History of Float Tanks
The origins of the floatation tank started in 1954 when Dr. John C. Lilly, a medical practitioner
and neuro-psychiatrist was training in psychoanalysis and started to do research regarding the
origin of consciousness and its relation to the brain. He tried many experiments with different
kinds of float tanks that gradually evolved to the highly technological and comfortable floatation
facilities that we have today.
The main focus of Dr. Lilly was to create a device that would deprive or restrict the number of
external stimuli so that the brain and the individual could be tested in an atmosphere of isolation.
Initially these devices were called sensory deprivation chambers but in recent years, with research
showing a growing understanding of the benefits of floatation therapy, the terminology has changed
to Restricted Environmental Stimuli Therapy (R.E.S.T.).
Why is floating so good for you?
What effects does floating have on the body?
Floating is a method of attaining the deepest relaxation one can experience. In the gravity free
environment the body balances and heals internally as all the senses are rested. Research shows
that floating measurably reduces blood pressure and heart rate whilst lowering the levels of
stress related chemicals in the body. Old injuries and aches, (especially backache) experience
relief as floating helps blood circulation.
Floating is used widely in the treatment of stress, anxiety, jet lag and to improve concentration
and creativity. Sports performance and 'wind down' is also enhanced during floating. Also, one
hour of floating has the restorative effects of 4 hours of sleep!
What effects does floating have on the mind?
During a float, you produce slower brain-waves patterns, known as theta waves, (normally experienced
only during deep meditation or just before falling asleep and when waking up). This is usually
accompanied by vivid imagery, very clear, creative thoughts, sudden insights and inspirations or
feelings of profound peace and joy, induced by the release of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates.
Because of these effects, floating is used effectively in the treatment of depression and addictions,
including smoking and alcohol. It is also used in schools and universities as tools for Super Learning.
Is floating successful for everyone?
Floating, as with other treatments, doesn’t suit everybody. It needs willingness on your part to let
go and see what happens, and you may need to float a few times before you are able to relax completely,
both physically and mentally. Depending on your own journey through life, a float might provide an
hour of total physical relaxation - or a profound healing experience, emotionally and spiritually
transforming. Floating can be a wonderful aid to opening doors into your inner world, gradually allowing
access to those deeper levels at which real changes take place.
Floating, in a nutshell, can help with the following:
- Intense relaxation
- Relief of old injuries (back aches etc)
- Ease Arthritis
- Improve the condition of the skin
- Detoxify the system
- Useful in pregnancy (for the full 9 months)
- Increase creativity and imagination
- Increase circulation and energy levels
- Balance the left and right brain
- An aid for addictions phobias and depression
- Regulate sleeping patterns
- Relieve stress
Also remember that the benefits of floating are accumulative – the more you float
the better it gets and each float is never the same as the next.
From "Pregnancy and Birth Magazine"
For real water babies, a floatation tank session is a pregnancy must. The tank is filled with water
only 10 inches deep, but the high concentration of salt means that your whole body is suspended,
giving you a feeling of weightlessness and soothing stress, aches and pains – great for pregnancy
backs and feet. While you’re floating your mind produces slow theta brainwaves, which make you
thought patterns clearer and more creative, as well as endorphins – the hormones responsible for
OK. So the thought of being shut in a dark tank of water sounds a bit scary, but you can open the
door or switch the light on at any time: therapists say it’s rare to feel claustrophobic. And the
best news is that floating is safe throughout the whole nine months of pregnancy. Just imagine an
hour to yourself, resting in warm water with gentle music soothing your senses and nothing to think
about but you and your baby. Just lie back and enjoy…
“IT WAS AMAZING TO FEEL WEIGHTLESS. I WAS AWARE OF TENSION DRAINING FROM MY BODY AND MY MIND WENT
INTO A STATE OF COMPLETE RELAXATION. AS I FLOATED, I FELT A STRONG CONNECTION WITH MY BABY. IT LEFT
ME BLISSFULLY CALM.”
“IT TOOK ME A WHILE TO RELAX BUT ONCE I GOT USED TO IT I FELT AS IF I WAS HALF ASLEEP. IT EASED MY
BACKACHE AND MADE ME FEEL VERY CHILLED OUT, EVEN AFTERWARDS WHEN I WAS BACK TACKLING RUSH HOUR.”
