Are you bombarded by noise and chaos in your environment? Feeling tired and over-stressed? Longing to get away from it all? Try floating away!
Since 1975, flotation tanks have been used in conjunction with restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) to induce deep physical and mental relaxation. This form of relaxation training involves floating in an enclosed tank filled with a small amount of highly-concentrated solution of Epsom salts and purified water.
The tank is both soundproof and lightproof, creating an environment completely free of sensory stimulation. The heavy concentration of Epsom salts allows the participant to float face-up on the surface of the water and sleep or daydream without fear of sinking or rolling over. The controlled climate settings can precisely match the temperature of the air and water with the participant's own body temperature.
Stepping into the tank induces an automatic relaxation response. After a short adjustment period, the participant begins to experience feelings of weightlessness, timelessness, and a sense of deep relaxation. Suddenly, he or she is aware of every heartbeat, muscle twitch, and sensation in the body. The mind calms down, finding new freedom to explore the infinite possibilities of the imagination. The participant becomes keenly aware of suppressed thoughts and emotions. Without the distraction of outside stimuli, he or she turns inward, becoming more and more in tune with his or her own physical, mental, and emotional landscape.
The typical flotation session lasts 45 minutes. Most participants emerge feeling relaxed, refreshed, and re-energized. After being deprived of sensory stimulation, the whole world takes on an appearance of freshness and renewal. Colors, sounds, and smells seem suddenly brighter and more vivid. Stimuli is a welcome relief from the darkness and silence of the flotation tank.
Supervised flotation REST has been used along with relaxation training, stress management, and biofeedback to treat hypertension, anxiety, stress disorders, chronic pain, muscle tension, insomnia, PMS, rheumatoid arthritis, spastic muscles, lupus, scleroderma, and smoking cessation.
Studies done at the Medical College of Ohio reveal that flotation REST reduces blood pressure, heart rate, and the production of stress hormones such as cortisol. It increases the release of endorphins from the brain, producing a sense of well-being, relieving the symptoms of stress, and alleviating or reducing chronic pain. Muscles relax, range of motion improves, and participants feel a greater sense of muscle control. Participants have reported increased energy levels, more focused mental concentration, less susceptibility to sensory overload and illness, and higher performance levels in the areas of sports, science, and the creative arts. Personal relationships improved, and people with chronic pain experienced temporary relief from pain symptoms.
Flotation REST therapy should be performed by a qualified professional. But individuals can purchase their own flotation devices for use in the home or visit a flotation center to participate in a session.
Dawn Pisturino, RN
June 20, 2007
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