What is Floating?
A float tank (also called an isolation tank or sensory deprivation tank) is essentially the perfect bath tub. They vary in size, but the typical tank is 8′ long and 4.5′ wide. Air is allowed to freely flow in and out, and the door never locks or latches.
It holds about 10″ of water, which is saturated with 850 pounds of Epsom salt. This creates a solution more buoyant than the Dead Sea, and you float on your back about half in and half out of the water.
The water itself is kept at the average skin temperature (93.5° F), which allows you to lose track of your body. The tank is sound proof and, when you turn off the light, completely dark.
No gravity, no touch, no sight, and no sound. Just pure nothing.
History of Floating
So where did these crazy tanks come from? Did we invent them? Yes. Well, no. What actually happened is that in 1954 a neuroscientist named John C. Lilly needed to eliminate incoming sensory information to create a control group for his experiments.
He ended up discovering that sensory deprivation has a load of benefits that far superseded whatever wild experiments he was doing.
By the 1970’s, the tank’s design had evolved from Lilly’s original laboratory chambers to the comfortable commercial tanks that we have now. This means you’re not submerged in the water with air tubes, you don’t have to wear a diver’s helmet with a black faceplate, and you don’t have to have experiments run on you.
Benefits of Floating
Getting rid of all sensory input allows the ‘constantly-make-sure-you’re-not-dying’ part of your brain to chill out for a second, allowing the creative, relaxed part of your brain to come out and play. Without the constant pressure of analyzing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of cortisol, the main chemical component of stress.
Not having to fight gravity lets your muscles, joints, and bones take a well-deserved break. Your body suddenly has loads of extra resources (usually spent supporting your weight, regulating temperature, and trying not to get speeding tickets), which it gets to focus on things like healing and resting.
Without old-man gravity pushing you down all the time, chronic and acute pain is relieved, and your muscles get to fully rest. Unlike lying on a mattress, lying in water allows blood to flow freely all throughout your body. There’s no need to readjust your position to get comfortable. Research shows that about 40 minutes into your float your brain stops producing its normal Alpha and Beta waves and starts going deeper into a Theta and even Delta state.
Even the magnesium-based Epsom salts we use in the tank feel wonderful on your skin. They’re also kosher, just in case you want to float in water that has the blessings of a Rabbi.