ZAZA PATTERSON, 34 WEEKS
SEVEN THEORIES OF FLOATING
Extracts from “The Book of Floating” by Michael Hutchinson
THERE’S NO DOUBT THAT floating works as a therapeutic, educational and entertainment tool it has
powerful effects on a number of levels, including the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.
But why is the floatation environment so effective? What can be so actively beneficial in an essentially
passive device? This is a question that has intrigued scientists, and today there is an explosion of
floatation research going on in laboratories around the world. The evidence accumulated so far falls
into a number of distinct, though interrelated explanations. Among the most important are:
1. The Antigravity Explanation.
The buoyancy afforded by the dense Epsom-salt solution eliminates
the body’s specific gravity, bringing the floater close to an experience of total weightlessness. Gravity,
which has been estimated to occupy 90 percent of all central nervous system activity, is probably the single
largest cause of human health problems - the bad backs, sagging abdomens, aching feet, painful joints,
and muscular tension that result from our unique but unnatural upright posture. This theory asserts that,
by freeing our brain and musculoskeletal system from gravity, floating liberates vast amounts of energies
and large areas of the brain to deal with matter of mind, spirit, and enhanced awareness of internal states.
2. The Brain Wave Explanation.
More interesting than the well-known alpha waves generated by the
brain in moments of relaxation, are the slower theta waves, which are accompanied by vivid memories, free
association, sudden insights, creative inspiration, feeling of serenity and oneness with the universe. It
is a mysterious, elusive state, potentially highly productive and enlightening; but experimenters have had
a difficult time studying it, and it is hard to maintain, since people tend to fall asleep once they begin
generate theta waves.
One way of learning to produce theta waves is to perfect the art of meditation. A study of Zen monks conducted
by Akira Kazamatsu and Tomio Hirai, in which the monks’ brain-waves were charted as they entered the meditative
states, indicated that the four meditative plateau’s (from alpha to the more sublime theta) “were parallel to
the disciples’ mental states, and their years spent in Zen training.” Those monks with over twenty years of
meditative experience generated the greatest amount of theta, the monks were not asleep but mentally alert.
However, since many of us are unwilling to spend twenty years of mediation to learn to generate theta waves,
it’s helpful to know that several recent studies (at Texas A&M and the University at Colorado) have shown that
floating increases production of theta waves. Floaters quickly enter the theta state while remaining awake,
consciously aware of all the vivid imagery and creative thoughts that pass through their minds, and after
getting out of the floatation environment, floaters continue to generate larger amounts of creativity-promoting
theta waves for up to three weeks.
3. The Left-Brain Right Brain Explanation.
The two hemispheres or the neo-cortex operate in fundamentally
different modes. The left hemisphere excels at detail, processing information that is small-scale, requiring fine
resolution: it operates analytically, by splitting or dissection. The right hemisphere on the other hand, is good
at putting all the pieces together; it operates by pattern recognition visually, intuitively rapidly absorbing
large scale information.
Just as in the sunshine of a bright day it is impossible to see the stars, so are the subtle contents of the right
hemisphere usually drowned out by the noisy chattering of the dominant verbal/analytical left brain, whose qualities
are the more cultivated and valued in our culture. But recent research indicates that floating increases right-brain
(or minor hemisphere) function. Floating turns off the external stimuli plunges us into literal and figurative
darkness then suddenly the entire universe of stars and galaxies is spread out before our eyes. Or as brain researcher
Dr. Thomas Budzynski of the University of Colorado put it, “In a floatation environment, the right hemisphere comes out
and says, ‘Whoopee!”
4. The Three Brain Explanation.
In a series of seminal studies produced over the last twenty-five years, Paul
MacLean, chief brain researcher at the National Institute for Mental Health (US), has produced convincing evidence
that the human brain has three separate physiological layers, each corresponding to a stage in our evolutionary history.
