Tranquility in a tank

Photo: www.floataway.com
You know that calm, blissful feeling you have on vacation just before heading back to the rat race? Well, that renewed sense of serenity is closer than you think. You just have to float your way back to relaxation! The impulsive brain Floatation tanks (originally known as isolation tanks) were invented in 1954 by John C. Lilly, a physician and psychoanalyst who pioneered mapping the electrical impulses of the brain. He was among the first to make the connection between our states of relaxation and the brain's electrical waves: Alpha (relaxed but alert), Beta (active) and Delta (sleeping), Theta (meditating). While doing research with dolphins in the Virgin Islands, Lilly discovered that humans drop into a Theta state while floating and developed his first "isolation" tank. Expanding boundaries In the 60s, Lilly invited the Nobel Prize winner physicist Richard Phillips Feynman to try this prototype. Feynman wrote about his experience in his best selling book Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!. Floatation tanks soon became the darling of the scientific-countercultural revolution and Lilly continued improving initial design. He found that buoyant salt water at body-temperature made floating in a supine position more relaxing and the absence of light made the relaxation more profound. Get some rest By the late 70s he had perfected his design in time for Peter Suedfeld and Roderick Borrie to start experimenting on the therapeutic effects of isolation tanks. They named their technique "Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy" (REST). The two scientist discovered that REST was good for a variety of ailments both physical and psychological. Hollywood gets in on the act In 1980 the public was first introduced to floatation tanks through the film Altered States. Despite its rather bizarre take on floatation therapy (at one point Professor Eddie Jessup emerges from his isolation tank as a primordial beast) the film did help generate interest. By 1983 the technique had been "tranquility tanks" and floatation began to gain popularity. Today every major city has at least one floatation center. New design Part of their appeal was the new design. The tomb-like, sterile appearance of the old tanks has been replaced with a more user-friendly look, thanks in part to Floataway, a London based company considered one of the most innovative in the floatation business. The company has even created a tank for home use that requires no special plumbing as well as a dual-float tank for the couple who wants to float together. Still waters Today's tank is usually egg-shaped about 3 meters (10 feet) long and 1.5 meters (five feet) wide and filled with water saturated with over one thousand pounds of Epsom salts. This creates a buoyancy twice that of the Dead Sea so that once inside you can float blissfully unaware of the outside world. Some tanks come with an audio system so you can float and listen to music. Relax and get healthy A typical session is usually one hour long since it takes the average user about 40 minutes to settle into the float. By the last 20 minutes the mind has moved into a theta state and that's when all the benefits start to kick-in. The therapeutic effects of floatation tanks have been well documented, particularly for healing so that sports injury clinics are incorporating them into treatment programs. Others use floatation to boost mental clarity, diminish anxiety or strengthen the immune system. But for many it's a chance to slow down and leave the stress of modern life behind. Who says you can't float through life?