The science behind isolation floatation tank therapy…
Scientist have long been aware of the mind altering effects that sensory deprivation can have on a human, but the beneficial side of the technique has not gained quite as much press as the negative effects that are often the result of interrogation methods, until recently that is.
Flotation tank therapy claims to help alleviate stress, depression, anxiety and even chronic pain. People who endorse the therapy say the results are almost immediate, and each session gets better as you learn how to relax more. The therapy has also been shown to relieve symptoms of hypertension, insomnia and arthritis.
The flotation tank is basically a large soundproof pod containing water with a high density of Epsom Salt. The salty water allows the person to float, and because the air and water is heated to same temperature as the body, 93.5 f, the sensation of water or air on the skin is greatly reduced giving the impression that you are effortlessly floating in nothingness.Image Credit: I-Sopod, 2011.
The tank has a mechanical lid, which can be operated from the inside. It also has lights which too, can be switched on or off as the users pleases. These features help the user get used to the feeling being deprived of nearly all their senses – an experience which can be quite daunting at first – until they become accustomed to floating in complete pitch-black, silence.
Submerged in the warm salty water the body is as buoyant as a pool float at the local swimming baths, and although this buoyancy ensures that you will not sink, or drown if you happen to fall asleep, it’s only natural to feel a little anxious during the first session. Fortunately, most people report that after just a couple of sessions they are able to control any feelings of anxiety and take full advantage of the relaxing benefits of the therapy.
Users can choose to drift off to soothing chillout music or nature sounds for the first 10 minutes. After that the pod goes completely silent until the music starts again for the last 10 minutes of the session. During the session users are required to wear ear plugs to stop the salt water from crystallizing in the ear canal. Vaseline is also use to cover any open cuts or sores so the salt water doesn’t sting.For the best experience, users should be naked but it’s fine to wear swimming costume if you so please. The rooms are always private and lockable, so it’s up to you. The rooms also come with showers, which should be used before and after the session for obvious reasons.
The treatment was first used in 1954 by John C. Lilly, a physician, physchoanalyst, philosopher and writer, who was researching the human consciousness. Many of Lilly’s subjects said that time spent in the tanks – then known as sensory deprivation tanks – induced feelings of euphoria, dream-like and meditative states. These reports provided the platform on which others continued to build upon until the therapy became commercially available in the 1980’s.
Nowadays, the therapy is not only used a relaxation tool, it also provides an environment that allows NASA to simulate zero gravity in order to prepare astronauts for space.
The treatment has typically been more popular in Europe than in the U.S., however increasing interest has resulted in more American clinics, spas and wellness centers offering the therapy. While some may be skeptical about the claims made by the manufacturers of flotation tanks, there is some real science behind these claims.
Many studies have shown that brainwaves can be categorized by frequency, and as Dr. Matthias Jacobi, explains in this online paper, each frequency range is responsible for inducing a certain state of consciousness.
For example, beta brainwaves (38 – 15 Hz) are our ‘waking consciousnesses. Our brains fire at this frequency when we engage in logical or analytical thinking. Anyone engaged in conversion, or debate, would be using beta brainwaves.
Next up are the Alpha brainwaves, (14 – 8 Hz). This is our relaxed consciousness, when our train of thought begins to wander creativity. Alpha brainwaves are typically associated with meditative states; when our brain is firing at this frequency the mind becomes tranquil and relaxed, allowing for a more creative thought process.
Then there’s Theta brainwaves (7 – 4 Hz), these represent the subconscious, a state associated with profound visions and vivid dreams. Some experienced meditators can enter a theta state of conscious, and that’s exactly what the flotation tank therapy claims to allow experienced users to do.
Many celebrities endorse the flotation tank, including comedian, Fear Factor and UFC host, Joe Rogan, who talks at length in this video clip about the benefits he has received from the wellness therapy.