History of Floatation Therapy
The concept of floating in high concentration salt water has been around a long time. For centuries people have visited the Dead Sea to float in the high salt and mineral content waters. Many reporting relief from a variety of ailments. The high specific gravity allows for an object (A person in this case) to float effortlessly at the surface of the water without any additional float aids. The high concentration of salt water also provides for a clean water experience. The salt concentration is so high, that it is inhospitable to harmful pathogens (Hence the name – The Dead Sea).
The first Floatation Tanks were used in the 1950’s as a research tool examining the effects of sensory deprivation on the human mind. It was not until the 1970’s that more emphasis was placed on the health benefits that could be obtained from floating. This era also saw the development of self sustaining Floatation Tanks that some had installed in their homes for frequent private use. Some recognizable names that became early adopters of this form of therapy include John Lennon, and Robin Williams. The pioneering float tank was known as the Samadi, and the company produces Float Tanks still today.
Beginning in the last 1970’s and continuing through the 80’s and 90’s commercial float centers have become more readily available in larger cities. The last 10 years has seen an explosion of new commercial float centers in the United States and across the globe. Expanding access to Floatation Therapy to millions of people.
Many prominent celebrities and high level athletes incorporate Floatation Therapy into their health, wellness, and recovery routines. Joe Rogan, Steph Curry, Tom Brady, and many others have all been vocal about how Floating has been beneficial for them.
NASA has used Floatation Tanks to study the physiological and psychological effects of a low gravity environment on the body. This research has led to using Floatation Therapy for an expanding list physical and mental health issues.
How does Floatation Therapy work?
Floatation Therapy works by creating an environment that greatly reduces the effects of gravity on the body, and reduces or eliminates sensory input to the brain. Many people have found the combination of these two principles to be very beneficial in helping with many different health ailments.
A floatation tank contains water with a high concentration magnesium sulfate (Epsom Salt). Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-6 pounds of Epsom Salt for every gallon of water. This high concentration of salt forces objects to float at the surface of the water. Essentially eliminating the effects of gravity on the body. This allows for the spine to decompress, a reduction in stress on the joints and connective tissues, and a significant relaxation of muscle tissue. This decrease in stress to the body can result in decompression of nerves, lymph and blood vessels. Which leads to better blood flow and oxygenation. These elements allow for improved functioning, and faster recovery. Many people report decreased pain and improved mobility after their very first float.
The other key component in Floatation Therapy is sensory reduction. Our nervous system is consistently overloaded with sensory input in a faced paced culture. This over stimulation of the nervous system can lead to abnormal stress and over time, can produce significant health issues. The float environment is designed to reduce this sensory input and allow the nervous system to reset and heal. This is achieved by reducing light and sound stimulus through a darkened and sound reduced environment. Floating is typically done naked with water heated to approximate skin temperature. This greatly reduces tactile (touch) stimuli from the skin to the brain and nervous system. By reducing these sensory inputs, the brain gets a chance to rest, which also further enhances the effects of the physical relaxation.
Today, there are many different types of Floatation Tanks, and float environments available. While not possible to cover every unique float system available, there are some basic configurations that most will conform to. Some styles may be more appealing to people than others. There is no one universal type of tank that is better than another. Each have their own unique benefits and appeal to certain individuals. The important thing in choosing a float tank to use is to find one you are comfortable with and allows you to for reach that deep level of relaxation. Whatever the style of the delivery system, the basic principles are generally the same: High concentration warm salt water, in a sensory reduced environment.
Box Style Float Tanks
These Float Tanks are similar in design to the original Samadi tanks that were produced. Relatively small in size, Box style tanks offer a more enclosed floating environment, which appeals to many floaters. Some have said this style of Float Tank provides a cocoon, or womb type of an experience.
Pod Style Float Tanks
These are a very popular type of Float Tank with several manufacturers producing models that conform to this type of tank. Pod Style Tanks tend to have a slightly larger floating area than the box style. Most also feature some kind of a clam shell type door, which can be closed or left open during a float session. Generally lighting and music can be controlled from inside the unit itself.
Tent Style Float Tank
Tent style tanks are typically constructed of a lightweight metal frame that supports a liner to contain the water. The frame extends upward to support a top covering that give it a tent appearance. A flap style door is utilized for entry and exit on one side of the Float Tent. Float Tents have a small footprint which make them ideal for home use without needing a large amount of space. Although we have heard of these being modified and used in commercial setting as well.
Open Style Float Tank
The Open Style Float Tank has no top and as the name suggests, is open and exposed within the float room. This offers the least confining float environment. These tanks typically also have a larger floating area. In some cases being able to accommodate floating more than one person at a time. Many people that may be uncomfortable with a more enclosed setting, do well with this type of Float Tank.
Cabin Style Float Tank
This style of Float Tank is somewhat of a hybrid between a box or pod style and an open float tank. The Cabin Style Float Tank typically has walls that go up 7 or 8 feet and a top. The extended height in this type of tank can drastically increase the feeling of openness and reduce any feelings of being to confined. Cabin Style Float Tanks can be a stand alone unit, or may appear to be built into a wall within the float room.
The Float Process
Each Float Center will have their process and procedures for a float session. It is important to abide by these processes as they are designed around that center’s equipment and environment. There are some procedures that seem to be universal for most float centers.
- Understand any contraindications or reasons that you should not float
- Receive orientation regarding the operation of the tank, lights, music, etc.
- Insert Ear Plugs
- Apply a thin layer of vaseline over any cuts, nicks, or scrapes
- Take a cool shower to remove loose hair, make-up, and skin products
- Relax and enjoy your float session
- When done, exit the float tank, shower, and dress
Some Float Centers offer separate areas to dress, dry hair, and apply make-up following your float.