Floatation combines the sensation of weightlessness with a technique known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy, or R.E.S.T.
What is a floatation tank?
525 kg of Epsom salts are added to water to create 1000 litres of solution, 30 cm deep, which is heated to 35.5 degrees C (skin temperature).
The temperature of the water means that once you are settled in the tank, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between parts of the body that are in contact with the water, and those that aren’t, in effect “fooling” the brain into believing that the person is floating in mid-air.
The floating experience
Floating weightlessly your body is perfectly supported by a cushion of silky skin-temperature liquid. Freed from all sensation of gravity, temperature, touch, sight and sound (which together account for 90% of normal neuro-muscular activity), you conserve and redirect vast amounts of natural physical and mental energy.
The ultra-deep relaxation of floating “resets” the body’s hormonal and metabolic balance, strengthening resistance to and accelerating recovery from the effects of stress, illness, injury or strenuous exercise.
Unless you are an astronaut, this is the only situation you will encounter where your body is free from the harmful forces of gravity. Every single muscle in the body is allowed to totally relax, with ear plugs in and, if you wish, the tank’s interior lights off, the quietness and the darkness allow the mind to drift into the deepest state of relaxation possible.
The buoyancy created by the dense Epsom-salt solution effectively removes the effects of gravity on the body, and brings the individual close to an experience of total weightlessness. A huge amount of brain-power is used every second in order to deal with the strain that gravity places on one’s body. As the body is now totally supported, and external stimuli is reduce there is nothing for the brain to do and every muscle is allowed to relax completely.
With no commands needing to be sent out, the logical side of the brain is rendered redundant, and its activity slows down until it synchronises with the creative side. This leaves the individual in a dream-like state, akin to the thoughts experienced just before you go to sleep. In this state, the brain releases vast amounts of endorphins.
While the state of relaxation may be deep and profound, the individual’s brain stays dreamily alert. To get technical, the brain gradually shifts from its usual “alpha” state to generate theta waves, the state-of-mind that Buddhist monks try to reach through hours of meditation and years of training. You can achieve this in a matter of minutes just by lying back into the silky warm sea of bliss that is the floatation experience!
The History of the Floatation tank
The first floatation tank was developed in 1954 by the American neurophysiologist Professor Dr John C. Lilly while working and studying psychoanalysis at the National institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland USA.
Together with his associate Dr. Jay Shirley, Dr. Lilly became intrigued by the question of the origins of conscious activity within the brain. The question was whether the brain needed external stimuli to keep its conscious states going. Lilly and his associate set to work trying to devise a system that would restrict environmental stimulation as much as was practical and feasible.
Lilly’s first float tank was one in which the user was suspended upright, entirely underwater, head completely covered by an underwater breathing apparatus and mask. These first float tanks were originally referred to as isolation tanks or sensory deprivation tanks and over the years as Lilly continued his experiments with floatation, simplifying and improving the general design he found that he could float in a more relaxing supine position, rather than suspended feet downward in fresh water, if more buoyant Epsom salt water was used. Other refinements, such as water heaters with thermostats sensitive enough to keep the water the perfect skin temperature, and a water filter for the reuse of the Epsom salts were added over the years. By the early 1970′s, Lilly had perfected the flotation tank design that is in use today.
6 Health benefits of floating
Floating regularly strengthens the body’s ‘relaxation response’ and can considerably reduce chances of stress-related illness now or later in your life. Floating is effortless and the benefits are immediate and profound. Scientific tests have shown that floating:
Reduces stress & anxiety
Reduces heart rate & blood pressure
Reduces muscle tension
Reduces back pain and greatly assists in the healing process
Stimulates endorphin production (providing relief from chronic pain)
Stimulates Alpha & Theta brain waves (associated with creative insights and meditative states).