Sensory Deprivation Float Tank

The float tank is a light-proof, sound-insulated capsule which contains a shallow 30 cm pool of 25% saturated Epsom Salts solution - five times denser and more buoyant than sea water. Lying back, you float effortlessly on the surface. Your muscles no longer have to fight against the constant downward push of gravity, the single greatest cause of wear and tear to bones, joints and body tissue. As muscle tension melts away, you find yourself floating weightless and free, like an astronaut in zero gravity conditions.

The pleasures and perks of the float tank are based on a revolutionary scientific approach to deep relaxation called Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique or R.E.S.T. for short, first developed back in 1954 by researchers at the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) in Washington.

During the past 20 years the remarkable effects of the float tank have been systematically studied and applied in such areas as health care, medicine, fitness training, sports science and education.

How Does It Work?

Scientists estimate that up to 90% of the brain's normal workload is caused by the effects of routine environmental stimulation the combined effects of gravity, temperature, touch, light and sound on the muscles, nervous system and sense organs of the body.

The float tank screens out these external physical stimuli, creating a pure state of "sensory" relaxation. Under these unique conditions your body has a chance to restore its natural powers of self regulation, while you simply lie back and rediscover the latent abilities of a deeply relaxed mind.

While you are floating, your ears are below the surface of the solution, cutting out external sounds. As a result, the nerve endings which cover the surface of the skin no longer perceive any sense of separation between the skin and the silky mineral solution which surrounds it.

In the dark, weightless tranquility of the float tank, the boundaries of your body seem to dissolve and vanish. As you enter progressively deeper levels of relaxation, even your body seems to "disappear" from conscious awareness because of the sharp reduction in signals being transmitted through the nervous system to the brain.

Free from all external stimulation, your body can achieve a state of relaxation which is deeper, purer and more beneficial than sleep. With no body to look after, your mind can attend to other business.

The Floating Body
The sudden de-stimulation of large areas of the nervous system triggers a spontaneous chain reaction throughout the body known as the parasympathetic response. Muscle tension, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen consumption all drop dramatically. The whole chemistry of the body changes.

Blood vessels including capillaries dilate, improving cardiovascular efficiency and increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to every single cell in your body. This is called the vasodilator effect

Stress related chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol, ACTH and lactate are removed from the bloodstream and replaced by beneficial endorphins. High levels of cortisol and ACTH are known to weaken the body's immune system and create feelings of depression, while lower baseline levels are associated with feelings of dominance and confidence.

The endorphin - only discovered by NIMH researchers in 1976 - is literally the essence of pleasure. The body's endorphin level is what makes some people naturally happy and others less so. Sometimes called "the body's natural opiate", the endorphins released while floating create intense feelings of well-being, alleviating fatigue and chronic pain, as well as improving many of the higher brain functions such as memory and learning. Happiness is not an illusion - it is an endorphin.

These biochemical changes occur naturally and spontaneously as by-products of deep sensory relaxation. No training or techniques are required. Just lie back and let it happen.

The Floating Mind
Although your body enters a level of physical relaxation which is even deeper than sleep, in the tank your mind remains awake and dreamily alert, just above the threshold of sleep Large areas of the brain are suddenly liberated from their normal workload of processing signals from the nervous system and sense organs. There is a sharp drop in the level of electrical activity of the brain (measured on an EEG) from the usual 20-25 Hz down to 4-8 Hz.; EEG readings show a slow, rhythmic wave pattern known as the theta state.

This is a twilight zone of creative, inspirational thought processes, where your learning abilities are at their highest and powers of visualization and auto-suggestion are greatly enhanced. Measurements of the brain waves produced by experienced zen meditators in deep satori show large amounts of theta activity across the cortex. For most people, however, the theta state is almost impossible to enter without falling asleep. In the tank you enter this elusive state effortlessly and enjoyably, and stay in it for most of the float session. Time seems to vanish.

