ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: FLOTATION

The body and mind are constantly under ‘sensory attack’. In the West, especially, it is very difficult to obtain a state of sensory deprivation. We are constantly surrounded by noise, sights and smells, and we are generally touching something all the time, even if it is merely the ground through our feet or our clothes which are in contact with our bodies.

A good meditation technique can remove us from our senses, but an easier method is the Flotation Tank. This is a bath or pool containing a concentrated saline solution deep enough to allow the body to float, and enclosed in a capsule or cubicle. Floating in a high concentration of salt gives an individual greater buoyancy, allowing the body to be completely and effortlessly suspended and thereby relaxing all the muscles. The uniform surroundings thus created for the body by the water markedly reduce the sensation of touch. The tank is usually completely dark , is soundproof and should have no strong odour. The whole effect is of a warm, cosy environment which feels inviting and safe. By minimizing stimulation of all the senses, any tensions and anxieties can easily be let go. The feeling of deep relaxation that occurs usually endures for some time – up to several days – after the float.

This is a safe therapy which has been shown by research studies to lower high blood pressure and the level of stress-related chemicals in the body. It can also help reduce pain, because it stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s own pain-reducing hormones. Those who find other relaxation methods such as meditation difficult often find that floating is the answer, since it is passive and requires no effort. It can be used either as a substitute for meditation or as a way of stimulating the ability to meditate.

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