Like a scene out of Ab Fab, Bay Area residents are once again seeking the next new thing in relaxation and enlightenment, and it's actually a very old thing. Isolation tanks, also known as sensory-deprivation chambers or, more recently, as flotation tanks, are picking up a new generation of converts among the yoga and meditation set. Oakland North examines the trend via a new "float center" that opened over there, Oakland Floats — because three's a trend, and Oakland's first float center, FLOAT, has seen business increase in the last few years after opening in 2006; and S.F.'s Float Matrix has been around since 2007 and SF Weekly named them the "Best Place to Alter Your Consciousness" in 2010.

ISO tanks were invented in the 50s and have come in and out of fashion, getting co-opted by the new-agey folks of the 70s and 80s, and also serving as the venue for Altered States, a 1980 film about the psychedelic experiments conducted using the tanks by their inventor.

What's it like inside that 8-foot tank? You're suspended in about ten inches of Epsom-salt-saturated water, and you can either float freely or they'll give you some kind of pillow thing for your head. You're meant to enter a meditative state, but those with the least quiet minds will likely have trouble at first. And according to Lexi Pandell at Oakland North, you sleep like a rock the night after you do it.

We usually prefer booze ourselves, but sure, meditation. ISO tank, sweetie. It requires much less effort than yoga. Sounds kinda nice.

[Oakland North]