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Floatation Therapy

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/2/2008 | Health
Touted as the fastest and most relaxing experience available, floatation therapy provides the perfect environment in which to de-stress.

The floatation tank was originally the brainchild of John C. Lilly, M.D., who was a medical practitioner and neuro-psychiatrist. Dr.Lilly was training in psychoanalysis, which led him to previous research and theories in sensory deprivation. The studies of a person's brain activity while being isolated from external stimuli caught his focus. He continued research of his own and developed his first tank in the early '50s.

Dr.Lilly's most important discovery that we benefit from today is the sense of well-being that the floatation experience provides users. The Mind becomes highly active and creative from a state of deep contemplation, allowing problems to be peacefully confronted and resolved. The body totally relaxes, and the stress melts away; Pain is abated, muscle aches subside, and it even is said to help insomnia - especially if it is caused by stress.

The biggest advantage that floatation therapy has over any other stress tool is that there is no learning curve. Unlike meditation, for instance, that takes practice to reach such a deep contemplative level floatation has no procedures or mental focusing. You get in the tank and float.

How Does It Work?

Floatation tank technology has come a long way in design and comfort, since Dr. Lilly's first tank. It is easy to step into today's tanks. Doors open and close easily and are lightweight. Many look like designer tanks and rooms.

The floatation tank is a very quiet and cozy space with ten inches of water and pounds of Epsom salt. The amount of salt makes the water denser than the body, allowing you to float with a sense of weightlessness.

If you were to float in plain or chlorinated water, you would need to periodically move your arms and legs to remain in a floating position. Otherwise the body's limbs would begin to sink.

In the floatation tank, you need only relax, and the body floats at or near the water's surface.

The water is kept at body temperature. The inside of the tank is warm, humid, private and dark. If you are claustrophobic, you may leave the door open or only partially closed, though this does lessen the floatation experience.

You may wear a swimsuit or nothing at all, showering before entering the tank.

Once you are lying in the tank, your ears will be below water, so, you may wish to wear a good set of earplugs.

You can just lay on your back and float, or experiment with different floating positions - similar to lying on your sofa to relax.

Generally, a floatation experience lasts about an hour. This hour is said to be equal to four hours of restorative sleep. In most models, a signal lets you know when the hour is done. If you should not hear it, the water begins to gently move as the filtration system cleans the tank (it won't hurt you, but you should leave the tank after the hour is up).

Afterwards, you will find that your skin is smooth, soft and silky from the Epsom salt. Your skin doesn't wrinkle, which is caused by water removing salt from your skin. You can go directly to an appointment after your floatation experience.

Important Tank Features

The doors on today's tanks are made so that you can never be trapped inside. You can enter and leave at will. You are in total control of the situation.

The tank is not air tight, so there is plenty of air to breathe. An air circulation system brings additional air from the outside, ensuring the air inside the tank is fresh.

A filtration system cleans the tank and water to ensure that any possibility of infectious disease is eliminated.

As of this writing, tanks and float rooms range in price from 7,300 to 23,850 for the base units (other accessories and shipping costs are required).

Too pricey or not enough room in your home? Check your local listings for businesses that provide floatation therapy.

Your First Float

Whether you intend to use a commercial floatation salon or have purchased one of your own, there are some things you need to know and do before you float:

Remove all metal jewelry, including wedding rings. The high concentration of salt may do damage.

Remove contact lenses - just in case you should get the salty water in your eyes.

The highly salted water will sting cuts, scratches, and recently shaved skin. The stinging will last for several minutes on scratches and shaved areas. For open cuts, use liquid bandage to seal them.

Shower, shampoo your hair (no conditioner), and rinse thoroughly before entering the tank to keep the tank water clean.

If you have a particular stressor you need help resolving, focus on it while getting ready to float. When you first lay down in the water, ask the universe to give you a resolution for the problem.

Once you are in the tank, remember these precautions:

When you close the tank door, it will be completely dark inside. This can be disorienting, especially the first few times you float. If you believe you are touching the door and it won't open, do not panic!

> For float tanks, continue to feel around until you locate the door, which will open when you push it. When you first enter the tank and the door is still open, sit down in the water and gauge where the door is from your location to eliminate the possibility of panic.

> The float rooms usually have lights inside that you can control, just continue to look for the switch. When you first enter the float room, sit down in the water and gauge where the light switch is from your location - before turning the light out!

Remember, there is no reason to panic. If you begin to feel anxious, sit back down in the water to calm down. Tell yourself you are just disoriented. Take a few calming breaths then again look for the door or light switch.

Any salt water in your eyes is very painful, especially with the salt concentration in float water. Remember the following:

> Once your hands are wet, keep them away from your eyes.

> If you decide to put your hands behind your head, do not move them over your face to do so. You will risk getting water in your eyes.

> Push your hair away from your face, when sitting up or changing float positions.

> Keep a towel outside the door to the tank or float room - just in case you do get some water in your eyes.

Floating is a natural way to eliminate stress. Once you try it, you will be convinced of its therapeutic benefits after your very first float.