Floatation therapy

Uddalok ghosh

Uddalok Ghosh is the creator of SATORU, which is World's biggest and

Kolkata's first Sensory Deprivation Tank for alternate therapy.

The history of Floatation therapy-R.E.S.T(Restricted Environment Stimulation Technique) dates back to the 1950’s when scientists Jay Shurley and John Lilly at the National Institute of Mental Health became interested in understanding how the human brain would respond to an environment devoid of external sensory input. It was discovered that rather than falling into a deep sleep or losing consciousness, participants maintained full awareness. Initial designs employed various masks intended to shield the brain from sensory input, whereas the first fully immersive floatation tank wasn’t built until 1957, when Dr. Shurley constructed his laboratory at the Oklahoma City Veterans Administration hospital. In this first iteration of floatation therapy, the participant was immersed vertically in a tank of water with an opaque helmet surrounding their head connected to a series of breathing tubes for ventilation. Due to the confined nature of the helmet, very few individuals participated in these early experiments outside of NASA astronauts in training for the mission to the moon.

 

In the 70’s, Glenn Perry (in collaboration with John Lilly) invented a horizontal version of the float tank that removed the need to wear a helmet. This newer iteration(known as the Samadhi tank) has individuals lay supine in a shallow pool of water saturated with a high concentration of Epsom salt, allowing individuals to effortlessly float on their back, with the eyes, nose, and mouth comfortably hovering above the water surface. While this change in design exposed floating to a much wider audience, many still found the tanks too confining and claustrophobic in nature. Consequently, floating went through a long period of dormancy up until this last decade, where the practice has witnessed a rapid rise in popularity, likely bolstered by the creation of more spacious tanks and open float-pools.

 

Clinical research investigating float therapy, although limited, has reported largely beneficial effects across a range of different stress-related conditions, including: hypertension, chronic tension headaches, chronic muscle tension pain in the back and neck as well as stress related pain.

 

The physiological process of relieving stress reaction is known as  ‘relaxation response’. This response is attainable at a state of deep relaxation and is the opposite of the “fight-or-flight” response. Why relaxation response is such an effective remedy to stress symptoms is due to the direct link with parasympathetic nervous system activity where it lowers the heart rate and blood pressure as well as reducing respiratory frequency. In order to successfully elicit relaxation response in a stressful situation, it is critical that sensory input and bodily movements are reduced. Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to engage in relaxation exercises that will generate such a relaxation response. Floatation therapy is an effective method to elicit this response due to the deprivation of sensory input which helps dial down brain activity to the extent of inducing internal recovery through such a state. Moreover, floating is also declared to be a remedy for magnesium deficiency because of the absorption(through the skin by natural molecular diffusion) of magnesium from the Epsom salt (magnesium-sulfate) in the tank. Epsom salt is known to have various health-effects, such as vitalizing the skin and aiding the body in cleansing itself from toxins. The high concentration of magnesium sulfate from the salt in the tank dissolves lactic acid and helps in the mineralization of the body which in turn reduces or eliminates muscle soreness and tension. Research on Epsom salt suggests that it’s usage has therapeutic effects, by relaxing the muscles, as well as lowering systolic blood pressure and having an arterial vasodilator effect. Floatation therapy appears to be an effective treatment method and more effective than other relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxation, biofeedback and meditation.

 

Currently, researchers in the field of psycho-behavioral therapy are collaborating with institutions and personalities with different backgrounds in order to merge floatation therapy with other psychotherapy methods which might enable us to understand the techniques to be used for mental rehabilitation and physical recovery.

The motive, primarily, is to stimulate the body's capacity for self-healing which suggests restoring itself to its optimal state of balance, its natural equilibrium, in which all parts and systems harmoniously work together.

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