Today, we are diving into a Sensory Deprivation tank to find out why this unusual activity has become extremely popular in helping people unwind from their stress and relieve physical ailments. This is something that is considered as alternative medicine and has not gained legitimacy in the medical community, which happens to be about 65 years behind current discoveries. Regardless of how mainstream this is, your life will never be the same after your first float.
Sensory deprivation therapy was first introduced in 1954 by John C. Lilly. He recognized the neurological benefits his subjects observed, he compared it to spending time in an altered state of mind. The practice of floating became wide spread in the 1980s until the AIDS scare drove the industry into extinction. People did not know if sharing water would transmit AIDS, so they abandoned float tanks altogether. Water did not, in fact, lead to the transmission of AIDS; so in recent years, quite a few sensory deprivation centers have opened all over the place. John Lilly could never have conceived the state of the art filtration systems that modern float tanks have now, but he pioneered the idea. That leads us into how the float tanks actually work.
After thousands of pounds of Epsom salt are dissolved into a shallow pool of water, your body becomes buoyant and floats on the top of the surface with absolutely no effort. You cannot drown, so you can completely let go. The water is heated up to our body’s temperature so you are not feeling ANY type of discomfort inside the tank. You then have the choice to turn off the lights and music for a total deprivation of senses.
Quite a few things happen at this time! Our bodies stop sending sensory signals to the brain; leaving it entirely alone. At first, the mind needs a minute to settle into this new environment, but then it slows down its activity to a grinding halt. The sound of your own inhalation and exhalation is so prominent that it becomes the center of your universe. This process induces meditation even in those who aren’t able to close-eye meditate for 5 minutes outside of the tank. The breathing intuitively becomes the mantra that you are subconsciously reciting. Over the course of 60 or 90 minutes of this, your mind gets significantly clear from brain noise, stress, anxiety and any kind of negative thoughts. This is exactly how Buddhist meditation works, except it is now available for anyone who is brave enough to climb into the tank. There is literally no prior meditation needed to experience this. I can’t stop smiling and laughing after I get out of the tank because you feel like you are elevated to the moon! For those who already meditate, imagine a 90-minute uninterrupted session that takes you further than you have ever gone.
Your body goes into a serious state of relaxation as well. Since you are floating, almost as if in space, your body does not need to contract any muscles and is completely relieved of any tension. This extends to the joints as well, which are usually exhausted from the running around we do or from exercising. The relief from pain or any kind of tension is tremendous. I have walked into a tank completely beat up from my training, only to emerge completely injury-free from the tank. I consider this one of the essential tools to my recovery as I get ready for competitions. There is something about feeling truly weightless that always makes you feel like you are reborn when you come out of the tank. I also found a study done with 449 people that determined that Sensory Deprivation therapy produced positive effects, like lowering cortisol and blood pressure.
Lastly, I wanted to give a shout-out to Float SNJ because they have built a world-class facility nearby me with every single amenity possible. There is an infrared sauna and even more float rooms to come soon. There is no comparison between floating in a small enclosed “pod” versus full blown rooms with a pool like Float has built. I usually do not feature businesses in these articles but I tried floating here for the first time and their state of the art technology and approach to detail blew me away.
The daily stress we put our minds and bodies through makes floating almost an essential tool for modern survival. I highly recommend giving this “new age” remedy a try. Even if you are skeptical at first, you will come out of that tank feeling like a brand new person.