What is Floatation Therapy?
Floatation therapy, also known as floating, sensory deprivation, or R.E.S.T (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) involves lying in a floatation tank with 10 inches of water, containing 1000lbs of epsom salts. The density of the salt solution allows anyone to float on the surface, virtually free of gravity. It is one of the most effective means of stress relief and relaxation available. Floatation is also used to treat a wide range of ailments and conditions and has been proven to lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
When you enter the tank and lie back, you are suspended in water 3 times as buoyant as the dead sea. Your entire body is suspended as one unit with no pressure points. When you close the lid and turn the tank lights off, there is absolutely no light or sound (unless you prefer to leave the light on), and the water is temperature controlled to 34.1 degrees, or skin receptor neutral.
As you float, there is very little sensory stimulation for your mind to process. The skin quickly becomes accustomed to the sensation of being in water and soon you can't tell where you end and the water begins. This unique environment allows the body to reach a profound level of relaxation. As you float, the heart rate slows, blood pressure lowers and muscles begin to relax completely. As you settle into the float, blood flow to muscles and joints increases, easing pain and accelerating the recovery of muscle tissues.
The buoyancy of the water essentially eliminates the effects of gravity on the body. We spend our whole lives resisting gravity. As we stand or sit, our muscles work to hold us upright and often tighten in certain areas causing chronic tension and pain. The brain receives a relentless flow of muscular signals every millisecond and makes constant adjustments as we propel our bodies through the world against the pull of gravity. This background hum of muscular noise makes up the majority of the input reaching our central nervous system.
In the float tank however, the effects of gravity on the body are almost completely removed. Muscles no longer resisting gravity are able to relax completely and the river of 'muscular noise' reaching the brain slows to a trickle. Suddenly the body has a surplus of resources to do what it does naturally: heal, rebuild tissue, and rest. In this deep relaxed state, the brain releases endorphins and dopamine, creating a positive mental state.
This 90 minute vacation allows us to “reset” and reenter the world with a renewed clarity and perspective. The high magnesium content of the water leaves the muscles feeling loose and relaxed. The benefits of floating are cumulative and as you become more familiar with this deep relaxed state, it becomes easier to achieve and more profound.
Your ears (with earplugs in) stay just below the water; the tanks are insulated against sound leaving you in peaceful silence.
After you shut the door and turn off the light, you float in total darkness – you won’t notice a difference between keeping your eyes open or closed. (You’re free to keep the door open and the light on until you grow accustomed to this unique environment.)
Inside the tank you’ll find 10 inches of water and 900 lbs. of dissolved Epsom salts – a solution that allows you to float effortlessly. The water and air are both kept at 34.1 degrees Celsius – this is skin-receptor neutral, which means that when you fully relax, you lose track of where your body ends and the water or air begins.
During your float, the outside world is gone and amazing things happen. It turns out that when you’re not fighting gravity or receiving sensory input, your body has a lot of extra resources at its disposal. Your mind is free to navigate without distraction, your brain pumps out dopamine and endorphins, and the parasympathetic nervous system gets to work helping you rest, de-stress and heal. It’s likely to be the most relaxing thing you’ve ever experienced.
Floatation eases chronic pains in the neck and back – it also helps with spinal misalignment issues. Floating has even been shown to ease the pain from such conditions as arthritis and fibromyalgia, conditions with few natural treatment options.
Increased Blood Circulation
The weightless environment of the floatation tank allows for the muscles and joints of the body to relax, increasing blood flow and helping to accelerate repair of muscle tissues. This is especially beneficial for those with injuries or chronic pain.
Floating weightless in the tank suppresses the functioning of the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response. Simultaneously, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated which is responsible for relaxation, stimulation of digestive secretions, replenishment and general recuperation.
Increased Immune Function
Immune function is enhanced by suppressing stress hormones which not only weaken the immune system but also suppress the digestion and reproductive systems, affect regeneration processes, and decrease insulin sensitivity.
Use in Athletic Training
Water in the tank has the added benefit of being saturated with Epsom salts, which have well-established healing effects, helping to draw out toxins and lactic acid build-up, and speeding up recovery time.
Research indicates that regular floating leads to increased visual acuity, improved tangible perception, increased taste sensitivities and improved auditory sensitivity.
Magnesium Absorption : The high concentration of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) are absorbed through skin. Magnesium has been shown to be deficient in the standard North American diet. Magnesium assists in regulating high blood pressure, preventing cardiovascular disease, preventing osteoporosis, relieving menopause symptoms, providing PMS relief, creating healthier bones and teeth, and is involved with detoxification. Magnesium is awesome.
Modern life is full of deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. Floatation therapy is the most powerful stress relief technique known. Floating has been shown many times, (in controlled studies compared to bed rest), to be the most relaxing experience on earth. (Relaxation measured by perceived stress, by hormone measurement and by brain waves all confirms the truth of this claim.)
A small study of five university professors found that six float sessions allowed them to generate more “creative” ideas, which coincided with a self-reported increase in free imagery and remote associations. Similarly, in a study with 40 university students, a single flotation increased their scores on a standardized test used to measure creativity.
Left Brain/Right Brain
The two sides of the brain operate in very different ways. The left side deals with detail, processing information, maths, order, logic it operates analytically and systematically, it’s basically the essential yet boring side of the brain. The right side of the brain is the hub for creativity, problem solving, music, art, pleasure and emotion. It operates visually, intuitively, rapidly absorbing large scale information.
The right side is usually constrained and held back by the dominant left brain. Floating massively boosts right-brain function by turning off all external input making the left brain finally shut up, allowing the right side of the brain to run un-interrupted at full tilt.
HISTORY OF FLOATING
In 1954, a neuroscientist named John C. Lilly needed to eliminate incoming sensory information to create a control group for his experiments. He ended up discovering that sensory deprivation has a load of benefits that far superseded whatever captivating experiments he was doing. By the 1970’s, the tank’s design had evolved from Lilly’s original laboratory chambers to the comfortable commercial tanks that we have now. This means you’re not submerged in the water with air tubes, you don’t have to wear a diver’s helmet with a black faceplate, and you don’t have to have experiments run on you – phewf!