EEG measurements on floaters show that the level of activity in the two hemispheres of the brain also becomes more balanced and synchronized. This can produce a subtle shift in awareness away from the normally dominant "left-brain" thought patterns (logical, linear, analytical, detailed) towards the more intuitive, synthetic and large-scale thought modes of the "right-brain". The tank does not inhibit the left hemisphere, but simply changes its role from one of dominance to one of partnership with the other hemisphere, enabling floaters to use all their mental powers.

Floating Your Way to Peak Levels of Health and Well-Being
The parasympathetic response is the body's natural mechanism for healing and regeneration. It can only occur during deep relaxation. Floating is the fastest, easiest and most effective way of eliciting this response and enjoying its dramatic health benefits. Floating "re-sets" the body's chemical and metabolic balance, strengthening its resistance to the effects of stress, illness or injury.

When you change your body, you also change your mind. The de-activation of the nervous system has a direct effect on the hypothalamus, the brain's chemical control centre. Recent research has shown that internal events (thoughts and emotions) are here translated into measurable changes in body chemistry, and vice versa. The production of endorphins and the removal of undesirable chemicals during floating stimulates feelings of confidence, happiness and well-being, which helps you pursue your goals in life with maximum vitality and vigor.

People who lead demanding lifestyles run the risk of developing high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. This disease has no symptoms, but eventually manifests itself in the form of strokes, heart attacks and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) - all potential killers. Floating can produce an immediate reduction in blood pressure and heart rate; regular floating may maintain this.

Apart from being the ultimate "stress buster", floating has been shown to alleviate asthma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular disorders. Tension related problems such as migraine, back-ache and insomnia helped enormously

Accelerated Learning and Effective Self Management
Because your mind is freed from all external distractions during floating it can absorb new information quickly and on a very deep level. The learning process is accelerated by the theta state and by increased access to the efficient, large-scale learning abilities of the right hemisphere.

Studies have shown that babies and infants spend most of their time in theta. With the passage of years this gradually gives way to the alpha frequencies (between 8 to 12 Hz). By the age of ten or eleven the normal adult pattern of beta (13 to 30 Hz) is dominant and we stay in that state of consciousness for the rest of our lives. In the theta state your learning abilities are at their highest - look how quickly and effortlessly babies learn - and powers of visualization and auto-suggestion are dramatically increased. In the tank you regain these latent abilities and can put them to use.

To fully exploit this mental potential, the modern float tank is equipped with powerful underwater speakers and often with in-tank video facilities. Any skill or information can be learnt more effectively and efficiently in this way while the floater is in a deep state of relaxation. Sophisticated audio or video based programs (such as SyberVision) can be used to guide the floater to peak performance in anything from language skills to golf swings. Learning was never easier or more fun.

The subtle mental and physical effects of floating greatly improve your powers of emotional control and sense of well-being. Negative emotions and unwanted habits seem to melt away in the tank along with the physical tensions and stresses that accompany them. Smoking, alcohol dependence and weight control problems can be easily and effectively overcome or lessened - sometimes totally spontaneously. Research suggests that compulsive behavior patterns such as these are linked to a low endorphin level in the body.

In fact, according to experts at America's NIMH, the float tank "is the only technique ever shown by controlled studies to be effective over extended periods of time". Studies show success rates of 81% in eliminating or sharply reducing smoking, 61% in reducing alcohol consumption, with similarly impressive results in combating weight control problems. In the deep theta state you have increased access to and control over subconscious mental processes. You become master of your own mind.

A New Dimension in Fitness and Sports Training
Carl Lewis, said to be the world's greatest athlete, used in-tank visualization techniques to prepare himself for his gold medal long jump at the 1988 Seoul Olympics: the Dallas Cowboys, winners of the 1993 Super bowl, have been using float tanks since 1981 to develop the physical and psychological skills of their players; the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) has been using tanks to train their successful Olympic squads since 1983. In the words of Jeff Bond of the AIS: "The floatation tank represents a new dimension in sports training for the elite athlete".

