Sensory Deprivation and CHILL

Alternative therapy: Don’t knock it until you try it


Northeast Florida is now home to both a sensory deprivation tank facility and a whole body cryotherapy chamber: respectively, H20m Float on St. Johns Bluff Road South and Outlast Cryotherapy + Performance Training in Ponte Vedra Beach. In the interest of science, I decided to try both.

Sensory deprivation tanks, also called float pods, are like large bathtubs with a pulldown lid attached. They are filled with 10 inches of saltwater to make floating easier. Floating has many benefits ranging from relaxation to stress relief to decreased restlessness — it can even be somewhat of a detox.

I’ve always considered myself adventurous, so when asked to try a sensory deprivation tank, I immediately said, “Hell, yes.”

I usually enjoy my bathtub at home with candles, a book, music and plenty of bubbles; the sensory deprivation “bath” would be pitch-black, soundproof, salty and bubble-less. Initially, it seemed like spending an hour in a giant, darkened bathtub was the furthest thing from scary. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, “Oh, shit.” The very idea of floating in a body of water, alone with my thoughts, coupled with a fear of drowning, had me second-guessing my decision. So I gave myself a quick pep talk while driving to the facility.

If you’re wondering how sanitary these tank things are, the facility’s website states that the water is filtered five times between each session and is sanitized with UV light and an ozone purification system. These facilities are held to the same Florida Department of Health sanitation standards that apply to public swimming pools.

The spa-like lobby at H20m Float was scented with essential oils and there were several sea salt dispensers on one wall. Manager Kylie Stein greeted me and checked me in. There was no turning back now.

The tanks are in separate rooms, ensuring privacy to those who visit. Stein handed me some earplugs and towels as she explained the process.

“There’s an intercom here in the tank to the front desk if you need anything at all,” she said. (Whew!)

With the intercom, my choice of different colored lights as opposed to utter darkness, and the option to have music played for the duration of the session, most of my fears were gone before I even got in the tank.

After stripping down to my swimsuit, I rinsed off in the standing shower. Floaters may opt to go naked. To each their own.

The water was warm and welcoming as I slowly stepped inside. The tanks are filled with magnesium, Epsom salt and water and enough salt to make floating effortless. You can’t not float.

It took about 15 minutes to get used to the feeling. I wasn’t sure what to do with my arms, and my neck was straining a bit, so I rested my hands behind my head as if I were lounging in a lawn chair. Problem solved. I kept the soft blue light on for the first few minutes, but eventually I embraced the process and gave in to total darkness.

There I was. Weightless. At times it felt like I was flying, unable to discern which direction was up or down. A euphoric sensation flowed over me and easily half the points, people, annoyances, etc., that I tend to overthink melted away. I had no idea how long I’d been in the device, and I didn’t care. I could have stayed in all day.

Alas, the jets eventually came on and it was time to return to reality. I felt like a newborn baby emerging from the giant pod of water. The hour had felt more like 20 minutes — it was the most relaxing experience I’ve had in some time. My muscles were loose, my mind was clear, and my skin was so soft! I was glowing. I rinsed off, got dressed and glided out the door.


The Arctic Plunge

Imagine being blasted with liquid nitrogen for two to three minutes, tricking your body into thinking it’s going into hyperthermia, which forces it to send blood to all the vital organs and any areas experiencing pain. That’s cryotherapy.

While it doesn’t sound anywhere near as appealing as floating, studies have shown that this form of therapy has many health benefits. It’s been reported that cryotherapy can improve athletic performance, boost metabolism to burn 500 to 800 calories per session, increase energy and vitality, accelerate recovery from acute injuries and surgery, etc. The list goes on.

I was curious to see if the hype was real. It was.

Even though just thinking about standing nearly nude, being engulfed in temperatures between -220°F and -275°F made me shiver, I wasn’t quite as nervous about this experience as I had been about the sensory deprivation tank. Actually, I was more excited than anything.

Upon my arrival at Outlast Cryotherapy + Performance, co-owner Monica Dominiak gave me a robe and showed me to the bathroom. Most male clients wear shorts or boxers in the chamber; women tend to wear shorts and a top of some kind.

The chamber was in the back of the training facility. Next to it stood a table with gloves, socks and shoes to protect one’s extremities from the harsh cold. The chamber has a hole at the top through which you stick out your head; the idea is to prevent you from inhaling any of the nitrogen.

Stepping in, I braced myself while the chamber filled with the cool gas, chatting with Monica to distract myself from how damn cold it was.

Eventually I grew accustomed to the temperature and realized I was actually oddly comfortable. It felt like being outside on a very cold winter night, but it was tolerable.

Just as my legs started to tingle a bit, the time was up and it was done. In all, it took fewer than 10 minutes to get in, chill, and be on my way home. My body warmed up quickly, as if I hadn’t just spent 180 seconds in freezing temperatures.

Although I had been awake since 6:30 a.m., a burst of energy came over me. Even without my usual afternoon cup of coffee, I was alert and focused. I also noticed that the neck pain I often have from stress had subsided.

Overall, neither experience was anything like what I’d imagined.

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It may be tempting — and easy — to call bullshit on alternative therapies without trying them. Chill out, relax and try something new. It’s still early enough in the year for those resolutions to become realities.


H20m Float, 3546 St. Johns Bluff Rd. S., Ste. 105, 619-5201,

Outlast Cryotherapy + Performance Training, Mickler’s Landing, 1108 A1A N., Ste. 104, Ponte Vedra Beach, 999-8813,

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OMG. I was brand new to cryotherapy and now I hooked. Is it cold? Yes. Is it really cold? Yes. Does it make you feel awesome and energized all day? YES. It makes your skin tighter, gives you amazing energy, and only takes 3 minutes. You must give it a try, you wont be disappointed...and Monica (the owner) is great, super helpful and fun. Wednesday, February 15, 2017|Report this