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Floatation Tank

Medical Benefits

Cardio-Vascular Conditions

Due to the substantial physiological changes that we have already discussed, it is easy to understand the benefits that Floatation therapy can provide for cardiovascular conditions. The natural beta-blocker effect, acquired through the inactivation of the sympathetic nervous system, allows patients with high blood pressure to derive important benefits. The decrease of the blood pressure enables reduction of the dosage of pharmacological products in many cases and the suspension of drug therapy in other cases with mild hypertension.
 
It is also evident that Floatation therapy will help patients with heart problems. This occurs through the decrease in ventricular overload due to the reduction of systemic blood pressure and of oxygen consumption.
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Muscular-skeletal and rheumatic conditions

The main benefits derived from Floatation therapy in muscular-¬skeletal and rheumatic conditions are primarily based on two factors. The first is the elimination of the force of gravity that the body experiences inside the float room. This allows a relaxation and expansion of multiple inter-articular spaces enabling a better blood flow that will improve the general conditions of affected joints. This applies for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, traumatic injuries, and also chronic degenerative problems like osteo-arthritis.
 
Chronic and acute pain of neck, shoulders, and lower back generally experience substantial improvement through the release of accumulated muscle tension and increase of blood circulation to the affected areas. It helps conditions such as fibromyalgia, tendonitis, bursitis, etc
 
The second factor, which benefits substantially these muscular-skeletal conditions, is the release of endorphins into the system. Endorphins are natural painkillers that block the transmission of pain at the synaptic level. These decrease markedly the perception of pain and improve the frame of mind of patients, helping to break the vicious circle of chronic pain/depression that we often see in these cases.
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Stress Relief

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 atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) – all potential killers. Floating can produce an immediate reduction in blood pressure and heart rate; regular floating may maintain this.
 
Modern research has established clearly the interrelationship between high levels of distress and a depression of the immune system. In addition, conditions like pain and depression impair the immunological functions. Floatation therapy is very useful in these cases since the deep relaxation attained by patients releases negative stress, helps chronic pain and depression giving a natural boost to the immunological system both at the cellular and humoral level.
 
Some digestive tract conditions are associated with high levels of stress that will be benefited by Floatation therapy such as the case of well-known psychosomatic disorders like Duodenal Peptic Ulcer and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Both are associated with high levels of neurosis/anxiety and psycho-emotional conflict.
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Weight Loss

The float tank is an effective tool in a weight reduction program, as well as treatment of addictive behaviours.
 
Scientists think that floatation is effective in weight loss programs and for treatment of addictive behaviours because of its positive influence the production of endorphins. The natural opiates of the body decrease the stressful withdrawal symptoms of addiction and replace the need for addictive substances with the pleasurable feelings produced while floating. Similar results have been achieved in weight loss programs developed for the float tank.
 
There are two elements necessary for motivating oneself to accomplish certain goals and be free of non-adaptive or stressful behaviour. The two elements are relaxation and focused attention.
The float tank is an effective tool for positive self-motivation because it provides the following;
  •  Eliminates all external stimuli so you can concentrate on yourself
  •  Produces a very deep relaxation so you can be open to suggestion and open to positive thoughts and attitudes
  •  Produces chemical changes in your body which favour clarity of thought, improved memory and problem-solving
Combined with complementary modalities, the float tank is an effective tool for self improvement.
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Sports Rehabilitation

Floatation tanks are used in sports medicine to accelerate an athletes’ recovery from sports injuries.
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Athletic Performance

Floating maximizes the benefits of fitness training, exercise, and workouts.
Although exercise stimulates muscle growth, the growth occurs during relaxation, some 30-40 hours after exercise.
 
The deep relaxation of floating improves blood circulation, and accelerates the growth and regeneration of muscle tissue.
 
In 1981, the Dallas Cowboys, regular Superbowl winners, became one of top-line sport’s first advocates of floatation REST as a technique for developing the physical and psychological skills of their players. As sports psychology assumed an ever-growing role, along with a realization of the importance of relaxation training, many other eminent USA sportspeople – including the legendary Carl Lewis – started to incorporate floatation into their training regime.
 
For its relatively small size, Australia does disproportionately well at Olympic-level competitions. The training techniques of the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) are regarded as amongst the finest in the world. Since 1983 the AIS has been consistent proponents of floatation REST and has done an immense amount of research and case studies that demonstrate its efficacy. Jeff Bond (sports psychologist, AIS) goes so far as to describe the floatation tank as “a new dimension in sports training for the elite athlete”.
 
