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Floating – what is it?

Floating in a Floatation Tank is one of the few ways of experiencing being weightless without the need to travel into space. The reason that this weightlessness is achieved in a float tank is because the water has enough Epsom salts dissolved in it to become a saturated solution and like being in the Dead Sea, you float effortlessly. The body is subject to the force of gravity every moment, awake or asleep, and is constantly adjusting balance and movement. According to Michael Hutchinson in his book The Seven Theories of Floating, gravity is estimated to take up 90 percent of the activity of the central nervous system and is a major cause of many of our chronic structural problems such as bad backs and painful joints. Being weightless releases this enormous amount of energy and attention which results in a wide variety of experiences. By being supported in this way the body relaxes deeply, becoming free to re-align itself, and often the floater will hear and feel clicks as joints shift back into a more natural alignment.

The Float Tank

The Float Tank itself can be the size of a sauna, with enough height to stand up, or smaller with only room to lie down. The water will be in the region of 8” deep; deep enough for a person to float on the surface without touching the bottom. The water will be kept at skin temperature and the room itself will be sound and light proof. With the temperature of water and air the same as your body and with no external sound or light you experience a space of sensory deprivation. This can induce a profound state of relaxation.

History, Development and Benefits

Dr John Lilly, a neurophysiologist and psychoanalyst from the USA started experimenting with sensory deprivation in the 1950s. His fascination with researching the brain led him to try LSD in his floatation tank. He comments: “That's when I learned that fear can propel you in a rocket ship to far out places. That first trip was a propulsion into domains and realities that I couldn't even recount when I came back. But I knew that I had expanded way beyond anything I had ever experienced before, and as I was squeezed back into the human frame, I cried." [1]

Further research showed that the experience of floating allowed people to reach levels of relaxation which previously had been possible only through deep meditation. This relaxation brought with it tremendous benefits on a physical, mental and emotional basis. As the therapeutic benefit (without LSD) became apparent, floatation tanks were more widely available and float centres were established initially in the US. As greater feedback was received, the benefits of floating were documented and include calm and relaxation; better sleep and reduced jet-lag; stress and anxiety relief; a sense of re-juvenation and re-energising. There is evidence that mental faculties are increased with greater learning ability, an increase in creativity, problem solving and awareness. Healing is accelerated and there is a substantial increase in endorphins which promote wellbeing (and sometimes euphoria) and reduction in cortisol and adrenaline production. The results are greater health as the immune system is boosted and blood pressure is reduced along with benefits to circulation and distribution of nutrients and oxygen around the body. An extra side effect is that Epsom salts are beneficial to the skin. Dr Henry Adams from The National Institute of Mental Health in Washington says; “Most importantly the float tank is not a hypothetical laboratory phenomenon, but a viable proven technology”.

Celebrity Users

Several celebrities such as Kris Kristofferson and Robin Williams had their own tanks installed and when the Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Phillies had one installed in their training room in 1980 both teams had major victories in the Super Bowl and World Series.

According to EJ Gold, author of The American Book of the Dead, in his testimonial for Michael Hutchinson’s formative book The Book of Floating, Exploring the Private Sea, he said; “If everyone on the planet floated everyday there would be no war, no poverty, no crime, no hunger—and nobody on the streets.”


  • Float Tank Association
  • The History & Development of the Floatation Tank
  • health benefits
  • The Book of Floating: Exploring the Private Sea
  • A brief history floatation