experiencing a heavy menstrual period or external vaginal episode
I have a condition which may be adversely affected by cutaneous absorption of magnesium
I have a kidney disease
I have incontinence, or voluntarily/involuntarily release of body fluids of any kind
Any violation of these rules which causes contamination of the float tank solution will fine me anywhere from P10,000 to P25,000!!! You best believe that I had the most careful shower of my life that day.
A single float session costs P2,800 while the double float (one for you and one for a friend) is slightly discounted at P4,500. It’s significantly cheaper than what they charge abroad but still a lot of money if you ask me. Saltwater floating did claim a long list of wonderful benefits that could be worth your money. The float offers deep relaxation, stress and pain relief, anxiety treatment, mood improvement, deepened meditation and mindfulness, improve blood circulation, reduce blood pressure, and greatly improved sleep.
They only have two rooms housing a tank each in the facility so you really have to book your sessions ahead. The receptionist showed me to my room and briefed me about the floating. She also provided me with a floating kit – a basket with a floater pillow, ear plugs, a towel, a spray bottle of fresh water (in case you get salt in your eyes), and a bottle of drinking water. Each room is equipped with a shower room with shampoo and body wash provided. There are no facial cleansers or makeup removers so it’s best to go bare faced for your float session. After showering, there’s a button inside the tank that I was told to press when I was ready to float. Once the relaxing music starts, that would signal the start of my session. All sound goes away in 15 minutes though, and only resumes about five minutes towards the end of the session.
Each floatation pod is 8 feet long, 5 feet wide, and filled with 12 inches of water and a thousand pounds of Epsom salt. The density is said to be higher than the Dead Sea, which allows your body to float effortlessly inside the tank. The water is kept at the average skin temperature of 34 degree Celsius so you become one with the water. You can keep the lid of the tank either open or closed, and choose to do the float with or without the changing lights inside the tank. Without touch, gravity, sight, and sound, studies say that your mind begins to relax and lower its levels of cortisol – the main chemical component of stress.
As I got into the tank, my first thought was of how hard it was to sit upright in the water. I bobbed up and down around like a duck floater until I finally gave up and just lay down. I found a relaxing balance while half of my body effortlessly floated to the surface. So if you’re worried about not knowing how to float, don’t be because the saltwater makes you very buoyant.
The second observation came in shortly after, and it was one of horrifying discomfort as I felt a burning sensation in my privates. I had a mild episode of panic thinking that I was sick and something was wrong with my lady parts. That panic grew even more as I thought about the fine I would have to pay in case I contaminated the water!!! The pain did go away after a few minutes but would recur every time I’d reposition myself. I’ve since learned after that it is a normal experience for some women due to the saltwater disrupting the delicate pH balance of the area.
Admittedly, I felt the experienced turned eerie once the music stopped. I was told that the floater and ear plugs were optional so I left them in my basket, until my ears filled with water and the static noise grew louder and louder in my head. I got up, got the floater and ear plugs, and repositioned myself again. After another bout of trying different positions, bouncing around like the DVD logo, and finally finding my stillness, I began to finally relax.
I didn’t have many thoughts after because I had fallen asleep before I knew it. I woke up not knowing where my body ended and the water began. This must be how it feels like to be suspended in jelly! Moving my hands to my stomach, I was beginning to feel salt solidifying on my skin. I kept still for another few minutes, closed the tank lid and my eyes, and floated around in silence. And then the music started to play and a voice recording told me that my session was over.
I got out of the tank, took a shower, and went out of my room as the last customer in the facility. The receptionist was surprised that I used up the full 90 minutes as some people don’t, apparently. Outside of the float rooms, there was another room at the back with another restroom and some grooming essentials (worth mentioning: they have the P21,000 Dyson Supersonic Hairdryer!!!). I dried my hair, finished my water, and went home. I fell asleep through my 90-minute Grab ride and woke up in front of my doorstep feeling parched and sore in places, as if I had just done a hundred laps in an Olympic-sized pool. I drank another glass of water, skipped my skincare (I know!), and went straight to bed. I didn’t wake up until noon the next day.
Was the experience worth blowing 2,800 pesos for? I associate relaxation and de-stressing with spa treatments, so massages and body scrubs are more my jam. But if you have the money and have been curious since forever, it’s worth giving floating a shot! It gives you the space and environment for mindfulness, so the floating tank provides a unique and effective way to meditate as the lack of sensory inputs keeps your brain focused.
Saltwater Float Center is located at the Ground Floor, The Sapphire Bloc, Garnet Road, Ortigas Center. You can reach them at 0927 499 0888 for appointments, and follow their Facebook page for updates.