"I was totally nude, and floating in a pitch-black tank filled with warm salt water...and I'd never felt better."

Selfie in a flotation tank! Source: Supplied.

I’ve just had one of the most unusual experiences of my life, and I’m telling everyone about it.

It involves being totally nude, and lying in a pitch-black tank filled with warm salt water, floating effortlessly for an entire hour. Curious yet?

My life-changing experience was thanks to a flotation tank – also known as a sensory deprivation tank, isolation tank or flotation pod – and it’s the perfect way to relax and switch off from my busy, over-stimulated life.

Carla GS posing with a flotation tank...fully clothed and completely freaked out. Source: Supplied.


It was scary, weird and futuristic, and one of the best things I’ve ever done.

It may seem like a space-age wellness trend, but flotation tanks have actually been around since the mid 1950’s. The tanks utilise two ancient, basic properties – water and salt – to enable stressed-out humans like me to float and feel my worries and physical ailments drift away.

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Of course, even though I was fascinated by flotation tanks, I had no intention of ever venturing inside one. It all sounded too strange, plus I was worried about catching a weird disease in my vagina.

“I’d care a lot more about the story if you actually went in one of the tanks,” said Eddie, the brilliant editor of The Glow

And so, I paid a visit to Sydney Float Centre, feeling sick in my stomach and completely freaked out.

I was put at ease by Paul, the manager of Sydney Float Centre. He was very calm and didn’t look like he’d drowned recently, so that was a good sign.

"Strangely enough, I first was introduced to the concept of floating through an episode of ‘The Simpsons’," says Paul, the manager of Sydney Float Centre.


Before I even saw my float tank, Paul helpfully described the experience of a first-time float. He explained that it would take a while to get used to the sensation of floating in a dark, enclosed space, but eventually, I would relax and slip into a meditative mindspace. He also said that by the time the music came on to signal that my session was over, I would feel as though I hadn’t spent enough time in the tank.


I was doubtful. I was going to be inside that tank for a whole hour. It seemed like way too long to hang out in the dark, with nothing but my own mind for company.

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“Would you like to see your tank?” Paul led me away from the bright, clean reception area to a dark hallway, lit by a strip of blue lights along either side of the carpet. It felt like I was in a spa, if a spa was located on a luxurious spaceship.

“Wow,” I exclaimed, when I saw my tank. It was a huge, sleek white bubble, from which blue light emanated. The tank was inside a large and dimly lit room.

After explaining how the tank worked, Paul left me alone in the large room, with these words: “This is your time. It’s time to yourself. You’ve earned it, and you deserve it.” Damn straight I do! I shut the door and took my mandatory shower.

We love yoga star, Jessamyn Stanley (post continues after gallery)...


I took off all my clothes, as it’s recommended that you float in the nude. This is so that you can float undistracted, without the billions of ruffles on your designer swimming costume slapping against your body (or is that just me?). This fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine: to go skinnydipping. I mean, that counts, right? Squeezing the complimentary earplugs in, I was ready to step into oblivion.


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I climbed into the tank, which was filled with about 25cm of clean, lukewarm water. The Sydney Float Centre’s website assured me that “floating is extremely sanitary”, and that the water was triple-filtrated “and with the natural bacterial killing qualities of salt, the water inside the tank is cleaner than tap water”. Okay, vagina, you’ll probably get out of this infection-free.

The water felt normal, even though it had 600kg of Epsom salts in it. Yeah, that’s right, 600kg. How else do you think a Dead Sea-like float could be replicated? I pulled the lid of the pod closed, and I was finally alone in the blue glow.

All of this salt is used inside a single flotation tank. Source: Supplied.


Lying on my back, I was delighted to find that I could float easily. I relaxed my neck, and found that I could float with just the top part of my face above the surface of the water. My head wouldn’t sink any lower than that (even though I have a huge head, which is no doubt filled with lots of brains), which meant that I wouldn’t drown. Hurrah!

These first few moments in the tank were a lot of fun, as I experimented with floating in different positions – even on my stomach, though with my head out of the water. The relaxing music stopped playing, which was my signal to press the huge button on the inside of the tank, which would turn off the lights and sink me into blackness.

