Counterculture American scientist and neuropsychiatrist Dr John C. Lily created and developed the isolation tank in the 1950’s to aid him in his exploration of the human consciousness.
In order to truly study the human psyche free of all other distraction, the tanks were fashioned to remove or diminish all other senses – creating an environment of heightened mindfulness and meditation.
To reach this state, rooms are both light and sound proofed to a degree near-inexplicable. Even with eyes wide open, you are unable to distinguish anything in the abyssal darkness that surrounds you. When speaking of pure silence, the hyperbolic expression ‘could have heard a pin drop’ is often thrown around – try being able to hear your own eyes blink.
The tanks themselves are filled with a high concentration epsom salt solution, allowing the user to float without effort in a pool heated to match the individuals external body temperature. If done correctly, this creates a sense of complete weightlessness where you have trouble figuring out where your body ends, and the water begins.
A few moments of steady breathing as you sink into the solution wearing your birthday suit (not mandatory but advised for the full experience) is all it takes for the rippling water to relax and fully submerge yourself.
Sensory deprivation tanks create a unique artificial environment, not naturally found anywhere on earth – although perhaps the closest natural experience would be that of a child in a womb.
Upon immersing yourself fully within the loss of corporeal sensation, which can take up to 20 minutes of submersion, your brain starts to run in a low power mode – mimicking sleep, where the brain declutters and reorganises all the information that it has been cycling through.
You lose your sense of space and time yet remain focused on the present – the ‘now’ moment – and eventually you lull into a state of a clear and empty mind, deep meditation.
There may well be a multitude of reasons to enter a sensory deprivation tank – be it to decompress, re-focus, escape or disconnect from an ever more connected world – but often everyone comes out from the experience the same – euphorically relaxed, smiling, with a sense of overwhelming calmness.
To find your local London spa with a floatation tank, check out the map here.
Words: Jeremy Ainsworth | Subbing: Lucija Duzel