A sensory deprivation tank, also called an isolation tank or float tank, is used for restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST). It is a dark, soundproof tank that is filled with a foot or less of salt water. The water is heated to skin temperature and nearly saturated with Epsom salt, providing buoyancy so you float more easily. You enter the tank completely nude and are cut off from all outside stimulation, including sound, sight, and gravity when the tank’s lid or door is closed. As you float weightless in the silence and darkness, the brain is supposed to enter into a deeply relaxed state.
So how exactly does that benefit you as a motorcycle rider? Well, in two ways. First there is the physical benefit. We all know how much aches and pains we feel after a long ride or a long weekend at the track. Spending time in a deprivation tank has been found effective in speeding up recovery after strenuous physical activity by decreasing blood lactate. Basically the weightless like feeling you achieve inside the tank relaxes your muscles in a way otherwise hard to achieve.
The other benefit has to do with your mental state. The flotation tank is a form of meditation. We don’t realize how much chatter we have in our brain until we are removed from all outside stimulation and are forced to solely focus on what’s on our mind. Then the task becomes to shut all the mind chatter off and think about nothing or at least only focus on one thing. This is a crucially important skill in riding, especially when it comes to racing, because losing focus for even a split second is not an option. The flotation tank allows you to practice your “tunnel vision” so you can keep your eyes on the prize.
After hearing about the flotation tank and finding out that several word class motorcycle racers use it, I had to try it. I never thought of myself as claustrophobic until I got into the float tank. I had to hold on to the door at first and open it several times to re-assure myself I wasn’t trapped. Once I got used to the darkness and got into the water, I experienced burning in several spots all over my body. Nothing like a thousand pounds of Epsom salt mixed into ten inches of water to remind you of those razor burns on your legs. Pro tip – don’t shave before you go in! Now that I was situated, my body started floating around like a little buoy. I tried to focus on my breathing and shut off my mind but the only thing I could focus on was the intense burning sensation spreading through my legs. I tried to ignore it and continued focusing on my breathing. Then I got a bit of salt water in my ear and all I kept thinking about was not being able to get the water out and getting an ear infection. I simply could not shut my mind off and started thinking about how many thoughts my brain was able to form in mere seconds. A voice from somewhere else in my brain started commenting on those thoughts, and judging me for not being able to stop thinking in turn forming more very loud thoughts. Eventually I reached a state where I couldn’t feel my body or tell if my eyes were opened or closed. I didn’t know whether I was asleep or awake. But I was very calm and collected. Once my hour was up, light elevator music jolted me back to real life. As I walked out of the float clinic, all my senses seemed to be heightened and I was in a bit of a daze.
I’ve gone to the float clinic a few times since then and it gets better and easier every time. Being able to focus on one thing at a time is a skill that takes development. But it’s an incredibly important skill for riders. No one should be riding around in a daze, with chatter on the brain. . A sensory deprivation tank is a great way to relax while practicing clearing your mind. I’d definitely recommend you give floating a try.
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