June 24, 2021

John C. Lilly—The Founder of Float Therapy

Floating practitioners today can thank American scientist John C. Lilly for inadvertently developing the therapy in the 1950s. Inadvertently, because Dr. Lilly was not interested in any therapeutic benefits that might be gained from floating in an isolation tank. He was interested in finding out if such an experience could expand the realm of human consciousness, and our scientific understanding of it.  

Dr. Lilly built his first isolation, or “float,” tank in 1954, and spent the next 10 years experimenting with consciousness in a variety of different float tanks he designed during this time. His sensory deprivation experimentation in float tanks answered the neurophysiology question of whether the brain needs external stimulation to remain conscious. It certainly does not, Dr. Lilly concluded, and such deprivation can stimulate the consciousness in a variety of ways to induce waking dreams, out-of-body experiences, alternate realities, and other mentally relevant experiences. Dr. Lilly also reported that he and others who underwent the experimentation often exited from the float tanks with feelings of intense relaxation and calm.  

While the doctor shifted his primary research gears towards other matters in the mid-1960s, at some point he decided that the extreme meditative state that could be achieved in his float tanks should be shared with the public.  

Bringing it to the Masses

Through a partnership with Glen and Lee Perry, the first commercial float tank—named “Samadhi,” a Sanskrit word describing a profound state of meditation—was introduced in 1972. A key feature conceived by the Perrys upped the float therapy game by introducing Epsom salt to the tanks. While Dr. Lilly had relied on weighted diving suits to achieve a buoyant immersion, the buoyancy achieved by Epsom salts proved far more natural, and eliminated the sensory touch of the diving suit.  

In 1973, the Perrys opened the world’s first float tank center in Beverly Hills, California, which spurred interest in the therapy that spread around the globe over the ensuing decade. In 1981, the first association devoted to float therapy was formed, and in 1983 up and coming float researchers came up with the term “restricted environmental stimulation therapy” (REST) to replace the potential negative connotations of “sensory deprivation” therapy, as float therapy had been referred to up until then. The researchers—Peter Dudefeld and Roderick Borrie—also formed the International REST Investigators Society, which was tasked with exploring potential medical and psychological benefits of what is now primarily referred to as floatation therapy.          

Interest in the therapy, along with float tank sales, and opening of float therapy centers started rapidly expanding in the early 2000s, with interest burgeoning this decade. Big names [insert internal link here] in sports and entertainment, as well as elite warriors in the military, have adopted float therapy as a restorative cure, as well as a tool for the maintenance of overall physical and mental health. Their lead is being followed by the smaller names in sports, such as those in university athletics, as well as just about anyone interested in restorative cures and innovative health and wellness tools. 

Are You Ready to Try Float Therapy?

Today, there are more float therapy adherents than ever, and an ever-growing number of first-time floaters ready to see what the therapy can do for them. This includes people in Airdrie and greater Calgary. And you don’t have to be an athlete or be suffering from a specific ailment to benefit from float therapy, because it offers something for everyone. Just consider who wouldn’t benefit from:   

  • Reduced stress 
  • Relaxed muscles 
  • Enhanced concentration 
  • Heightened senses 
  • Boosted endorphin levels 
  • Improved blood flow 

And those are just a few of the many benefits it may provide to those in full health…. 

Whether an athlete or not, and no matter what your state of health, if you’d like to learn more about how float therapy can boost your overall mental and physical health while easing ailments, contact Modern Elevation Wellness Center today at 587-254-44427.