World-class athletes are highly motivated individuals. In the run-up to an important competition, an athlete may train for over 40 hours a week. Rigorous physical and mental training puts an enormous amount of stress on the athlete’s body and mind. There is a strong tendency for athletes to over-train and this can have as disastrous an effect on performance as under-training.
 
Strenuous physical training creates a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles.
Lactic acid is a toxic by-product of glucose metabolism. It begins to accumulate in the muscles within one minute of peak or anaerobic effort, and can remain in muscle tissue for three days.
 
An athlete training every day will accumulate increasingly large amounts of lactic acid, experienced by the body as increasing fatigue and chronic muscular tension or pain. Recent studies have directly linked lactic acid to high levels of anxiety and emotional arousal.
 
By its rapid evacuation of lactic acid from the body, floatation enables the athlete to train without strain.
 
The floatation tank offers the athlete an unprecedented degree of control over mood state, helping him or her achieve and sustain an optimal level of arousal during competition.
 
In a study by Dr Peter Suedfeld (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), recreational basketball players – tested one day before and one day after a single session of floatation plus visualization – showed an astonishing mean improvement of 37% in free-throw success compared to control groups.
Suedfeld followed this up with a study of recreational darts players’ ability to throw “bull’s-eyes”. The subjects – tested immediately before and immediately after a single session of floatation plus visualization – showed an impressive 13% improvement in accuracy compared to control groups.
 
Interestingly, another of the test groups in Suedfeld’s dart-throwing study – one assigned to floatation without any visualization exercise – showed an 11% improvement.
 
REST researchers have documented the effect of floatation in improving motor skills across a wide range of activities: basketball throws, rifle shooting, bowling, tennis, gymnastics, dart-throwing, and even performance in a flight simulator.
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Visualisation

Many modern researchers see the floatation tank as the optimal environment for enhancing an individual’s powers of visualization and self-management.
 
By combining deep physical relaxation with a highly receptive, visually vivid theta brain-state, the floatation tank facilitates an individual’s ability to generate and manipulate visual imagery, and use imagery to maximum effect.
In the field of sports psychology, the use of in-tank vizualisation and mental rehearsal of complex sports moves has been proven to dramatically improve athletes’ confidence and motor skills – more effectively than conventional practice on the track or field.
 
Research by Dr Edmond Jacobson (the developer of Progressive Relaxation therapy) established a link between mental images and neuromuscular responses. While in a state of relaxation, he asked people to visualize themselves running.
 
He discovered that this created minute “phantom” muscular contractions of exactly the same type as the subjects would have produced if they had actually been running.
 
It is now generally accepted that the most potent psychological technique for building up athletes’ motor skills and confidence simultaneously is visualization – mental rehearsal of perfect sports moves.
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Creativity & Enhanced Learning

In a study in Texas A&M University in 1982, Dr Thomas Taylor selected 40 well-matched subjects from 450 volunteers and split them in to 2 groups. Both groups underwent a series of 70 minute learning sessions using audiotapes.
One group (the control group) listened to the tapes while sitting on sofas in quiet darkened rooms.
 
The other group listened while floating in floatation tanks.
Taylor tested both groups on 3 levels of learning performance;1. basic memorization2. application level (the ability to understand a concept and use it)3. synthesis thinking (the ability to put together several concepts and come up with a new idea or an original solution to a problem).
 
A static analysis of the results showed that on the first level, floaters did better than the control group. On the 2nd level, the gap between floaters and non-floaters widened. On the 3rd level, the superiority of the floating group was greatest of all.
 
Taylor also recorded the brainwave activity of both groups while learning. He recorded several ‘Eureka events’ – flashes of sudden insight or creative problem-solving. He noted that these tended to occur in the deep theta state.
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Relaxation

The term “relaxation” is vague and subjective. It can be used to describe any activity that brings temporary release from the pressures of life – watching TV, pursuing a hobby, drinking a 6-pack of beer, surfing the net, soaking in a bath, dancing till dawn…
 
Is there such a thing as true relaxation from a scientific perspective? Eminent stress researcher Herbert Benson MD of Harvard Medical College showed that meditation and yoga cause measurable changes to heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, hormone balance, and brainwave activity. At the time, it came as something of a surprise to learn that an individual could exert control over these normally unconscious processes that are regulated by the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system.
 
However, a major limitation to the efficacy of yoga and meditation was that these techniques required training, practice, and persistence. Benefits were not immediate. Relaxation required some hard work!
 
