History of Floating

The history of flotation begins in early 50s. Scientists in the field of  neurophysiology wanted to know what  keeps the brain going and the origin of its energy sources. One hypothesis was that the energy sources are biological and internal and do not depend upon the outside environment. It was argued that if all stimuli are cut off to the brain, then the brain would go to sleep.


John C. Lilly, a medical practitioner and neuropsychiatrist, decided to test this hypothesis and, with this in mind, created an environment which isolated an individual from external stimulation. From here, he studied the origin of consciousness and its relation to the brain.


He built the first isolation tank to prove his theories in 1954 end The U.S. Institute of Mental Health. He observed the connection between consciousness and the brain. In his early research Lilly examined the efficiency of sleep trying to discover why humans need 7 to 8 hours of slumber a day and the factors influencing the efficiency of rest. During his research he proved by examining cerebral activity that our brain perceives external stimuli even when asleep. These audio stimuli make regeneration process less efficient.


External stimuli are first incorporated to our dreams subsequently becoming more conscious before finally awakening us. Another interesting observation is the human sight center shows perceptible activity even when exposed to minimal light, despite being asleep, the retina still sends signal to the brain. The research established that the environment that is sealed off from external stimuli yields more efficient rest. The main discovery of John C. Lilly’s work his real breakthrough was that gravity is the main source of stimulus for our bodies. While asleep our body is contorted to an unnatural position because of gravity. The bed presses on our body releasing millions of stimuli to our brains. One of the main sources of health problems is Earth’s gravitational field and our erect posture. Back conditions, hanging bellies, aching legs, joints and strained muscles – all stem from this cause. Primary results of flotation which form the basis of this entire system is that body is spread from the effects of gravity. Gravitation engages 80 to 90% of the central nervous system even during sleep. The Beneficial effects of flotation can be found in nature. Dead Sea in Jordan or Lake Tehirghiol in Romania are the saltiest water bodies in the world.

The state of weightlessness experienced while floating alleviates all physical stress on the spine, shoulders and hips. Back muscles also relax allowing spinal column to assume its natural position. It’s been proven that brain waves are altered after floatation to become similar to those between awake and sleeping states. The medical term for this is “Theta State” meditation. Buddhist monks strive to achieve this state for years. One of the main benefits of flotation therapy is that the body reaches the state on its own. This unique state of relaxation results in clear thoughts, realizations and improved problem-solving. The Theta state allows extremely deep relaxation both physically and mentally.


One hour of flotation is the equivalent of 4 to 6 hours of sleep. Research shows that the pleasant sensations experienced during sessions are the result of endorphins which are released causing natural feelings of happiness. Research has also revealed that evolution starts the same way for each life. Nature creates a floating environment for human fetuses in the womb or in the egg for birds. The central nervous system immersed in a warm womb fluid buffering us from external shocks. In flotation tank we are protected from all outside influence, we are suspended in our own liquid cocoon. Quiet. Warm. Safe. Floating can be like a return to a prenatal state, floating in the womb. This can be quite profound for many. Some people have out of body experiences during 60 minutes float sessions. Ultimately, this has a sufficient impact on human health. Dr. Lily found that you can create a sense of well-being. “Somewhere deep in our brain was a mechanism capable of generating internal experiences completely independent of the outside world, and this settled the issue of what happens in profound physical isolation. The isolated mind becomes highly active and creative.”


The first isolation tank (float tank) was built in 1954 in the US National Institute of Mental Health. After 10 years of experimentation without taking any psychoactive substances, he tried floating in combination with a psychedelic agent. He found that floating alone, without taking any substances, was a much better experience because of non-disturbed consciousness. Floating remained exclusively in the laboratory setting, until 1972, when Lily partnered up with Glenn and Lee Perry. The first commercial float tank was developed a year later.


Peter Suedfeld and Roderick Borrie of the University of British Columbia began experimenting on the therapeutic benefits of isolation tanks in the late 1970’s. They named their technique “Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy” (REST). The 80’s truly became a decade of growth for flotation. The research was continued by testing the float tank’s effect on anything from physical recovery to stress relief to smoking cessation to susceptibility to hypnosis. The new chapter for the float tank industry began again in the early 2000’s offering the highest technology float tanks promoting the utmost relaxing spa experience.



The first float tanks were metal boxes which looked similar to this tank shown here.