The History of Floatation Tanks

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When you think of the 1950s, what do you picture? Fancy cars, full suits, and the beginning of television? Believe it or not, the 1950s were also the birth of floatation therapy. Here we’ll take a look at how this sensory deprivation method has evolved over time.

Dr. John C. Lilly

The creator of floatation therapy was a doctor named John C. Lilly. He was a neurophysiologist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland. There, he studied the effects of sensory deprivation on the human brain. You see, Lilly wanted to know what the mind would do when it was left to its own devices without conversation or other distractions.

He began experimenting with types of sensory isolation in 1953 at the National Institutes of Mental Health Lab deep in the Virgin Islands. Just one year later he had a functioning isolation tank design where he began his own experiments.

From a Humble Beginning

Dr. Lilly continued his experiments through the next two decades. He worked with different concentrations of Epsom salt and water to determine what ratio offered the maximum buoyancy while still dissolving completely. He tried different water temperatures to see how the patients reacted, trying hot and cold before settling on body temperature so the floaters wouldn’t feel the presence of the water at all. He built soundproof chambers to increase the level of sensory deprivation even further.

In 1972, John Lilly met Glenn Perry at a neurophysiologist workshop. Perry, interested in Lilly’s experiments, began to work with him to design tanks for more widespread use. They named their business Samadhi Tank Co., Inc.

Floatation Spreads

With the renovated design and precise temperature and mixture requirements, floatation began to attract attention from all over the world. The people who participated in Dr. Lilly’s trials wanted to bring tanks into their own homes. Word of mouth started to spread and more and more individuals wanted to experience the relaxation and deep mental clarity for themselves.

By 1983, health spas around the nation were adding floatation tanks to their repertoire. Since then, they’ve continued to grow in popularity, spreading across the states and bringing the unique opportunity to disconnect from the busy world we live in.

If you’re interested in experiencing a piece of neurophysiological history for yourself, come see us at the NWFC. We’re more than happy to show you our facilities and help you feel rejuvenated like never before.

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