Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Tanks for nothing: How to float away stress

Float tanks popular way to achieve ‘nothingness’


Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published December 29, 2021

The older you get, the more often you are reminded of how old you’ve gotten.

For example, fewer and fewer people every day seem to understand my cultural references. How can two people have a conversation about float tanks and fail to discuss the 1980 movie Altered States?

Ken Russell’s Altered States, based on Paddy Chayefsky’s novel, is about a scientist who takes a powerful Mexican drug used in indigenous rituals and gets into a float tank, aka a sensory deprivation chamber.

He subsequently devolves into an early hominid and then further devolves (or perhaps evolves) into “a bloated sack of protoplasm,” to quote “asthma-hound” Chihuahua Ren Höek.

This movie had a huge impact on me, but not many people today seem to be aware of it.

One Hour of Relaxation

These days, float tanks are no longer popular with scientists seeking to devolve.

They are, however, popular with professionals who need to relax.

Some CEOs claim it helps their minds achieve a state of “nothingness.” Having sat in on a lot of meetings conducted by middle managers, I can say with authority that nothingness seems to be an important component of such meetings.

It is also popular with athletes and entrepreneurs who want to use something called visualization to achieve success.

I don’t know what they visualize. Piles of money presumably. They can’t use their existing piles of money for inspiration. They have to visualize different money that can be heaped into different piles.

I am not an athlete or a CEO, but I am apparently the last person on earth who didn’t star in Altered States who still remembers Altered States.

I read that floating triggers “the body’s natural relaxation response” and I wasn’t even sure my body had a natural relaxation response.

I decided it was time to find out.

I had a few misgivings, but I told myself, “Hey, Joe Rogan is a big proponent of this practice, and he seems like a pretty relaxed guy.”

I very much wanted to empty my mind of the everyday concerns that plague them: Worrying about my kids, worrying about having forgotten something when I went to the store, worrying about having forgotten that I left my kids at the store, etc.

Experience the Relaxation in Fort Wayne

The place to experience water-based sensory deprivation is Rivers Relaxation and their new location on Coldwater Road just north of Dupont Road.

Manager Jason Traxler helped me get set up.

Floatation involves stepping naked into an egg-like chamber and lying atop 10 inches of water into which 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts has been dissolved.

A shower is mandatory beforehand, and you’ll want to take one afterward as well.

The salt helps you achieve weightlessness, but there is a downside: If you have any abrasions on your body, the salt will irritate them.

Since I have an annoying condition called hand eczema, I used rubber gloves.

I mostly kept my arms crossed on my chest and imagined I was a water vampire. A water vampire with hand eczema. If anyone from Marvel Entertainment is reading this, I am willing to sell my water vampire concept cheap.

You can have music in the chamber or none. Rivers Relaxation has many musical tracks to choose from, all of them of the new age or world music variety.

I thought silence might be too intense, so I chose a piano track.

Even though I never completely emptied my mind of worry, I greatly enjoyed my one-hour float.

Since I will never have the money of a Jeff Bezos or an Elon Musk — and since I will never be friends with Bezos or Musk, no matter how many poems I send them — a flotation tank is likely to be a close as I will ever get to the sensation of floating in space.

It’s an indescribable feeling. You really must experience it for yourself.

After about 20 or 30 minutes of lying perfectly still, I decided to experiment with some movement.

I planted my feet and moved my upper torso back and forth slowly and gently.

That sort of movement may be even more relaxing than stillness.

I still don’t know if I triggered my body’s natural relaxation response, however. I couldn’t quite get out of my mind all the things I still had to do that day.

Traxler said this is common remark from patrons after their first float. It usually takes several sessions for worries to fully dissolve.

As I walked away from Rivers Relaxation, it occurred to me that this was the first assignment I had gotten naked for, unless you count that ribbon cutting.

I still haven’t apologized to the mayor for that.

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