Related: “My trick for combating negative self-talk lives in my handbag.” 

With the push of a button, I was plunged into darkness. I couldn’t see anything. It was a curious and novel experience, but not frightening. The time that Paul had spent chatting with me, and the short period of lying in the pod with the lights on, had prepared me for this moment.

I knew what I was supposed to do: lie there, floating on my back, and relax and meditate. It sounds easy, and what else are you going to do in a dark tank filled with saltwater, right?


But even though I had no stimuli and nothing to attend to – no smartphone, no emails, no toddler – I began to feel extremely busy. I became obsessed with lying in the most perfect, precise position, so that no part of my body would touch the edges of the tank. Of course, the more I tried to arrange my body on top of the salt water, the more I would bump against the tank.

"I began to feel a heavy peace, and I slipped into a state of meditation." Source: Supplied.


Once I stopped struggling and moving, I could float without drifting. Finally, I could rest.


Why was my mind so…noisy? I thought I would be so bored in that tank, but instead, I found that the strangest, least relevant thoughts began to flood my mind. I began to ponder what would happen on Orange is the New Black. I thought about the stories I would write when I got back home. I wondered what I would eat for lunch – would I buy it, or would I make it?

I actively tried to think of nothing, but obviously, that didn’t work. I gave up and tried to just lie there, and let the thoughts wash through my brain.

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Finally, I began to feel a heavy peace, and I slipped into a state of meditation. It was like the moment before you fall asleep. I actually tried to fall asleep then, but I didn’t. I felt warm and whole, and finally and utterly relaxed. I felt as thought I was drifting through infinity.

And then, the music came back on. It was just as Paul had said: as soon as I became used to floating and meditating, my time in the tank was over. Even though I was in the dark for an hour, it had only felt like 20 minutes.

I showered again, and ran my hair under the water too. Hours after my float was over, I’d still feel like I was coated in salt.

"I felt like a completely different person after my float." Carla GS, happy and calm after her float. Source: Supplied.


Fully dressed, I walked back down the hallway and into another room, which was filled with sunlight, hammocks and cushions. There was free iced tea and water. My muscles felt as though all of the tension had been released, as though I’d just had a yoga session. Paul later told me that it was the salt that created that sensation.

I felt like a completely different person after my float. My mind was clear and calm. I was able to think in a more restful manner, rather than having my thoughts skitter around. I felt happy, and both physically and mentally weightless. I came crashing back down to earth, literally, when I forgot I wasn’t floating and fell off the hammock.

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The ability to meditate within a flotation tank improves with each float, and I would definitely love to float again. The ideal is to reach the “magic float”. Paul describes a magic float as being “unlike anything I had experienced before, a total ‘out-of-this-world’ journey for both my mind and body. I left feeling calm, revitalised.” The results of a magic float can last for days, according to Paul.

Keeping it real, by almost falling off a hammock after my float. Source: Supplied.


Floating has other benefits, beyond relaxation and meditation. “Backed by over 80 medical studies on its health benefits, flotation therapy is used to treat a wide range of ailments and conditions such as arthritis, inflammation, tendonitis, fibromyalgia and much more. Recent studies have also shown promising results for sufferers of PTSD and depression,” explains Paul.


“Time alone with oneself to process and reflect on experiences and behaviours can be incredibly beneficial for one’s mental well being,” he adds.

And let’s not forget the beauty benefits. Relaxing and beautifying? Sign me up!

Did Lisa Simpson experience a "magic float"?


“There is no better way to absorb magnesium then through your largest organ which happens to be your skin,” suggests Paul. “Magnesium has the capacity to detoxify the epidermis and cleanse the skin as well as being effective in reducing wrinkles and fine lines. Magnesium can also help combat breakouts or acne on your skin leaving your skin feeling soft and revitalised.”

Related: Why does my face turn red when I drink alcohol?  

This story was supposed to be about how flotation tanks are frightening and silly, but guess what? Your super-cynical beauty reporter is a convert.

Oh, and I didn’t catch any disease in my vagina, in case you were wondering.

Float away, my lovelies!

Have you been in a flotation tank? Would you ever try it? What do you think of this new trend?