I’m busy, you’re busy, we’re all busy. Is there any amongst us isn’t constantly trying to manage an unwieldy inbox, stack appointments like dominoes and trying to be in multiple places at one time? Who doesn’t immediately pop back ‘busy’ when asked how they’ve been? Yep, life is pretty breakneck some days, but now, more than ever, it feels imperative to bookend our days with ritual, to find time to slow down (even if that time is only five minutes) and find supportive practices (whatever works for you) to pepper throughout the week so we emerge on the other side accomplished and okay, instead of burnt-out and stressed.
I love a good massage, and I’ve replaced an in-spa habit with a much more manageable (and affordable) at-home situation, which means that I’m definitely getting at least one a week. But, between work, a couple of new projects, and the general turn-of-season self-evaluation that seems always to loops round in October, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to switch off mentally. My meditation habit’s also been a bit wobbly (read: non-existent) this past month, which has meant that I’ve been feeling a lot more frazzled than usual. None of my usual get-grounded shit seemed to work, but then something cropped up on my Facebook timeline and next thing you know I’m en route to Meherchand Market, to Liquid Sanctuary.
“Take off your clothes, put on your earplugs, and don’t splash any of the salty water in your eyes.” These were (some of) the instructions that Liquid Sanctuary’s man-in-charge Chirag reiterated to me just before I went into an hour’s worth of sensory isolation. What on earth? Good question. In essence, you lie (well, bob) in an utterly, entirely dark chamber, in a pool that’s about eight feet long, five feet wide and a couple of feet deep and filled with water that’s perfectly temperate, super-saturated with magnesium sulfate (you might know these as Epsom salts) and intensively purified through multiple filtration processes. You don’t feel the water because it’s perfectly calibrated to your own body temperature, and half your body’s out of the pool, like a perfectly buoyant little raft. It’s basically what everybody you’ve ever seen “sitting” on the Dead Sea is doing.
I’m not claustrophobic and super-comfortable in water, but I’ll admit to a (very transient) minor freak out when I first turned the lights off. The room is totally quiet, and when you turn the lights off it is dark. Like, totally dark. Like, no light for your eyes to adjust to, it is just…black. It’s disconcerting and hard to explain the peculiar sensation of feeling your body slow down while your mind revvs itself up, and I couldn’t work out why I was finding such an ostensibly relaxing experience so stressful. Apparently, Chirag told me later, this is fairly normal for a first float. It’s new, it’s unusual, and we are (particularly now) very un-used to a world without stimulus. Eventually it passes, and I’m not sure when, but at some point I crossed rapidly over from super-stressed to super-om.
Time stops making sense, as does distance and most other things that we’re tethered to and I’m not sure whether I slept or whether I went into some sort of Matrix-esque suspended animation. Because the temperature of the water and your body is the same, your body isn’t working to cool you down or warm you up, you just…are. I relaxed quickly after this, how could I not? I was basically suspended in water that I could hardly feel, a sort of weird dictionary definition of chill-time. The next thing I know I heard music, which signals the last ten minutes of the float.
And the effects? Well, even once out of the water, showered, and dressed, I floated out of the chamber, and through the next couple of hours of my day. My mind felt clearer, and my mood felt more even. I’d compare it to a really long, really focused meditation. That night I was relaxed, and still felt really clearheaded. The benefits of floatation therapy are both anecdotal and recorded, working on everything from mood and skin through to PTSD and insomnia, but various studies have also shown that sensory deprivation does, measurably, reduce the body’s stress response, and the resultant deep relaxation and quieting of mental chatter is helpful with most stress-related illnesses and pain, from depression and anxiety, through to arthritis, muscle soreness, and more significant injury rehabilitation.
The rooms at Liquid Sanctuary are quite roomy by floating standards (often it’s just a pod), so if you panic at the idea of being enclosed in a float pod for an hour, these high-ceilinged rooms might be a gentler introduction. Things I will more strictly adhere to next time: don’t eat a big meal, or drink a lot of caffeine before. I’d made the mistake of having a bulletproof coffee at The Altitude Café before, and I definitely would’ve enjoyed my float more without that caffeine in my system. Also, don’t shave the day of–little nicks will sting like a mother with all that salt. You can absolutely breathe through it, but it’s an irritant you can probably do without. A single float will cost you Rs 5,000, which is pretty expensive, but ask them about their packages and the monthly membership (which entitles you to unlimited floats) and you might find something that suits your budget.
Find Liquid Sanctuary at 56 Meherchand Market, first floor, Lodhi colony, next to Cord. Open daily 11am-11pm. For more information or to make an appointment, call 70451-03311, or visit their website. Other float locations in India include 1000 Petals in Bangalore and Shalom Float and Mind Spa in Pune.