Dr. Blake Banner
Sensory Deprivation & Floatation Therapy
I hope the beginning of 2019 is treating everyone well! I'm back again with another alternative therapy that I have 100% hopped on board for - Floatation Therapy/Sensory Deprivation Tank. I was definitely skeptical at first about this one (even up until about the first ten minutes of the actual session!) BUT that changed as I released all control and cleared my head to enjoy the benefits that this therapy had to offer. Enough small talk, time to get to the topic!
We are bombarded with sights, sounds, smells and all kinds of both pleasant and unpleasant sensations every day. Wouldn't it be nice to take a minute to pause, block out all of that extra noise and just relax? Well I have got fantastic news, you can do just that with floatation therapy and a sensory deprivation experience. Actually I'll even up the ante by saying imagine cutting out all of that while being completely weightless, yup we can remove gravity out of the equation too. Do I have your attention yet? Good!
Sensory deprivation is the deliberate removal of stimuli from one or more of the senses - think, putting on a blindfold, wearing ear muffs or in this case eliminating gravity. Short sessions of sensory deprivation are said to foster relaxation and be conducive to meditation. Floatation Therapy is a method of improving wellness by healing the body from the constant stress of life's daily noise and confusion. It involves a large bed sized pod known as a sensory deprivation chamber or floatation tank filled with water and epsom salt, allowing your body to effortlessly float.
So, floatation therapy actually got its start around 1954 in a lab ran by John C. Lily who was conducting studies surrounding sensory deprivation, his initial goal was to examine the origins of consciousness by cutting off the brain from all stimuli. Fast forward to 1970 and the use of the floatation tank transitioned into a new realm of health and wellness, soon floatation therapy centers started popping up well into the 1980s. Eventually the number of these centers started to decrease over time and it wasn't until recently that the benefits of floatation therapy and centers started being explored again.
How It Works
There's a personal floatation pod that's filled with water and a whopping 1000+ pounds of epsom salt that supports you as you lay on your back. The water is kept at about skin temperature of 94 degrees which allows you to lose track of any separation between yourself and the water. As you sink into a pod with a lid that you can shut completely in an insulated room that prevents sound from entering, your blood pressure and heart rate slow down signaling brain waves that relieve fatigue and release dopamine and endorphins that promote further relaxation.
There are many benefits of floatation therapy and most of them can be attributed to the high concentration of epsom salt, the main ingredients are magnesium and sulfates. Magnesium is responsible for easing stress, improving sleep, reducing inflammation and muscle cramps, regulating activity of enzymes, helping muscles function properly and improving oxygen use. Sulfates flush toxins and helps prevent headaches and migraines.
Other benefits include activating the parasympathetic nervous system which is in charge of relaxation, healing and replenishment along with increasing creativity by helping the mind reach a theta state quickly which are waves characterized by feelings of inspiration.
There's THIS article that was published in 1983 that found floating results in significant reduction in levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
It started off as any spa experience, enter, get greeted and then the attendant asks you to take your shoes off to begin the process of relaxation. I was escorted to a private suite equipped with a shower and other essentials including ear plugs (to block out any outside sounds), petroleum jelly (to cover any cuts or scrapes), a robe, and towels. Prior to the float experience you're required to rinse off to remove any excess dirt or oil from the skin before entering the floatation pod, similar to what's expected at other spas. Once I was finished with my rinse it was time to enter the pod, to be honest I was a little bit nervous because I had no idea what to expect but that's what made it exciting for me. I lowered myself into the pod and closed the lid behind me (you don't have to close the lid completely if you get claustrophobic or prefer to have a small opening), for about the first ten minutes soft multicolored lights and soothing sounds played then it gradually turned into pure darkness and silence. I wasn't exactly sure what to do with my hands or arms at first but found comfort in having them just kind of float over my head, after I found a comfortable position I allowed myself to drift off. I compare the pitch black surrounding and silence to what I think outer space is like (even the pod looks almost like a space ship!), I didn't know where my body ended and where the water started it was so seamless. I had to get comfortable with being suspended in the water which was tough at first when I'm used to always feeling "weighed down", but once I let go of tension everywhere on my body it was awesome. Everything that happened after that is honestly somewhat of a blur, I know I went into a meditative state initially that turned into pure relaxation and rest - then after what seemed like such a short time soft soothing music began to chime in along with the re-introduction of the multicolored lights to gently bring me back to the real world. It took me a couple of minutes to get my bearings before exiting the pod, making sure I didn't splash any of the salt water into my eyes. The session ends with a full shower in which they provided shower gel, shampoo and conditioner along with a beauty bar with hair dryer and new comb and lotion if needed. Following your 60 or 90 minute float session they had a hydration bar available to continue to relax and drink water or other refreshments before leaving.
I felt EXTREMELY relaxed following the 60 minute session, I was calm and felt ready to take on the day with a clear head and positive mindset. I felt more creative, inspired and rested and my body just felt great. Those effects lasted throughout the day and I even went on to have a super productive, yet calm day. I will say, even though I felt like I did a very thorough job in the shower after being in the tank I still found myself having dried salt in my ears and in unexpected places, not horrible but something to be mindful of. I didn't think I would get the results that I did following my first time because those first 10 minutes of awkward positioning and getting used to being weightless was pretty rough for me, but I definitely loved it and I would (and have already scheduled) to do it again!
If you're one of those people who constantly feels overwhelmed with all of the day to day sensations and experience sensory overload regularly then this could be for you! Even if it's not something you can see yourself adding into your normal routine, it can be a useful tool when seeking other methods of relaxation and rejuvenation. If you want to see more photos or videos of the experience, head over to my Instagram here and check it out!
Thank you for taking the time to read and I hope you not only learned something new, but you are inspired to try something new that could be beneficial to you!
What are your thoughts on floatation therapy? Let me know!
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Absolute Affirmations: 44-Card Positive Affirmation Deck