Anyone who thinks stress is a the mark of a superior intellect should go soak their head. At Club Altered States.
If it sounds far out, it's not: You'll find it right down the street from the West Hollywood Sports Connection in a spiffy new 4,500-square-foot facility. What's more, its 1,000 members include solid-citizen types from business whizzes to federal prosecutors. "People used to come in and float because it was an unusual thing to do," says owner Larry Hughes, who opened the place 11 years ago. "Now they come in to get rid of stress and expand their potential."
When I walked through the door, an employee named Tobi took me directly to the MindGym, a room full of machines designed to turn one's fast-lane frequencies into various states of alpha relaxation and theta creativity.
First stop was the VibraSound. I lay down on a high-tech Magic Fingers waterbed, strapped on headphones and stroboscopic goggles and soon found myself awash in a synchronicity of sensations--New Age music, thunder booming through the mattress, sounds of rain as colors flashed. The pulses started out fast and gradually slowed down, pulling my brain waves into peaceful step. After 20 minutes, I had definitely chilled.
Next was the Star Chamber, a mirrored box that looks like something a UFO crew might pack you into. Inside, I had just enough room to sit lotus-legged and stare at infinite reflections of myself--an activity that normally cubes my stress level. Fortunately, a hypnotic blinking light made even the bags under my eyes seem cosmic.
Twenty minutes later, I progressed to another bed-like contraption called the Potentializer, which rocked me like a baby, bathing my gray matter in more sound and light. Finally, I was ready to brave the waters. Tobi took me to an 8-by-4-foot isolation tank that looked like an oven with a hatchback. Handing me earplugs and a jar of petroleum jelly--to protect any cuts from the 800 pounds of Epsom salts that make flotation possible--he said he'd be back in an hour. "What do I DO for an hour?" I cried. But he was gone.
Time flies when you're sensory deprived--my shoulders unwound, and all sorts of pleasant visions went bump in the dark. When Tobi came to fetch me, I was sure it had only been 15 minutes. But relaxation doesn't come cheap. Single hour sessions, in the tank or MindGym, cost $60 (less for members). But, hey, what price peace of mind?