The number of natural therapies surfacing in the health industry is accelerating and this is a boon for those seeking alternative methods to healing. As conventional medical practices continue to focus on the symptoms and prescribe toxic medications that does nothing to relieve the source of the condition, natural health professionals are bringing back traditional methods of healing and combining some of them with new technology that facilitates a natural healing process.
This current trend has essentially flipped the old saying “out with the old, and in with the new” on its head because people are starting to realize that the “old fashioned” ways of dealing with illness are much less risky and quite often more effective than conventional medicine approaches. In this case, “in with the old and out with the new” might be more appropriate.
This paradigm shift is definitely embraced by flotation therapy, which combines an old practice with today’s technology.
What is flotation therapy?
First of all, flotation therapy is not a new phenomenon. In fact, John C. Lilly, a medical practitioner and neuro-psychiatrist first developed flotation tanks in the 1950’s and it set off a series of research into sensory deprivation and its effects on the brain and how that translated into other health benefits as well. As a result of the research and noted benefits, float tanks were produced for commercial use and float centres started opening in several countries during the 1980’s and continued to grow in popularity. Now, there are hundreds of float centres in dozens of countries all over the world.
Flotation therapy is a way to achieve deep relaxation by spending 60-90 minutes floating in a warm (90-95 F) solution of epsom salts and water that keeps you suspended with absolutely no effort. The contained environment inside the float tank normally has a certain amount of control available to the user, such as minimal lighting and meditative music. For those who want a complete sensory deprivation experience, you can also choose to go pitch black with nothing audible. This allows you to choose an environment the best suits your needs and personality.
What can you expect in a floating session?
Before you begin a floating session, you will be provided instructions by appropriate staff on what to do to prior to the session, during, and after so there are no real surprises. This will involve a warm shower prior to the float, stripping naked (you can wear a swimsuit if desired), and entering the tank with ear plugs (to prevent any water entering the ear) and a water “pillow” to ensure you can completely relax.
Once you enter the tank, you do normally have some options. The first one is whether to close the lid on the tank, as claustrophobic individuals may feel a bit anxious with the lid down, even though that would be the ideal recommendation. Keep in mind that it is quite roomy in the tank with dimensions of 7 feet long, 4.5 feet wide, and with 4.5 feet between your face and the ceiling of the tank.
From there, you can choose to keep a soft ambient light on at the foot at the tank and whether you would like some soft meditative music. This is completely up to you and will depend on your comfortability and goals of the float session.
Once you lay back you will immediately find that there is no risk of sinking in the tank or having to work to stay afloat. With approximately 1000 pounds of epsom salts in the water, your buoyancy is guaranteed!
It can normally take up to 15 minutes to get relaxed and comfortable in the tank as you adjust your preferences to this entirely new experience. Once that is set, you can then completely let go, do visualization experiences, or simply enjoy 60-90 minutes of complete silence. It is quite common to fall asleep in the tank, and to wake up feeling completely refreshed.
Since you are lying in the float tank in your own private room (and if you choose, you may be naked) you will be notified of the end of your session by the ambient light coming on in your tank and a soft voice over speakers that indicates your session is complete. If for some reason you are enjoying a deep sleep and this doesn’t wake you up, in a few minutes the filter system will turn on and begin agitating the water which will undoubtedly wake you up out of your slumber.
Following the float, it is important to wash the salts off your body and out of your hair using the shower inside your private room. Following that you can get dressed and exit the room to be greeted by staff who will ask how your session went and provide any comments to help you interpret the benefits of your float session.
The health benefits of flotation therapy
The primary benefits with flotation therapy is achieved through sensory deprivation, weightlessness, and magnesium. This is an incredible trifecta to induce relaxation due to elimination of environmental stimuli, reduction of pressure and/or pain, and the remarkable ability of magnesium to lower anxiety and promote muscle relaxation.
The cool part of being in a sensory deprived state is that your brain no longer needs to pay attention to outside stimuli and can go into a completely relaxed or guided state. Think of a float tank as meditation and relaxation taken to another level. Of course, when you can achieve these higher levels of consciousness, all kinds of things can happen. According to neuropsychiatrist Daniel Amen, M.D.:
“You’re not stuck with the brain you’re born with. By changing your brain, you can change your life. With simple breathing and awareness techniques it is possible to quell anxiety and panic, calm inner turmoil and fight depression by learning how to short circuit automatic negative thoughts, conquer impulsiveness, obsessiveness, and anger, develop focus and stop obsessive worrying”.
As you can see, achieving a meditative state on a regular basis has all kinds of positive implications for your overall well-being.
In addition to this state of consciousness, the weightlessness of the float can have quite a dramatic effect on those suffering physical pain. Thomas H. Fine, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry of the Medical College of Ohio, and Roderick A Borrie, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at South Oaks Hospital, Amityville, New York, found that:
“Flotation REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) can have an important role at several stages of the pain management process. By reducing both muscle tension and pain in a relatively short time and without effort on the part of the patient, flotation provides a dramatic demonstration of the benefits of relaxation. Relief is immediate and, although temporary, offers promise of further relief from REST and other relaxation-based strategies.”
Most of the patients that utilized flotation therapy in their experiments suffered from chronic pain for longer than six months and floated from one to 16 sessions. Overall, they reported a reduction in pain that averaged 31.3%, with the highest level of relief in the upper back at 63.6%, and the lowest in the legs at 15.3%. It appears to be pretty clear that float tanks help with chronic pain.
The other remarkable benefit of flotation therapy comes from the sheer magnitude of magnesium placed in the water. This miracle mineral will be absorbed transdermally (through the skin) during your float session, and can assist with stress reduction, bone strength, balancing blood sugar, and improving muscle and heart health.
Other notable benefits that can be gained through flotation therapy include:
- Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression
- Sports recovery
- Reduced headaches
- Increased circulation
- Overcoming addictions
- Increased creativity
- Improved visualization
Keep in mind that flotation therapy is not just for the stressed and ill. High performance athletes can also benefit from float therapy due to improved physical recovery, and enhanced visualization techniques. It is reported that Tom Brady, the 39 year old quarterback for the New England Patriots and 5 time Super Bowl winner, regularly uses float for visualization and recovery.
Entrepreneurs and business owners can also benefit from float therapy by reducing stress and igniting new ideas or solutions for their business. Once one is able to eliminate the outside noise of day to day life, those regions of the brain that harness creativity can be accessed and explored (much like meditation).
Of course, you may not notice these improvements after a single session (but some undoubtedly will). The first session is often one combined with excitement and a little trepidation, and there is a feeling out process on what works best for you. So if you want to fully experience the benefits of float therapy, get that first session in then commit to at least a few more floats before you make any judgements on the efficacy of the therapy.
All in all, there is little to no risk with flotation therapy, and upside is unlimited depending on how deep you can relax and various regions of the mind you can explore that will improve your overall well-being.
To learn more about float therapy and what you can expect, visit Gravity Float and Wellness.
Sources for this article include: