Winter Relaxation: Hello Darkness

A Step-by-Step Guide to Float Tanks

Sensory deprivation for dummies.

By Marty Patail December 20, 2016 Published in the January 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

Pomo 0117 winter relax float tank iecjdh


Complete darkness. Undrinkable water. 

No light or sound. Relaxing? Well, yes actually. According to Heather Hatch of Float On, winter is one of the best times to come visit the SE Hawthorne float tank center’s six sensory deprivation tanks. The chamber’s body-tuned temperature feels especially cozy. Here, the four stages of Float On.

Stage 1

 “Um, what do I do?”

You don’t need to bring anything. You go into your own room, which contains a tank and a shower. Robes, soap, shampoo, makeup remover, and optional earplugs are provided. When you’re clean and scent-free, step into the tank, dimly lit on the inside. Close the door, press a button on the side of the tank, and welcome the blackness.

Stage 2:

“I’m doing this wrong.”

Floating is easy: the top third of your body, including your face and toes, sits above the waterline thanks to the water’s salt content. If you’re tall (I’m about six-foot), the hard part is centering yourself without bumping into walls. Remain still and don’t push off the walls when you hit them—you’ll just bump into the other side.

Stage 3:

“I keep dozing off.”

After I finally stopped bouncing off walls, I fell asleep. Much to my relief, Hatch says this is normal, and there’s no way you can accidentally drown. “We see it all the time,” she says. “If you need sleep, you’ll get sleep.”

Stage 4:

“Whooaa. Dude.”

I finally achieved a semblance of enlightenment. In particular, a nagging worry took on a less menacing, more manageable shade. Floating "lowers your cortisol levels,” explains Hatch. “It’s common to be relieved of stress.” My life was unchanged, but when the light music—let’s call it “Classic Spa”—signaled the end of my 90-minute float ($65), I felt invigorated all the same. 

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