Benson’s studies did not include floatation REST because it was largely unknown at that time. Since the early 1980s, however, research has demonstrated that floatation REST elicits a significantly more powerful relaxation response than any other technique known to science, and does this automatically, passively, and without the need for training or practice.
The brain is a network of cells that constantly exchange electrochemical messages with one another. Brainwaves are the electrical activity generated when hundreds of cells “fire” at the same time in the same part of the brain.
The human brain has four distinct brainwave patterns, which are associated with four distinct states of consciousness
 
Electrical activity in the cortex of the brain can be recorded with an EEG (electro-encephalograph) and is measured in Hertz (frequency or cycles per second).
 
The beta state (13 Hz and above): Low amplitude, high frequency brain activity associated with normal waking consciousness and externally directed, linear-thinking mental activity.
 
The alpha state (8 – 12 Hz): Higher amplitude, lower frequency brain activity associated with mild relaxation, daydreaming, reverie and light meditation. The alpha state is relatively easy to access.
 
The theta state (4 – 8 Hz): Very high amplitude, very low frequency brain activity just above the threshold of consciousness, associated with deep mental processes, creativity, inspiration, and illumination.
 
Theta is a highly elusive state. Although we fleetingly pass through the theta state as we fall asleep at night and again as we wake up in the mornings, it is practically impossible to enter this state at will and remain in it without falling asleep.
 
One of the unique features of floatation REST is that after 10 to 20 minutes of floating, theta becomes the predominant level of brain activity, and remains so for the duration of the float session.
 
The Delta state (0.5 – 4 Hz): This state of minimal brain activity is associated with deep dreamless sleep.
 
The brain-state associated with floating – where the whole brain is balanced, synchronized, and resonating at the theta level – is something unique.
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Emotional / Depression

Eliminating stress and its effect on your body makes you look and feel and look more attractive and energetic. Tension plays a major part in affecting the appearance of your skin. A sense of well-being will make you radiate energy and maintain confidence. In addition, floating in Epsom salt makes your skin softer, smoother, and draws toxins such as lactic acid away from your body.
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Self Motivation

The float tank is an effective tool for positive self-motivation because it provides the following;
  • Eliminates all external stimuli so you can concentrate on yourself
  • Produces a very deep relaxation so you can be open to suggestion and open to positive thoughts and attitudes
  • Produces chemical changes in your body which favour clarity of thought, improved memory and problem-solvingCombined with complementary modalities, the float tank is an effective tool for self-improvement.

Pregnancy

Parents and Mothers-to-be are often held in tension through situation and changing bodies. Floatation is a wonderful respite and great for a quick rejuvenation that is more integrated than sleep provides. Pregnant mothers are also often tense due to experiencing many bodily changes. As the baby grows and begins pressing on the mother’s body, a place to relieve the pain might become necessary. It is also important for first time mothers to take the time to become familiar with their bodies.
 
During labour, the mothers who are “in touch” with their bodies experience far lesser pain than those who are introduced at the point of labour. While floating one has greater inner-vision. One has the ability to bring awareness to parts of the body never before discovered. In doing this, nerves are sensitized and feeling comes which is the doorway for muscular control. As the woman lay their floating, her insight will allow a greater connection to the baby. Mothers tell of babies becoming more active while in this communion.
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Floating Free from Habits & Addictions

Recent discoveries, especially in neurochemistry, indicate that addiction is not restricted to what are usually thought of as “addictive drugs”. Addiction is simply a compulsion to continue doing something – whether taking a particular substance or indulging in certain behaviour – combined with the occurrence of stressful withdrawal symptoms if the ingestion of the substance or the behaviour pattern is suddenly ended.
 
Scientist have made great advances lately in identifying the mechanism of addiction. Biochemists have found, for example, that addiction is a result of changes in the body’s ability to experience pleasure, its reward system – changes in the number and activity of the opiate receptors of the nerve cells, and in the levels of the body’s internally produced opiates, the endorphins.
It is also known that the symptoms of withdrawal are associated with sudden oversupplies of the neurochemical norepinephrine in the limbic system, and that drugs that block the action of norepinephrine alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal. Such discoveries give scientists hope that they will soon develop chemical ways of overcoming addiction.
 
Taking a different angle of approach, behavioural and cognitive therapists and researchers have recently developed highly effective methods of attacking addictive mental processes and behaviour, and it now seems clear that all who have a serious commitment to overcoming their addiction can do so, provided they follow some of the techniques for behavioural control. Generally, the worlds of the behavioural/cognitive therapists and the neurochemists are far apart, one group trying to change the imperfect actions and ideas of imperfect people in an imperfect world, the other exploring, mapping, and “correcting” microscopic electrochemical processes in the nervous system.
 
