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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • June 2018
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Floatation therapy and the hidden history of sensory deprivation in the Fox Cities

The 1979 Lawrentian article describes student interest in floatation therapy around the time of its invention by researcher, John Lilly. The 1979 Lawrentian article describes student interest in floatation therapy around the time of its invention by researcher, John Lilly.

What is a floatation tank, pod, cabin, room or chamber? These are all just methods of achieving floatation therapy, aka sensory deprivation or R-E-S-T. These devices are containers filled with about 10 inches of water and over 1,000 pounds of dissolved Epsom salt — allowing you to float on the surface effortlessly, kind of like being in space. Water is kept at skin temperature, making it imperceptible. The environment is completely sound proof and pitch black, although most float tanks allow individuals complete control of the light and music levels while floating.

The environment inside the float tank is the only place in the world where you are free from the constructs of gravity and other external forces. Floating is one of the only times the body is freed from the harmful forces of gravity. The next closest is the Dead Sea in Israel, known for its high salt content, and healing attributes. Floating allows our bodies and minds to sink away from the world that is built up around us, and instead turn focus internally. Our bodies have spent millions of years learning how to care for themselves, floatation simply provides the optimum environment for healing the mind, body and spirit.

What’s truly impressive about floatation therapy is that almost every one of these benefits lasts for several days past the float itself. The longer and the more often the float chamber is used; effects become stronger, lasting for longer periods of time and increase in effectiveness with continued use. This creates a positive spiral of recovery and health that simply works to reinforce itself, giving people a path and a means toward a better life. Over the last four decades a plethora of academic research has emerged within the scientific community observing the medical, transcendental and practical applications, while undergoing sensory reduction therapy. These studies have found a number of beneficial applications.

Interestingly and remarkably, Wisconsin has had quite a history in the early years of floatation therapy research and development, and personal usage. One from St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, which conducted a yearlong study of the effects of floatation therapy states, “These studies revealed 70-85 percent improvement in treatment of a wide range of problems, i.e., anxiety, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular ailments, migraine/tension headaches, chronic pain, hypertension, and recovery from cardiac surgery.” These studies were conducted in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when floatation therapy was in its infancy. Dr. Gib Koula of Appleton was a researcher and site administrator for these studies and has been a well-known practitioner among alternative medicines specializing in biofeedback therapy. These studies have been used as a keystone report for many float centers across the United States, particularly for this strong scientific and academic credibility for floatation therapy.

According to Dr. Koula, program coordinator at Stress Lab Services at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Appleton, researchers have found when floatation is used as a primary method of relaxation training, chronic pain conditions improved. For one thing, pain is eased because buoyancy reduces pressure on the body and thus brings blessed relief. Even more significant is the fact that floating triggers the production of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. Gratefully, this special painkilling effect continues after you step out of the tank. Without outside stimulation you can zero in on your breathing, heart rate and muscle tension. Michael Hutchison, author of “Book of Floating,” says, “This feedback helps you learn how to deeply relax and alter bodily functions at will for the times you need pain relief when you are not floating.”

The late ‘70s in Appleton presents some very interesting history in floatation therapy. During this time, float chambers were nonexistent. Researchers and interested explorers were made to construct their own design primarily based on the researcher and inventor, John Lilly. Students at Lawrence University in Appleton did just that. An article from the Lawrentian, a student newspaper, documents these undertakings. The interest these students had pursuing these areas of study were probably a result of talk regarding the studies occurring at St. Elizabeth Hospital and research conducted by Lawrence University. At the March 1983 International Conference on Rest and Self Regulation co-sponsored by The Behavioral Medicine Clinic, Dept. of Psychiatry, Medical College of Ohio; and Lawrence University, “15 out of 25 presentations were investigating floatation.” 


References: The Lawrentian. Paper 365. Volume XCVII, Number 25. Lawrence University. 1979.

The Roug Family

Peter, Janet, Jonathan, Jessie and Kristopher Roug are the creative force that conceptualized, invented and carried out the vision that spanned over 6 years resulting in Float Light Float Center located in Downtown Appleton. The Roug family has owned and operated Shiny Car Carwash, a small business located in Appleton for nearly 25 years. Among them they hold various degrees and have combined knowledge spanning all aspects of business: marketing and advertising, design, strategic business administration, bookkeeping and accounting, analysis, IT, engineering, customer service and hospitality and sales. The Roug family has a passion for business and ensuring the best experience is provided to those who matter most, their guests.

For more information, visit Float Light Float Center at 609 W College Ave. in Appleton, call 920-364-9303, go to FloatLight.com, facebook.com/FloatLight or email [email protected]

Website: FloatLight.com
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