In the 1950s, some experiments were conducted in what were, at the time, referred to as sensory-deprivation tanks. This came at a time when people were looking for alternatives to other types of therapy and other methods of self-actualization.
Today, isolation tanks, as they are more commonly known, are typically large boxes or pods made of fiberglass and filled with warm saltwater. While commonly used as part of research or treatment, isolation tanks becoming more popular as a means of therapy and relaxation. The purpose of an isolation tank or floatation tank is to eradicate essentially all external stimulation and craft an environment that helps a person to reduce stress and anxiety.
Inside the tank is a pool of saltwater, around a foot to 15 inches deep. After closing the door to the tank, there is total darkness. The temperature of the water is the same as a person’s skin, so there are no adverse effects, like an elevated heart rate that can occur when water is too hot or a slowed heart rate when the water is too cold. Large amounts of salt are dissolved in the water, so it is effortless to float and be still.
In addition to combatting stress and anxiety by eliminating the stressors and external stimuli that are so often the cause of these conditions, isolation tanks can be useful for all sorts of ailments. Researchers at top universities in the United States and Canada are touting the use of isolation tanks as treatments for everything from high blood pressure to arthritis pain. Isolation tanks are even being used for emotional and psychological treatments, especially in behavior modification therapy.
Even those not experiencing psychological or physical discomfort can reap benefits from using an isolation tank. The idea of the isolation tank evolved from the desire to know what types of experiences one could have if virtually every external source of noise and other stimuli were eliminated. Early on, those seeking answers to this question experimented with blindfolds and earplugs, but those things cannot really eliminate every external stimulus. Thus, the isolation tank was born.
If you’ve never been in an isolation tank, consider what you experienced at a time of complete darkness and silence. Maybe it was lying in a dark room in the middle of the night. You didn’t hear noises or see anything. There were probably no discernible smells in the air. Your senses were possibly heightened and your mind was able to focus on itself. Now, consider an isolation tank, where there is an even greater lack of that which is in the external world. Could your mind go to places it hasn’t previously been? Is it possible that the mind can be further opened and allow experiences that are not even fathomable?
There have been reports of great introspection and even hallucination from those who have used isolation tanks. Doctors who regularly use isolation tanks in their respective practices have reported that flotation stimulates the body’s production of endorphins, which naturally fight pain. Meditative therapy has long been a holistic approach to helping one’s psyche and physical body. However, many individuals have challenges getting to a place of deep meditation. The isolation tank eradicates the peripheral stimuli that can often be the cause of these challenges. Thus, those who have tried and have not had success with traditional meditative methods may consider an isolation tank. Many proponents of isolation tanks report that they quickly got to a place of mental peace and intellectual and creative insight. Isolation tanks can be an effective tool in achieving critical examination of one’s subconscious.
There can be some caveats, but these seem to be infrequent when compared to the benefits one experiences. If, for example, you tend to feel claustrophobic, it may take longer to get calm and relaxed. It is recommended that a minimum of 30-60 minutes is spent in the isolation tank for maximum benefits to be achieved.