What is Float Therapy?

Interview with: Danny Clarke from Cloud Nine Float Center
Interview By: Josh Cowden

Ever wanted to know what it’s like to completely lose all sense of your body and be left  with only your thoughts and your mind? Ever ponder on the origination and creation of consciousness? Then you may be interested in the experience of a flotation tank therapy session or more commonly known as a sensory deprivation tank.

The idea and first models were invented in the 1950’s by neuroscientist John C. Lilly. The tank consist of a soundproof and lightproof  chamber which is filled with a significant amount of  Epsom salt, usually 800 pounds,  and the  water that is heated to the same temperature as your skin.  The Epsom salt makes for a buoyant surface in which your body is forced to float and the temperature allows for the sensation of water to blend in with the sensation of your skin.  Some say it is the closest thing to zero gravity one can attain while still staying on earth.  It frees the mind from external experience and leaves the user as a free floating stream of consciousness which is no longer restricted by a body or the physical world.

Floating in a tank is for anyone, but many of the people who enjoy it are already involved in holistic or alternative medicine or even, yoga. Float Therapy is excellent for pain relief or relief from psychological and/or emotional distress.

Another technique the tank is used for is to induce meditation and lucid dreaming. With its relaxing qualities and quiet setting, it is almost the perfect condition to help master the difficult art of meditation. Many people unexpectedly fall asleep in the tanks while some intentionally use it for that reason. Since your body is weightless and your muscles lose all tension, lucid dreaming and the recalling of very vivid dreams increase during the session and afterwards.  Inducing meditative states are much easier and some people even report hallucinations in the tank, especially in longer float sessions.

While in the tank, the user’s brain is actually put into an even deeper state of relaxation than sleep provides. Consequently, there are many benefits associated with this type of therapy. Some people use the tanks to help relieve stress, anxiety, insomnia, jetlag and general aches and pains. However, others use the tank to help fuel creativity in the brain or help figure out problems that they can’t seem to dissect in their complicated day to day life.

The AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s scared a lot of people away from the industry, however in recent years there has been an increase in centers and references in the media. One of the most prominent figures in the resurgence of flotation tanks popularity is Joe Rogan.  Rogan who is best known for comedy and being a commentator, for the UFC, also hosts a very popular podcast called The Joe Rogan Experience and often speaks on the benefits of his own personal tank that he owns.

For my first experience in the tank, I got to check out Cloud Nine Float Center in Boulder, Colorado, which is owned and operated by Danny Clarke. Clarke originally opened the center in 2012 and credits his nephew for turning him onto the information.  He then researched the subject more thoroughly and decided to open up a center in Boulder because of its very accepting and holistic reputation. Clarke uses the tank for stress reduction and says, “It’s an amazing tool for therapy and it is backed up by a ton of science. It’s not only a really amazing experience, novelty wise, but it’s also extremely therapeutic as well.” While Clarke is excited for the recent increase in popularity he says, “I’m most interested in the recent studies at the Laureate Brain Institute and the research that Justin Feinstein is doing on the subject.”  When asked what is the most important thing that he would like for people to take away from floating? Clarke said, “Just a positive, personal experience. Everybody experiences different things in the float tank and we just provide the tool; an environment for them to seek out their own personal growth and direction.”

At Cloud Nine Float Center there are 4 tanks to choose from. Two of them are called the Tranquility Float tanks, another is called the Escape Tank, and the one is the Samadhi. For my experience, I choose the Samadhi float tank which is not as futuristic and luxurious as the Tranquility, but it is the closest one to real sensory deprivation according to the research done by Dr. John Lilly.

When I first got into it, it was an awkward feeling of not really knowing what to expect. I was expecting entirely too much.  As my body would start to relax, and you can actually feel your body physically relax, my brain kept sending a signal to slightly twitch my arm or leg. It was almost as if my brain didn’t want my body to be in a completely relaxed state or the more likely reason being that I actually didn’t know how to relax.  As awkward as that may sound, there is a true art form to relaxing completely. And after about 30 minutes I was finally somewhat comfortable with the idea of completely letting go.

Once the reality of being in the tank stops being weird and you accept the experience, the entire atmosphere and state of mind changes.  It’s almost impossible to explain what really happens in the tank, because it’s not only a relative experience but it’s also a very personal experience. At more profound levels, language disables my ability to describe what happens in a float tank.

Floating may not be for everyone, but for many it may be the perfect therapeutic tool.   The research has been documented and is continuing to be scientifically investigated.  The increase in consciousness is continuing to expand and float centers seem to be a huge asset to help others understand.  If it sounds enticing, in any way, then make sure you make the dive and give it a try. I can assure you it will be an experience that is well worth your time and energy.

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