The first flotation tank was developed in 1954 by the American neurophysiologist Professor Dr. John C. Lilly while working at the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) in Maryland, USA.
Lilly and Drs. Jay Shurley became interested in understanding how the human brain would respond to an environment devoid of external sensory input. Lily ended up discovering that sensory deprivation has a load of benefits that far superseded whatever wild experiments he was doing.
By the 1970s, the tank’s design had evolved from Lilly’s original laboratory chambers to the comfortable commercial tanks that we have now.
The float environment systematically minimizes external sensory input to the nervous system including signals from visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, thermal, tactile, vestibular, gravitational, and proprioceptive channels. Since its discovery, there have been a number of publications exploring the potential therapeutic benefits of floating. The most consistent observation to date has been significant reductions in levels of subjective stress and increases in relaxation as measured from pre- to post-float.
In 1982, the International REST Investigators Society (IRIS) was founded in order to give the increased number of R.E.S.T researchers a platform to share their research findings. For several years float tanks were solely used by researchers in university laboratories or by private individuals. It wasn’t until 1979 that the first float centre opened: a 5-tank centre in Beverly Hills run by Samadhi. The centre was an immediate success that was quickly emulated.
In 1983 floating increased in popularity as more became known about its effects. Today, floatation therapy is a rapidly growing practice around the world.