What is Floatation Therapy?
Floatation therapy, also known as floating, floatation, sensory deprivation, or R.E.S.T (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) involves lying in a salt-water solution in a spacious tank. It is one of the most effective means of stress relief and relaxation available. Now widely accepted as a legitimate therapy, floatation is also used to treat a wide range of ailments and conditions and has been proven to lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
The term sensory deprivation is often used as the environment is designed to limit sensory input and allow your body to fully relax:
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.
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!