What is floating?
To many people this concept is completely new, however it has been around for decades. So what is flotation therapy / sensory deprivation / REST?
Flotation Therapy is essentially a way of achieving deep relaxation by spending an hour or more lying quietly in darkness, suspended in a warm solution of Epsom salt. Float tanks are also known as isolation tanks, sensory deprivation tanks & REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) chambers.
The Float Tank has a wide variety of uses/applications, deep relaxation and it’s benefits are just one of the reasons for floating – check out Why Float? for more information about the uses & benefits of float tanks.
The concept of Flotation Therapy is based on the theory that up to 90% of the brains normal workload is estimated to be caused by the effects of routine environmental stimulation (gravity, temperature, touch, light, sound). We are constantly bombarded with external stimulation as well as the incessant everyday background ‘noises’ & distractions that we may not even realise our minds are busily processing.
Floating in the tank, your senses are released from all these distractions, your body is weightless & you become a mind floating in space, enabling your body & mind to reach deep levels of relaxation/meditation that would normally take years of practice to achieve. The tank creates an environment where you can achieve pure sensory relaxation.
The weightlessness combined with the benefits of epsom salts also creates an ideal environment for injury recovery as well as providing relief from muscular pain & tension.
Freed from external stimulation, your body can achieve a state of deep relaxation that is even more beneficial than sleep. Even when sleeping – your mind is receiving signals from those parts of the body that are touching the bed & covers, temperature on skin, sounds & gravity. By freeing the mind from all distractions it can get back to focusing on repairing & rejuvenating your mind & body.
What is the tank like?
Our tanks are called ‘Apollo’ and as the name suggests, they are a large, space-age looking capsule.
To give you an idea of size, it is approximately 1.5m tall & over 2m long. Once laying down inside it is difficult to reach the ceiling if you reach your arm straight up, so it is really quite spacious. Not at all like an MRI machine or sunbed for those who are concerned about claustrophobia. There is an easy-to-open sliding door on the roof that you are able to open/close at any time – if you are extremely concerned, you can even leave it open.
If you are interested in seeing what it is like inside the tank, you may want to check out the footage from a Today Tonight segment on the link below:
The tank is light & sound proof containing an epsom salt solution, approximately 25-30cm deep. This solution is so dense with salt that anyone will float effortlessly. It also makes the water soft & silky.
The air & the water are maintained at a constant average relaxed skin temperature of approximately 34.5- 34.7C. The huge amounts of epsom salts in the water make it silky & soft. This causes the boundaries between your body, the air & the water to blur & you become unaware of whether your body is in or out of the water. You feel like an astronaut floating in outer space.
There is a light within the tank that can be operated whilst laying down inside the tank as well as a volume control to adjust the audio to a comfortable level.
What does a float tank session involve?
Before you float you will be shown through & given a thorough explanation of how to operate everything & what you need to do to make your experience more comfortable.
Firstly you will need to go to the toilet & have a shower, put earplugs in (optional) & step into the tank. You do not need to wear anything – however if you are not comfortable with this, you can wear underwear or bathers. The tank is in a room with a shower and toilet. It has a door that can be locked from the inside so you are in complete privacy.
Once you step into the tank, you sit down & pull the door back & forth to see how easy it is to open & close. Then you check the ceiling for any condensation – if there is condensation then you just wipe it down with the cloth provided to avoid it dripping in your eyes.
Once ready, you lie back & get comfortable. There is a neck pillow available for those who may find it difficult to relax their neck. There will generally be music or soft ocean sounds playing when you enter the tank so you can use the volume knob to your right in the tank to adjust this to a comfortable level. Then, once you are settled in, you can turn out the light & drift away!
The music will generally play for about 10-12 minutes at the beginning. This will fade out & you will be left in silence for the remainder of the session. The music will gently come back on at the end to signal that your session is finished, then you take your time, wipe off as much solution as you can whilst standing in the tank, then have a shower to wash off all the salt.
You can bring your own music or sounds along after your first float session – we just recommend that they are ‘relaxing’, without any heavy bass. We have guided meditations, subliminal calming sounds, ocean sounds, riverbank sounds & more to choose from. You may even want to use the tank for learning & bring along a language CD or study notes on CD – it’s up to you.
Once you have quickly but thoroughly showered you come back out into our waiting area where you are welcome to relax , have a drink of water / herbal tea & enjoy the feeling before rushing back out into the world.
For those who find it ultra difficult to switch off & relax, we suggest a massage before your float to help you unwind.
History of floating
Float tanks are not a new phenomenon, in fact John C. Lilly, a medical practitioner and neuro-psychiatrist first developed flotation tanks in the 1950’s. Whilst training in psychoanalysis at the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Lilly commenced experiments with sensory deprivation, researching the origin of the brains energy sources. One hypothesis argued that if all stimuli are cut off to the brain then the brain would go to sleep. Lilly decided to test this hypothesis by creating an environment which totally isolated an individual from external stimulation. From here, he studied the origin of consciousness and its relation to the brain.
Through his research into the effects of sensory deprivation on consciousness & the brain, John Lilly also found many therapeutic benefits of floating & sensory deprivation & this instigated much more research to be carried out both in North America & Europe. Namely, Peter Suedfeld and Roderick Borrie of the University of British Columbia began experimenting on the therapeutic benefits of flotation tank usage in the late 1970s. They named their technique “Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy” (REST).
People involved in these early experiments discovered they enjoyed the experience & that the relaxed state assisted with healing a variety of conditions including stress, anxiety, pain, swelling, insomnia. As a result of this enjoyment & benefit – float tanks were produced for commercial use & float centres started opening in several countries during the 1980’s & continued to grow in popularity. Now, there are hundreds of float centres in dozens of countries all over the world.