THE HISTORY OF FLOATING
Flotation therapy was invented in the 1950s and is based on a scientific approach to deep relaxation called "Reduced Environmental Stimulation Technique" or R.E.S.T. for short.
In 1954, medical practitioner and neuropsychiatrist John C. Lilly began experimenting with the mind’s response to “sensory deprivation,” a subject that had grasped the interest of the contemporary fields of neurology and psychology. There was debate about what would happen if the brain, the center of consciousness, was deprived of all sensory information. Would we fall into a dreamless, comatose state? Would our thoughts continue going even without any new incoming information? Lilly wanted to find out. He built a large flotation chamber, which he filled with water. His results showed that there was no comatose state, and, once his participants came out of the chamber, they reported feelings of intense relaxation and calm, with some even reporting epiphanies of personal discovery and self-realization. Lilly was so impressed by his findings that he continued his research over the next two decades
Bringing Floating to the Public
In the early 1970s, in his quest to bring floating to the public and spread its benefits, Lilly partnered with Glen and Lee Perry to design an updated float tank. It was to be called “Samadhi,” a Sanskrit word which refers to a profound state of meditation. In order to make flotation easier for people, they added one important addition to the mix: Epsom salt, which has long been recognized for its health benefits. The salt and water solution created an extremely buoyant environment, making the act of floating entirely automatic, essentially counteracting the sense of gravity and letting the body relax more than ever before.
The first float tank center opened in 1973 in Beverly Hills, California. It spawned a surge of interest in flotation therapy, and encouraged new centers to open all around the world. Over the next decade, floating grew steadily and the benefits were regularly featured in all types of media. The Float Tank Association was formed in 1981 and by 1983, well known researchers coined the term REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) and continued research into the medical and psychological benefits of the therapy.
The Rebirth of Float Therapy
By the early 2000s, float tanks had begun to make a comeback both among the general public and the spa community. Research had continued through the industry’s lull, and as interest in the therapy grew, new and positive results were proven.
Centers began to open or reopen around the world, and the float tank community began to strengthen and grow. By 2010, events and conferences dedicated to celebrating and promoting flotation therapy were organized in major cities all around the world. These conferences brought together industry professionals, researchers, and enthusiasts from the flotation community and flotation therapy was reborn.
The Floating Lull
During the mid-1980s, the growth of flotation therapy came to a near standstill. There are several theories as to what led to the lull in public interest, but the most common theory involves the AIDS epidemic.
As the AIDS scare was coming to a head, the general public was uncomfortable using shared water facilities such as pools and spas. Flotation centers lost a large amount of their client base, and new clients were rare during this period. Unfortunately, many established centers had to close their doors due to lack of customers, and almost no new centers opened through the remainder of the 1980s and well into to the end of the 1990s.
The Present and Future of Floating
As alternative wellness practices become more available and acceptable, a variety of practitioners in the health and wellness industries are recommending floating to their patients, family, and friends. The community of flotation therapy supporters is growing steadily, the industry is advancing, and the practice of flotation therapy is becoming more available to the general public. Float tank centers from around the world are reporting increased interest and dedication among float tank users.
Float enthusiasts are looking forward to the mainstream acceptance of floating as a part of wellness practices and therapeutic treatment regimens. As the knowledge and use of floating expands, we willl eventually see flotation therapy covered by health insurance companies, which will pave the way for increased access to the plethora of float benefits and the ability for anyone who chooses to use the tanks to heal and strengthen the mind/body network.