In this “Triune Brain Theory,” the most ancient layer is called the reptile brain, and it controls basic self-preservative,
reproductive and life sustaining functions. Sitting atop the reptile brain is the limbic system, which MacLean had dubbed
the visceral brain, because it generates all our emotions. The most recent part of the brain to develop is the “thinking cap”
of convoluted gray matter called neo-cortex, seat of our abstract, cognitive functions; memory, intellect, language, and
While many of these three separate brains have overlapping functions they are all quite different in chemistry, structure,
action, and style. Three brains should be better than one, but unfortunately, due to a ruinous design error, there is
insufficient communication and co-ordination between the neo-cortex and the two older levels. This lack of communication
results in a chronic dissociation between the higher and lower brains, which MacLean calls schizaphysiology, and which we
experience in the form of conflicting drives unconscious and conscious, savage and civilised, lusty and loving, ritualistic
and symbolic, rational and verbal. There are times when the levels do act in harmony, as in peak experiences when body and
mind unite in exhilarating moments of vitality, when our actions come effortlessly, spontaneously. But it’s hard to predict
when these perfect moments will occur.
Now there is evidence that suggests that, due to heightened internal awareness and decreased physical arousal, floating
increases the vertical organisation of the brain, enhancing communication and harmony between the separate levels. Floating,
it has been hypothesised, can provide us with peak experiences almost at will.
5. The Neurochemical Explanation.
Neuroscientists have recently discovered the brain is an endocrine organ that
secretes numerous neurochemicals which influence our behaviour. Our brains secrete hormones that make us happy, anxious,
depressed, shy, sleepy, sexy. Each of us creates different amounts of these various neurochemicals, and those who create,
for example, more endorphins & natural opiates experience more pleasure as a result of a given experience that those
who create fewer endorphins.
Tests indicate that floating increased the secretion of endorphins at the same time as it reduces the levels of a number
of stress-related neurochemicals, such as adrenaline, nor epinephrine, ACTH, and cortical substances that can cause
tension, anxiety, irritability, and are related to ailments such as heart disease, hypertension and high levels of
One other neurochemical theory is the "return of the womb" explanation. Since pregnant women produce up to eight times
the normal endorphin levels, the foetus experiences true prenatal bliss. When a floater is suspended in the dense, warm
solution, enclosed in darkness, body pulsing rhythmically and brain pumping out endorphins, it’s possible that subconscious
memories are stirred and profoundly deep associations called up. It is no coincidence that at least one commercial float
centre is named “The Womb Room.”
6. The Biofeedback Explanation.
Because of biofeedback research (including Johns Hopkins researcher John Basmajian’s
conclusive study of subjects consciously firing off single motor-unit neurons), we now know that humans can learn to
exercise conscious control over virtually every cell in their bodies. Processes long thought to be involuntary, such as
the rhythm and amplitude of our brain waves, healing, blood pressure, the rate or force of heart contractions, respiratory
rate, smooth-muscle tension, and the secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters are now thought to be controllable.
The way biofeedback machines work is by enhancing concentration; by focusing on a single, subtle change in the body, which
is being amplified by the machine, we are able to shut off our awareness of the external environment. This shutting-off of
external stimuli is exactly what the floatation environment does best almost as if in an "organic" biofeedback machine,
in the tank every physical sensation is magnified, and because there is no possibility of outside distraction, we are able
to relax deeply and focus at will upon any part or system of the body.
7. The Homeostasis Explanation.
The human body has an exquisitely sensitive self -monitoring and self-regulating
system that is constantly working to maintain the body in homeostasis an optimal state of balance, harmony, equilibrium
and stability. Considered in these terms, we can define stress as a disruption of our internal equilibrium, a disturbance
of our natural homeostasis. Research now indicates that many of floating’s most powerful effects come from its tendency to
return the body to a state of homeostasis. When we view the mind and body as a single system, it becomes clear that external
stimuli are constantly militating against the system’s equilibrium; every noise, every degree of temperature above or below
the body’s optimal level, every encounter with other people, everything we see and feel can disrupt our homeostasis. But when
we enter the tank, we abruptly stop this constant adjustment to outer stimuli. Since there are no external threats, no
pressures to adapt to outside events, the system can devote all its energies to restoring itself. The normal state, of course,
is health, vigour, enthusiasm, and immense pleasure in being alive.