With two completely different worldviews, these groups rarely agree on much. So it is significant that both behavioural/cognitive psychologists and the neurochemists now agree that Floatation tank is a powerful tool for overcoming addictions, both by changing addictive behaviour and personality characteristics, and by bringing about rapid and striking changes in the human biochemistry.
 
In the period immediately after quitting a habit, the tank alleviates the pains of withdrawal and enables the user to feel some pleasure. Floating also reduces the level of such anxiety-related biochemicals as norepinephrine, which is released in great quantities during withdrawal.
 
A session in the tank alleviates some of the depression and anxiety usually associated with “crashing” or cutting off consumption of the drug after a period of use.
 
Even long after we have quit an addictive behavioural pattern, there are circumstances that will cause us to want to return to the addiction: stress, anxiety, depression, a certain individual, whatever. When we realize there is a chance that we return to our addictive behaviour, we can simply take a float, stimulate our pleasure pathways, and avert the return to the habit.
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Smoking Cessation

In a series of carefully controlled studies of the effects of Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) in the cessation of smoking, it was found that the effect of sensory deprivation is powerful and unprecedented. According to a study of smoking and sensory deprivation, people who had undergone earlier sensory deprivation smoked almost 40 percent less than those who had received similar anti-smoking treatment but without REST.
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Weight Reduction

The same method was applied in a problem that is even harder than smoking to solve or deal with: getting people to lose weight. Smoking is a relatively simple “all or nothing” behaviour pattern, while overeating is very complex. The sensory deprivation session with weight-reduction messages is very effective. Subjects who underwent the therapy were able to lose an average over six kilograms over the following half a year, while those who were equally determined to lose weight, but only listened to messages, or only underwent the sensory deprivation, had lost virtually no weight after six months.
 
The most striking aspect of the study is that the people who combined the sensory deprivation with messages continued to lose weight steadily, month after month, and were still losing weight after six months when the study was completed. In fact, in the last four months of the six-month study period, the sensory deprivation group lost about two kilograms while the other groups gained some weight. In addition, amazingly, this continuous and extended weight loss was the result of only one session of REST. In succeeding clinical studies, the technique was modified by personalizing the taped messages played to the subjects in the Floatation tank, and found that the results were even more impressive, with some of the subjects losing as much as 30 kilograms within two months.
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Alcohol Reduction

Similarly successful results have been obtained in using the tank to help heavy drinkers reduce their alcohol intake, or stop drinking altogether. For several years, Hospitals have used the Floatation tank as an integral part of their hospital-based stress management program. In a statistical analysis of eighty-seven outpatients gathered over a one-year period in the early 80s. The hospital noted that those who used the tank had a 50 percent reduction in smoking and 45 percent reduction in alcohol consumption. These statistics are striking, since the program was directed at general stress reduction and not specifically toward modifying a single behaviour such as smoking or drinking.
 
The Floatation tank can be used as a self-assessment tool to devise your own programs:
  • For the first time you can even work on coming up with solutions.
  • What you want to say to yourself in the tank, which is in its self very therapeutic.
  • Then each session that follows becomes a kind of booster session, adding power to the suggestions you have already incorporated into your life.
For the taped messages and self-suggestions to have the desired effect, deep relaxation is essential. Only a few people have ever experienced deep relaxation, or know how to go about relaxing, but the Floatation room allows you to go rapidly and easily to a deeply relaxed state.
This way the behaviour modification programs can have their greatest effect, and it is not necessary to devote a large part of the time allotted for taped messages during the float session.
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Enhanced Learning

Although your body enters a level of physical relaxation which is even deeper than sleep, in the float room 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 where your learning abilities are at their highest and powers of visualisation and autosuggestion 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 float room, you enter this elusive state effortlessly and enjoyably, and stay in it for most of the float session.
 
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, and 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.
 
In a study at Texas A&M University in 1982, Dr Thomas Taylor selected 40 well-matched subjects from 450 student volunteers and split them into two groups. Both groups underwent a series of 70-minute learning sessions using audiotapes.
 
One group (the control group) listened to the tapes while sitting on sofas in quiet darkened rooms.
The other group listened while floating in floatation tanks.
 
Taylor tested both groups on three levels of learning performance:
  1. basic memorization level
  2. application level (the ability to understand a concept and use it)
  3. synthesis thinking (the ability to put together several concepts and come up a new idea or an original solution to a problem).
A statistical analysis of the results showed that on the first level, floaters did better than the control group. On the second level, the gap between floaters and non-floaters widened. On the third level, the superiority of the floating group was greatest of all. Taylor also recorded the brainwave activity of both groups while learning. He recorded several “Eureka events” – flashes of sudden insight or creative problem solving. He noted that these tended to occur in the deep theta state.
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