Many people have heard of a floatation tank, but the word usually conjures up thoughts of a huge iron lung looking contraption and William Hurt turning into a chimp. However, floatation tanks and the practice of floating have come a long way since the first time professor John Lilly proposed separating the mind from the body by suspending it upright in isolation chamber filled with warm salt water. Today’s tanks, although fundamentally similar, are comfortable and soothing and are used primarily for relaxation and healing. The float tank experience is increasingly marketed as a way to escape the sensory overload of the outside world.
There is literally nothing on earth quite like floating in an enclosed, soundproof, and completely dark tank filled with ten inches of a water and Epsom salt solution. The buoyancy of this solution allows the user to easily float, removing any sensation of gravity. Proper float tanks removes almost all physical and sensory stimulation, resulting in a very interesting and relaxing experience.
A therapeutic session typically lasts an hour. For the first half of the float, participants relax and allow their mind to wander, often organizing thoughts and memories. The last twenty or thirty minutes often end with a transition from beta or alpha brainwaves to theta, which typically occurs briefly before sleep and again at waking. In a float tank, the theta state can last for several minutes without the subject losing consciousness. Many use the extended theta state as a tool for enhanced creativity and problem-solving or for “super learning”. The more often the tank is used, the longer the theta period becomes. More experienced floaters attempt to extend this theta or waking dream like experience by floating for increasingly longer periods of time.
Floatation therapy also offers numerous benefits by stimulating the body’s own power of healing and regeneration, strengthening the body’s resistance to the effects of stress, illness and injury. Blood vessels dilate, increasing cardiovascular efficiency and supply of oxygen and nutrients to each cell in the body. The effects are immediate and remain measurable for days or weeks after a float. Floatation is also cumulative – every time you float in a floatation tank you strengthen your body’s resistance. Participants experience intense relaxation, enhanced concentration, and a state of mental rest equivalent to a much longer period time spent sleeping.