Thursday, July 24, 2008

Meditation & Spirituality: Float Tanks Make A Come Back

If you were a part of the 60's generation, no doubt you remember all the controversy surrounding the seemingly wild ideas and views of the 'hippie generation.' Here's a blast from the treatment that helps stress and pain relief.

New life-styles emerged, traditional ways of thinking were challenged and unusual and inventive products were introduced into the marketplace. One such product was the "Isolation Tank."

Floatation tanks, as they are commonly referred to today, were used primarily for "consciousness expansion." Now, over 30 years later, float tanks are once again resurfacing, bringing with them a new approach in the quest for health and well-being that goes far beyond exploring expanded states of consciousness.

Today, float tanks are used mostly as an alternative therapeutic health procedure. In fact, research shows that both the short and long-term effects of floating, as it is often referred to, provides a multitude of experiences that encompasses a persons' physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

When a person floats, they will find themselves launched into a meditative state causing a drop in their heart rate and blood pressure. The overall effects of floating have been proven to reduce stress and pain by stimulating endorphin production. These same endorphins also help in alleviating mild to moderate depression. People who float regularly notice enhanced euphoria and well-being, improved performance skills and an increase in creativity. Many report a noticeable ability to recall information quickly and more accurately.

Overall, floating has come a long way since the 1960's. Float tanks can now be looked upon as a health benefit that encourages the human body and psyche to heal in a manner that is much gentler for the body mind and spirit.


John C. Lilly, a pioneer in brain and behavioral research, first developed floatation tanks in 1954. He experimented with the concept of restricting the amount of external stimuli to the brain. When he built the first isolation environment, he was determined to prove that the brain, without environmental stimuli, would simply go to sleep. Using himself for the experiment, he learned that just the opposite was true.

Dr. Lilly found that the brain continued functioning independently and even at a higher level when deprived of stimuli. With a stimuli-free environment, he found that a person experienced a profound state of relaxation, an excellent opportunity to explore inner thoughts.

Initially the relaxation environment was used for brain research and exploring altered states of consciousness, but over the years, the health benefits associated with floating have come to the forefront as an alternative treatment for stress management, disease and illness.

Many people unfamiliar with float tanks naturally have questions. The following are some of the most commonly asked questions with regards to floating:


Tanks come in various shapes and sizes. Most are rectangular or oval. The typical tank is usually 8 feet long and 4 feet wide. This allows a person to comfortably lie down and not feel claustrophobic.


The tank is filled with approximately 10 inches of water. One thousand pounds of Epsom salts is added to ensure full buoyancy. The water is maintained at a comfortable 95ºF, the same temperature as the surface of the skin. When you lie in a tank, you bob to the surface of the water, like a cork.


As you slip into the warm water, closing the door behind you, profound darkness surrounds you. It becomes so black that your eyes may be opened or closed. You lie back with your ears slightly below the water level (earplugs should be provided). Your hearing becomes attuned to the sound of your heart beating. Your head and neck become buoyant and you slowly slip into a state of relaxation.

Within 15 to 20 minutes, you naturally achieve a significant state of utter relaxation, without using any drugs or without practicing months of meditation. A typical float may last up to one hour, but can easily go much longer.


All phobias need some point of reference to activate them. With no external stimuli in the tank, claustrophobia occurs. If you do get concerned, however, simply open the door or turn on the light.


If you fall asleep, … sweet dreams. Because of the salt density in the water, it is physically impossible to unconsciously turn over in the tank of water. It is like trying to push a ball under water, it's difficult. To date, there have been no reports of a person drowning while using a float tank.


After each float, all the water is passed through a sophisticated filtering system and sterilization process, ensuring that each float is as clean and safe as the next.


The immediate results are obvious: you will feel immensely happy and rejuvenated. Colors will have new intensity, hearing will be more acute and you will have a general feeling of euphoria. This can last for hours,
but an hour session in a float tank is an on-going experience. It does not end when you leave the tank and go into the shower. What is less obvious will be a new clarity of mind, increased powers of concentration, and memory retention that can last for several weeks.


Unquestionably, floating can be an incredible experience. Unlike other mind altering stimuli, floating does not leave with the disappointing "coming down" period afterwards. No hangovers or disturbing trauma to the body. Rather, floating is a prolonged, beneficial state that is actually cumulative in it's effects. The more you float, the more effective it becomes, allowing you to experience a continual saga into self-discovery and an opportunity to achieve specific health and well-being goals.


I have to admit, it was a scary at first -- lying back into a totally black rectangular box, filled with about 10 inches of extremely salty, warm water. The salt made the water almost gel-like in its substance. I imagined it was similar to the amniotic fluid that surrounds the womb of a pregnant woman. As I became accustomed to the dark and the enclosed box, I began to notice my breathing, then I could hear my heart beating, eventually I drifted off into a plane where I felt like I was floating on clouds. I felt as though my body was moving from the vertical position it was in, into a horizontal position. This is physically impossible in a float tank, but nonetheless, the horizontal movement was present. The salty water over my body was smooth and soothing, the sensation of being in the womb.

In the tank, time does not exist. It was easy to turn off the clutter of my mind and focus on the experience of the tank. Wrestling with the uncertainty of the new experience, I found it hard at first to settle in, but once my body started to relax, time and pain had no point of reference and was easily forgotten. As my body moved deeper into the experience, I felt as though my bones were shifting and moving naturally, and not painfully.

You might interrupt this part of the experience as your body making its own chiropractic adjustments. In a float tank you experience a release from gravity. As much as 85% of all our daily activity affecting our nervous system is related to gravity. When this is released, the body experiences a feeling of weightlessness and pain disappears.

Another benefit of floating is its ability to reduce swelling. A few summers back, I broke my leg and had experienced swelling and intense pain that surrounded my knee. After an hour afloat, the swelling decreased significantly and the pain did not exist for hours. I have talked to many people who have experienced floating for the treatment of various cancer symptoms and other illnesses. Most have reported major relief from the pain and discomfort of their disease. People with phlebitis, edema, or women with PMS experience immediate relief from the swelling in their back and legs. Back pain is the one condition I found that could benefit the most from floating. Having had several back surgeries myself, I use floating for those days that pain is just too much to bear. I've found that the no-gravity position that floating provides allows for relaxation and excellent change for the body to realign itself naturally and without pain.

The overall experience of a float is something that cannot be described. You can feel light, jovial and happy. Tension, stress and pain disappear from your body and you can't wait to try it again.

For me, floating has been an amazing new path in my continual journey to find natural, nurturing ways to relieve pain and remind me how to relax.

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