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I’ve recently been lucky enough to experience the flotation tank at Float Utila.
I’ve floated before, in the UK, but who would have thought on this tiny little island, with so little going on, I would find the world’s largest flotation tank.
So what’s the skinny on floating? Well everyone knows there are places you can go both natural and artificial that have enough salt in the water that you are completely buoyant. Physically your body is supported therefore relaxing tired muscles, with the water somehow cradling you so that you naturally move so your spine etc sits where it’s supposed to go. The salts in the water are also great for your skin. There’s no denying that floating is great for you body.
I have floated at a fancy spa, in a large room with a swimming pool size flotation area. It had twinkly lights in the ceiling, while the main lights were dimmed and relaxing music was piped through. A lovely relaxing experience, but one you shared with 9 or 10 other people, with you all floating around in a circle. Generally not knocking into each other, but you had to be a bit aware/careful.
Taking floating to the next level, you can bring in the affects of sensory deprivation.
I have floated at Floatworks in London a couple of times, where they have pods. These egg like pods are put in a private room and you essentially shut yourself in when you’re ready to begin your experience. You’re welcome to leave the pod open, but it kind of misses the point of the experience. You are laying in inches of salted water, heated to skin temperature. There is a light inside the pod but for the full impact you should switch this off. So there you are, in an egg shaped pod, laying in water, completely in the dark. With the water cushioning you and seeing nothing, gradually the sense of where you are/how you are positioned fades away. The sensory deprivation comes in because those things that you use to assess your surroundings, such as touch and sight have been lost to you.
Pods are few and far between, being so large, costly and needing to be well looked after, so you don’t get that many opportunities. Living outside of London it was a trek and a cost to visit the flotation centre, so no matter how great the experience, a long, unpleasant commute (as they so often are in London) tends to take the edge off any relaxation or peace of mind.
So, imagine my surprise, when just off the Honduran coast, on a tiny, rustic island, I saw a sign for Float Utila. At first, I assumed someone had brought a pod over to the island, though I imagined that would have been an incredibly awkward thing to do on an island that only gets fresh vegetables twice a week from the mainland, but then I learned it was a specially built tank.
Not only that, but the largest sensory deprivation tank in the world. The tank is created in their self-built wooden home that just out into the Caribbean sea and run by the very lovely and friendly John & Amanda – check out their thorough and interesting information on floating here.
The tank in Utila, is without doubt the best, most extreme float experience I have had and the most beneficial – mentally and physically. The tanks is so large that you can completely stretch out in a star shape and move your limbs around if you choose. I’m particularly short but have no doubt even if you were well over 6 foot you’d have bags of rooms too. It’s bigger than you first realise when you get in. There is a gentle light in there you can leave on if you’re nervous. I had it on for a few minutes, just while I acclimatised. The main thing I was a bit concerned about was the temperature. The island being incredibly hot, the idea of being in a room with no windows or ventilation was a bit off putting but Amanda had assured about the temperature control and she was totally right – during the float temperature was something I didn’t think about once, which is a big deal in a place where you often find yourself cuddling up to a floor standing fan.
When the hour session was up, I found myself completely disorientated (in a good way), and proof of the sensory deprivation as I had no idea which direction was what. I’d floated about and spun around and had lost all awareness of my surroundings. I’d been a little fraught on the island, with staying in a crazy, noisy place and feeling rather inclosed, claustrophobic and frustrated by the tiny place. You’d think shutting myself in a dark box would make me feel even more inclosed but quite the opposite. As you relax and let your mind wander, it’s kind of a liberating, open feeling. Physically, not only did have a really positive impact on the neck/shoulder problem I have had for years but I found real relief from the various aches and pains I had due to dehydration and lack of exercise. I definitely noticed a difference in my limbs which I hadn’t gotten so much in a pod, which I put down to being able to stretch out, gently resting your limbs in various positions.
I went twice in the end (oh how I wish I’d taken the plunge (not literally – it’s not actually deep enough for that) sooner. It was even better the second time as I was more relaxed, already knowing the ins and out – of when it would end with the gentle music flowing in, how to find the corner with the light/door etc. There’s nothing out there comparable to Float Utila – it’s the best floating you can find, so if you found yourself off the Honduran coast I would definitely seek it out. I think I will float again, probably in a pod, but it has been a little spoiled for me by this amazing tank experience, but it was a reminder that sometimes a really effective way to clear your mind (if you’re as rubbish at meditation as I am), is to go somewhere that clears out the outside world for you and it doesn’t get better than floating in the dark.