As I layed on my back with eyes closed and noise cancelling headphones on, I couldn’t stop smiling as I waited for this unique sensory experience to start.
The music started to play and the initial phosphenes I was still sensing from seeing the light bulbs before I closed my eyes began to fade away.
They were replaced by dreamy green waves that slowly vibrated and oscillated across the scope of field I had with my eyes closed. I felt myself trying to aim my eyes left or down right to see more of these morphing patterns.
It began to warp and intensify with predominantly red, yellow, and white light orbs that were kaleidoscoping in a beautiful pattern. It turned into a massive fractal that was like watching a zipper unzip itself continually while spinning back into itself.
The psychedelic imagery that I perceived was absolutely astonishing and incredible. There were moments in which the audio would match the visual effect perfectly. One moment a spinning vortex went across my field of vision, paralleling a reverberating synth pad transitioning from one ear to the other. It truly is difficult to put the experience into words.
After going on this 30 minute journey, I felt so incredibly relaxed and at ease, I just wanted to lay there and go to sleep. I literally felt high and giddy as Ron, the owner, showed me to the sensory deprivation tank I was about to go in. What a trip!
Retired Navy SEALs Jeff Nichols and Alex Oliver are at the forefront of concussion treatment, using sensory deprivation, or float tanks, to help rewire the brain, treat concussion symptoms, and accelerate learning.
Together Jeff Nichols and Alex Oliver own Virginia High Performance, a performance training facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Before opening VHP, both served our country as Navy SEALs where they experienced multiple concussions and dealt with the headaches, loss of sleep and hormonal disruption that followed. They also experienced the benefits that float tanks provide for healing and treating the symptoms of concussions. Since then, they’ve helped hundreds of Special Forces Operators recover from concussions and they’re pushing science forward with brain tracking devices and treatment protocols that could change concussion treatment as we know it.
"Don't worry," the manager said as I was about to experience my first hour and a half floating in a 4-by-8-foot isolation tank filled with lukewarm water.
"You'll be fine," Ron Becker reassured me.
Becker was standing at his usual spot behind the front desk of Costa Mesa's Newport Float Therapy, hailed consistently on Yelp as the best place to go to spend time in a sensory deprivation chamber to explore a unique state of mind.
I tried not to be nervous, despite the fact that I was about to be floating in a pitch-black tank filled with skin-temperature water, wearing earplugs and not much else.
This exercise is to help people relax, heighten senses and manage pain.
Floating in a tank of 1,000 pounds of dissolved magnesium sulfate — known as Epsom salt after a saline spring in Epsom in Surrey, England — is said to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, enhance concentration and focus, relieve pain from injuries and joint inflammation and, overall, enhance relaxation.
Flotation therapy businesses have been opening around the country, including Newport Float Therapy, which Becker opened in July.