Floating maximizes the benefits of fitness training and work-outs. High intensity exercise stimulates the muscles to grow, but the actual growth and strengthening takes place during relaxation - usually 30 to 40 hours after the stimulation occurs. The deep relaxation of the float tank improves circulation and accelerates the growth and regeneration of muscle tissue.

Strenuous physical exercise can cause a rapid build-up of lactic acid (a toxic by-product of anaerobic glycolysis) in the muscles; this is experienced as pain, fatigue and cramps which can last for days; it is also linked to the feelings of depression and anxiety known as "post-game letdown", which can even affect recreational joggers. Floating is one method of reducing the effects of lactic acid and removing other waste materials from the body. This reduces the risk of over-training.

Most sports injuries are not contact injuries but are the result of inappropriate muscle tension. Floating has been shown to loosen the muscles and give athletes a greater degree of control over their autonomic nervous systems, reducing the risk of injury during training or competition. Even when injuries occur, floating speeds up recovery and the endorphin effect alleviates the pain.

Peak athletic performance depends on a combination of physical, mental and emotional skills. Modern training methods focus on helping the athlete to master "the inner game", to develop that cool synchrony of mind, body and emotion which is the hallmark of a champion. The most potent psychological technique for building up skill and confidence simultaneously is visualization; in the tank, an athlete can achieve the level of concentration necessary for visualization to have a dramatic impact on performance. This is one of the hottest new developments in sports science.

When float tanks are used for sports training they are frequently equipped with in-tank video facilities. In the tank the athlete enters a relaxed, focused and highly receptive theta brain state. Instead of visualizing perfect performance, the athlete watches repetitions of perfectly executed sports moves on the screen - up to 1,000 repetitions in one hour. Perfect sports technique can be "programmed" into the nero-muscular system as a conditioned response. Studies at Stanford University have indicated that one hour of this "muscle memory programming" method is superior to ten hours of repetitive field practice. This technology is now available to the amateur sportsman through an American company called SyberVision, who produce sophisticated audio-visual training packages for golf, tennis, bowling, self-defense and most other popular sports.

Scientific Validation of Floating
Ever since they were first introduced, float tanks have been used in clinical laboratory conditions. They are unique in this respect. The effects of Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (R.E.S.T.) have been researched and documented at Stanford, Harvard, Yale and countless other universities, hospitals ,and sports training facilities around the world. Professional and scientific work with float tanks is coordinated by a body called IRIS (International REST Investigators Society) in New York. For further information, please contact Float Tank Australia Pty Ltd.

Are There any Negative Side-Effects of Floating?
There are virtually no negative side-effects of floating. All the effects of deep sensory relaxation are wholly beneficial and work simultaneously at a physical, mental and emotional level. Floating is the fastest, easiest and safest means of achieving a dramatic improvement in the quality of day-to-day living by helping you to make the most efficient use of your mind and your body.

First-time floaters generally pronounce it as one the most enjoyable experiences of their lives, although it may take 3 to 5 float sessions before an individual becomes fully acclimatized to the tank environment. During the first few float sessions, massive amounts of accumulated muscle and nervous tension - often unconsciously "locked into" the body - are discharged, allowing the body to begin to restore and optimize its natural metabolic balance.

How Often Should the Float Tank be Used?

The law of diminishing returns does not apply to floating. The float tank triggers a natural physical reaction in the body known as the parasympathetic response. Every time you float, this response is reinforced. Regular floating produces cumulative benefits as the body "learns" to relax deeply.

The frequency of floating is also a matter of individual preference or requirement. Individuals who lead high pressure lifestyles -athletes, business people, creative performers and other professionals - may wish to float at least once or twice a week to keep mind and body in perfect tune. Similarly, there are situations in everyone's life which create special demands - such as starting a new job, studying for exams, recovery from illness or injury, pregnancy, extra-long working hours, to name but a few - where deep relaxation is particularly beneficial or even essential.

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