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Float away from the world with sensory deprivation

Elizabeth Anastasi, owner of Renew Float Spa, uses the sensory deprivation tank every week to relieve her body of the tensions she experiences as a massage therapist. Photo credit: Nick Bragg

Living in the modern technological era, it is harder than ever to escape the constant racket attacking the senses. Imagine a way to decompress, shut out the constant feed of stimuli to the brain and become completely isolated.

That’s what people can experience in the sensory deprivation tank at Renew Float Spa in Chico.

The tanks shut out all that never-ending stimuli, said Rick Bair, the business and financial advisor to the spa,

“Our lifestyles — we are so stimulated all the time,” Bair said. “We either have a cellphone going or something going. We very rarely get a chance to decompress and to isolate.”

The sensory deprivation tank was invented in 1954 by John Lilly, a scientist who was exploring the question of what happens to the brain when all stimulation from the outside world is removed.

The tanks can vary in appearance, but usually consist of the same basic elements. At Renew Float Spa, inside the tank door is 12 inches of water with more than 900 pounds of epsom salt dissolved into it. The mixture is then heated to human skin temperature, about 95 degrees.

Once the door to the chamber is closed, participants are not able to see anything because of the darkness nor can they hear anything because of required earplugs. And because of the water’s temperature and all of the salt in it, they also cannot feel anything.

The tanks are used for a number of remedies ranging from physical relaxation to pain relief in joints or muscles. It can also be a mental recharge to decompress stressful thoughts, Bair said.

Elizabeth Anastasi, owner of the spa, tries to get a float in every week to relieve her body of the tensions she experiences as a massage therapist.

“Mostly what I use it for is physical relief,” Anastasi said. “It clears me of anxiety … because it’s such a still, quiet, neutral environment that it just enables you to really shut down and get centered.”

The benefits to using the banks are wide-ranging, said Bair, who has been floating for three years.

“I find it helps with sicknesses, illnesses, relaxation and recovery,” he said. “It’s going to detoxify you, and it’s going to change your brainwaves so you can shut your mind down.”

Going into the tank for the first time can create some interesting questions for the floater. The Renew Float Spa website has information that answers basic questions about floating.

Whether someone wants to rid pain from the body, recenter thoughts or search for enlightenment through a mental journey, a float in a sensory deprivation tank can be beneficial, Bair said.

“We are constantly caught in the contact world,” he said. “Like never before, you need a way to disconnect and recharge — and the tank does that.”

Nick Bragg can be reached at [email protected] or @Nick981 on Twitter.

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