What is it?
Floatation involves floating inside an enclosed tank. The tank is usually about 2.5 metres (8 feet) long and 1.25 metres (4 feet) wide, and contains around 25cm (10in) of water. This water is warmed to body temperature and salted to make it easier to float.
It’s dark inside the tank, although a light switch is at hand. Ear plugs may be worn to block out all sound, although some
tanks have speakers to allow you to listen to music or educational audio tapes, microphones so you can talk to your therapist and even video screens.
Floatation normally lasts one or two hours, during which time deep relaxation occurs. Endorphins are released from the brain, which promote feelings of wellbeing, relieve pain and can trigger healing. The mind becomes very receptive, so learning may be accelerated and inspiration can occur.
What’s it good for?
Floatation is ideal for relieving stress; it’s also used to combat pain, arthritis, headaches, heart conditions, high blood pressure and fatigue. Research has shown that levels of stress hormones decrease after floatation and that problem-solving ability and other mental skills are enhanced.
It’s not advised for people who suffer from claustrophobia or serious mental disturbance.
If you’d like to learn more about floatation and its uses, the following organisations and publications may help:
The Floatation Tank Association
Tel: 020 7627 4962
Tanks for the Memories: Floatation Tank Talks by John Cunningham Lilly and EJ Gold
This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Stephen Hopwood in April 2009.
First published in October 2002.