The Sensory Isolation Tank And Its Benefits

They call it a sensory isolation tank or a floatation tank and it is becoming fashionable at times. Although it was invented to study the brain, it is currently used as a means of relaxation. There are specialized companies that offer these types of experiences, but you can also find them in various spas.

Those who promote these sensory isolation tanks say it is an experience that can be compared to returning to the womb. They are probably exaggerating a bit, although it is clear that those who use this device frequently do recognize it as a unique experience. Apparently, it allows access to an extremely relaxed state.

The device also has its detractors. There are those who enter the sensory isolation tank with some apprehensions. That of completely breaking contact with the external world causes them some anguish. Those who handle these floatation tanks say that it takes a certain stability and maturity to be able to live the experience as God intended.

While much of what we perceive comes to us through the senses of the objects that are around us, another part (perhaps the most important) always comes from our mind .”

-William James-

The invention of the sensory isolation tank

The sensory isolation tank was invented by John C. Lilly, an American neuropsychiatrist. His objective was not, far from it, to advance a successful venture. What he wanted was to study the changes that occurred in the brain  in a state of maximum isolation.

It was the 1950s and this type of topic captured the attention of many scientists. This is how Lilly created what he called “sensory isolation chambers.” They were devices that minimized the activity of all the senses.

Lilly found that with these devices a very special experience was achieved. Spending time inside these chambers produced a very relaxing and refreshing sensation. However, her studies were not taken very seriously, as Lilly was considered, above all, an eccentric who liked to attract attention.

New research

Although the subject did not have much importance, with time the interest increased. The sensory isolation tank was experimented on at various locations and found that it might not be a Lilly nutcase, but a medium that might have therapeutic applications.

These tanks were initially studied for military purposes. Its potential to strengthen the body and mind seemed clearly proven and several Marines passed through the device. NASA then used these flotation tanks as part of the astronauts’ training.

Starting in the 1970s, the use of sensory isolation tanks began to become popular. It was first used by high-performance athletes. They found it very useful for their muscle recovery processes. Then the devices were absorbed into the relaxation market. In a world of stressed out people, it promised to be good business.

How are these tanks?

Sensory isolation tanks are a kind of tub that contains between 400 and 600 liters of water. At least half of that volume is occupied by so-called Epson salts  or magnesium sulfate. The high concentration of salts makes the whole body float naturally. It is an effect similar to that which occurs in the Dead Sea.

The water has a temperature similar to that of the human body, so when submerging it does not feel cold or hot. In some cases, the device has a hatch that closes. In this way, the user remains inside the tank, floating in complete darkness and without any auditory stimulation.

Other of these floatation tanks do not close. There is a hatch that remains open, but the surrounding light is extremely dim and there are no sounds. In general, those who dive there last between 60-120 minutes in this state.

The positive effects

Everything indicates that the use of these flotation tanks produces positive modifications in the brain. This unfolds an activity different from the usual, very similar to that achieved with states of meditation. For this reason, it is a very calming experience.

Likewise, it is ensured that immersion in one of these tanks serves to improve health. In particular, it helps reduce all types of muscle aches and prevents frequent problems, such as migraine headaches or menstrual cramps. Likewise, it reduces anxiety states.

It is also noted that experience stimulates creativity and increases intellectual abilities. Most of those who use the sensory isolation tank become fond of it. A minority, on the other hand, consider that the experience is bland and even uncomfortable. It doesn’t seem to have any side effects, so it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.