Meditation too un-geeky for you? Try flotation therapy

We soothe our nerves with a ‘float’ at Delhi-based Liquid Sanctuary

Traffic, angry bosses, power cuts. City life is stressful. That’s why we found ourselves heading to Delhi’s first floatation therapy centre for a quick ‘e-detox’.

Say ‘aye’ if this makes you think of Eleven’s sensory deprivation tank. Yeah, we knew that. Cinematic license apart, there’s something inherently geeky about floatation tanks that makes us prefer this to stuff like meditation or yoga (it’s also less work on your part).

 

What is it

As you’d remember from our visit to Bengaluru’s 1000Petals, floatation tanks (or sensory deprivation tanks) make for some great anti-stress therapy (by drawing your body and mind into a deep state of relaxation). And now, there’s good news for Dilliwallas sick of the capital’s legendary traffic and noise - the city’s first  floatation centre, Liquid Sanctuary, is now open.

 

The science behind it

Before we get into how sensory deprivation (or ‘Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy’) works, a word on Epsom salts. These salts are what make you float in a floatation tank (around 1500lb needed). Rich in magnesium, these are supposed to help alleviate headaches, body aches, muscle cramps and inflammation.

But the real ‘magic’ of floatation therapy lies in how you’re isolated from your surroundings. Partially submerged in a tank of water that’s kept at the same temperature as your body, with no external stimulus (no lights or sounds), your body and mind start to ‘slow down’. And while it might sound like black magic, it works - several studies have shown how a ‘float session’ can cut down on stressful thoughts, making it easier to achieve a meditative state. In fact, some researchers also suggest float therapy could be a way to treat PTSD and other stress-related disorders.

At the most basic level, being cut off from external stimuli slows your brain down - it’s free to stop worrying about stuff from your daily routine. This results in your brain waves moving from alertness (‘Beta’ and ‘Alpha’ states) to one associated with meditation (‘Theta’). At the same time, deprived of external stimuli, your brain might start creating its own - some studies show it makes your brain’s creative centres more active, making it a great way to jumpstart creative ideation and problem solving.

What was it like

No scary X-Men imagery. No Stranger Things spookiness. Liquid Sanctuary looks like a plush spa - it’s bright, airy and has a cheerful vibe. They’ve got two tanks here (₹3500-5000 for a one hour session) - one done up in a manner reminiscent of a luxury spa, the other with forest-theme decor. The tank here is an open one (not the closed clamshells we’d expected), which should make things a lot better if you’re the claustrophobic sort. It’s all very soothing even before you get into the tank.

But I’m here to check out what it feels like. A shower in the attached dressing room and then it’s time to scramble into the tank. There’s gentle music piped through (you can turn that off) and skylight and in-tank LEDs (you can turn those off as well). At first, there’s the whole novelty of floating in water that’s very sci-fi in a way.  But as the music being piped through (you can play your own - say, your fav prog rock album or a language learning CD) lulls me into a state of relaxation (deadlines? What deadlines?), I begin to see what it’s about. Turn off the lights and music and I begin to descend deeper into what seems like a waking trance. Some people report auditory hallucinations. For a second there I thought the forest / ambient track was still being played (it wasn’t).

An hour over, the music starts again and it’s time to get out and head back to the real world. But as I get out of the Liquid Sanctuary premises, I realise that no, I’m not worrying about driving through a crazy gridlock, or whether I’d turned the aircon off before leaving in the morning. I’m just ‘there’. Sounds rather trippy-hippie-newagey?  Hey, it seems to work.