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 –
- Stress reduction
- Anxiety relief
- Sports recovery
- Pain relief
- To promote relaxation
- Reduce headaches/migraines
- Increased circulation
- For more restful sleep
- To learn to meditate or improve your current meditation practice
- Pregnancy support
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 realize 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.
THINK OF IT AS A RESET BUTTON FOR YOUR BODY, WITH THREE LEVELS:
Epsom Salts are great for your skin, hair, nails, and act as an exfoliate. They aid in joint pain, ease stress, and naturally relax the body. 800 pounds of epsom salts help prevent inflammation in your joints and muscles and treat sprains, strains or sore muscles.
800 pounds of epsom salt in 180 gallons of water creates a 30% salt solution, enabling the you to float effortlessly atop the water. This creates a deeply relaxing anti-gravity environment, as all weight and tension can be dropped; it’s even safe to fall asleep. There are no pressure points on the body in this state, which can provide up to 100% pain relief. The spine naturally elongates and straightens, and the body undergoes the same regeneration process that transpires during sleep.
An hour of zero gravity and zero distractions will decrease the production of cortisone, a stress hormone, leaving us feeling refreshed and serene after the float. The brain enters the theta brain-wave state, associated with deep sleep and dreaming. As all external sources of distraction are removed, floating provides an extreme form of rest. The skin temperature water feels like floating on a cloud or in outer space.
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, washing hair and and skin to remove excess oils. (void using conditioner before you float, only after you float) Then put earplugs in (optional) to help with noise reduction and keep salt water out of your ears. Now you are ready to 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 close to 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 close or leave open to yur comfort level.. 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.
When your session is finished, you take your time, wipe off as much solution as you can while 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 bodywork session before your float to help you unwind. For others a bodywork session after a float may be more beneficial oin relieving even more tension and stress.
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 centers started opening in several countries during the 1980’s & continued to grow in popularity. Now, there are hundreds of float centers in dozens of countries all over the world.
TIPS for Floating
If you’re interested in how to achieve the most during your first float, check out these ten tips:
- Make sure a towel is easily accessible from within the tank because you will get salt in your eyes. There is nothing worse than scratching an annoying itch on your face only to get burning salt water in your eyes.
- Do not drink any caffeine before your float and try to use the bathroom before using a float tank. You do not want a full bladder ripping you away from “the zone,” so make sure to go in empty.
- Do not think about time. Worrying your session is about to end or wondering how long you’ve been in only subtracts from the experience.
- Focus on breathing. Just like meditation, focusing on breathing and letting go...it really helped me relax.
- Floating for the first time will not be anything like you can imagine. That’s okay, because it’s impossible to go in with no expectations. Just remember, one thing you can expect for sure is that you will leave the tank feeling relaxed.
- Use waterproof Band Aids to cover cuts. Ever heard the idiom “to rub salt in a wound?” Because of the salt in the tank, forgetting to cover cuts brings that idiom to life in a float tank. Also avoid shaving prior to a float session, it can cause stinging and take away from the full relaxation experience.
- Try floating both with and without the foam pillow. I prefer not using the pillow but others find neck support helps relaxation.
- Wearing ear plugs enhances the sound deprivation and prevents getting swimmer's ear afterwards.