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What Is Flotation Therapy?

August 14th, 2009

flotation-tank-therapy.jpgWhile browsing through the alternative medicine category at Constant Content, I found this article on flotation therapy from none other than our cryptically named lkclora13. I’m not sure how well this actually works, but from what I can tell it is similar to meditation and relaxation strategies that I have used to relieve headaches and other general stress, except that this method has the added feature of salt water flotation to make things more interesting. Whether the salt water component really provides any additional benefits over regular meditation is something that I would need to research more or experience myself, but as the saying goes, whatever floats your boat… :)

Flotation therapy is a form of sensory deprivation in which your mind and body are isolated from external stimuli. The aim is to help you reach a deeply relaxed state. It was developed during the 1970s by a U.S. neurophysiologist and psychoanalyst called Dr. John Lilly so that he could research how the human brain reacted when it was cut off from external stimulation.

Flotation therapy involves lying in a tank filled with salty water. It is said to help relieve stress, induce relaxation, help people with drug problems, and benefit people with arthritis and low back pain. Flotation tanks are found in health clubs or in specially designed float centers. The tanks are about 2.5m (8 feet) long and 1.25m (4 feet) wide, with about 25cm (10 inches) of water that contains salt to counteract gravity and is kept at skin temperature. Flotation takes place in complete or semi-darkness and with no sound and you are usually given earplugs to use. However, it is always possible to switch a light on and open the door. Sometimes, it is possible to play relaxation tapes and many tanks have a two-way microphone to enable you to talk to a practitioner, for example for hypnotherapy or psychotherapy. You can float either naked or wearing a swimming costume.

There is good scientific evidence that flotation therapy can reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body and affect our state of mind, producing a profound state of relaxation. During flotation the brain has also been shown to release endorphins (natural opiates) which have pain-relieving properties and can produce mild feelings of euphoria. It is important to have professional supervision during flotation if you suffer from claustrophobia (and possibly other phobias), depression or anxiety. It is not suitable for people with a history of psychosis.

To find out where your nearest flotation tank is, contact the Floatation Tank Association. A flotation session typically lasts from one to two hours. Prices vary among individual practitioners.

Somewhat related article: Stress Management and Productivity

3 Responses to “What Is Flotation Therapy?”

  1. comment number 1 by: Ireland5

    The salt probably just makes it easier to float - changes the density of the water. Sounds like a great relaxation idea to me!

  2. comment number 2 by: Flotation Therapy

    If this interests you, I strongly recommend trying it out for yourself. It’s fun to read your pre-experience perspective on this subject. I hope you’ll write a follow-up after trying flotation therapy for yourself. It has changed my life on multiple levels.

  3. comment number 3 by: Jean - USA

    I just had my first float session in a closed-tank in Lakewood, Ohio.
    What a wonderful experience. I felt so relaxed and content. The hour went by so quickly. I have no fear of being in small, dark places, so this was no problem. However, they do suggest leaving the door open or partially opened if you feel uncomfortable.

    At times, I felt like I was turning around inside the tank, which is
    impossible to do. I guess this is because I was so relaxed and my mind was really floating.

    I most certainly will do this again and again.

    P.S. I am a 73-year-old woman.

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