The Stressful Pursuit of Relaxation 

I’ve recently become rather taken with my mitochondria and telomeres and have adopted a few practices that should keep them both happy and protect me from premature ageing. 

Telomeres sit at the ends of your chromosomes and are thought to protect against split-end damage, like aglets at the end of your shoelaces. Meditative practice and deep relaxation has been correlated with longer telomere length which in turn links favorably to a reduced biological age. That’s been enough good news for me to start sitting cross-legged in front of my Buddha statuette and to embark on a course of immersive flotation.

Apparently, shutting yourself away in a brine filled egg brings on a state of weightlessness which combined with warmth and peace, enables very deep relaxation. Personally I found bobbing around, buck-assed naked in a sensory deprivation tank, to be a wholly stressful experience.

For my first session at Floatworks, it was suggested that I start in the cactus pose as that opens out the chest for optimal deep breathing. While I like breathing, it seems I’m not so great at relaxing. 

After years of sitting at a desk, it becomes remarkably hard to fathom out when your neck is relaxed and then when you think you might be chilled, the thoughts start overtaking you. I became ridiculously concerned about prune fingers and kept trying to waggle them above the level of the water. Moving around in the saturated mineral solution led to a whole new sensation to experience.

I tried to move my arm so I could itch a tickle on my eyebrow. I felt like a drunkard attempting the nose touching test. My arm went up ok but as I brought it down again toward my face, my elbow broke the surface of the water and started to float. I then felt like a marionette with my arms controlled by a puppeteer and worse, I was dripping magnesium salts into my eye. 

It would have been less stressful if there’d been a clock in there so I could see how much of my hour slot had been consumed, I needed to know how much relaxation I had left to endure. I kept thinking that maybe I should nip out and have a look at my phone. 

As soon as the music started again I relaxed. At least I knew what time it was then as there were just 10 minutes left. Mind you. Even the music was stressful. It kept building up in volume and I thought perhaps it was going to turn into a form of sound torture to get stragglers out of the pod. Of course it had to be reasonably loud so that you could hear it with the tightly fitted ear plugs. Unfortunately I had forgotten to fit the plugs and by that point I was bobbing around in a sort of reverse breaststroke with head well above water level and my ears in full functioning order.  

I’ve now “floated” for 3 hour sessions and each time it gets easier to relax, the biggest difference I’ve noticed is that I can immediately assume a relaxed neck position and while I am now taking my watch in to give me some sense of time elapsed, I don’t start fidgeting until 40 minutes have passed. After that length of time my breathing and mindful “imagine yourself as a mountain” practices are exhausted and I am back to drumming my fingers impatiently against the Pod roof.

I’ll be going back again but I’m going to save my next session until I’m sleep deprived and in desperate need of 40 mins of Zen.