What is a Sound Bath?

What is a Sound Bath?

Tibetan singing bowls resting on a sheepskin rug

As we dive into new seasons for renewal and fresh starts, many of us would like to wash away aspects of our psyches that do not serve us. If you are looking for new methods to enhance your wellbeing in the new year, consider a sound bath.

Natural Sound Healing

The practice of sound therapy is as old as nature itself. Listening to natural sounds like the wind blowing, birds singing, leaves rustling, or water flowing can work wonders to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety. More organized forms of sound healing such as music therapy dates back 40,000 years to when the Ancient Greeks played flutes, lyres and zitters to heal patients of digestion, mental and sleep disturbances. A sound bath is uniquely different from both. It is an immersive auditory healing session that is intended to help ‘cleanse the soul’ using sonic vibration and frequency.

Ancient Healing

In 500 BC, Pythagoras wrote, “Each celestial body, in fact each and every atom, produces a particular sound on account of its movement, its rhythm or vibration. All these sounds and vibrations form a universal harmony in which each element, while having its own function and character, contributes to the whole.” Even though many frequencies are too low to be heard by the human ear, we do have the technology to record them, and the frequencies for every healthy tissue, organ and bone in the human body has in fact been documented. So, when a body is healthy, it hums like a well-oiled machine. When it is not, the theory is that sound is one method that can be used to restore the body back to balance.

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” – Nikola Tesla

Sound Bath Instruments

Employing such instruments as singing bowls, chimes, gongs, didgeridoos, and tuning forks, sound bath practitioners will envelop their subjects with sound to induce a more meditative state. Once in this state, the subject may be able to experience mental and emotional blockage clearing, relaxation, restoration, even physical healing.

How Sound Baths Work

During a sound bath, sonic energy vibrates through both the ears and the body. The experience is heard, felt and perceived. In some cases, sounds are soft, ethereal, calming, and soothing. In other cases, sounds are sinister, threatening, thunderous and cacophonous. Depending on the type of healing you are looking for, you will want to be choiceful in selecting the type of sound bath best suited for your desired benefit.

Clinical Proof Sound Baths Work

A study from 2016 found that people reported significantly less tension, anger, fatigue and depression after doing sound meditation with a Tibetan singing bowl. Feelings of spiritual well-being also increased, and the effects were most notable among people who had never tried sound therapy or singing bowls before.

There’s also evidence that the singing bowls can lower blood pressure and heart rate due to the fact that certain sounds activate the parasympathetic nervous system — the part of the body that regulates rest —which is what induces muscles to relax, breathing to slow, blood pressure to decrease, and heart rate to lower.

My Own Experience Attending Sound Baths

Traditional Sound Baths

I have had the opportunity to attend many sound baths over the past several years. The most common type of sound bath I have experienced is for the practitioner to use crystal bowls to emanate a fluid set of tones. The sound may hold steady, ebb and flow, or undulate, depending on the intuition and intention of the session. There is much improvisation, bringing in other instruments to orchestrate various tones, strikes, crescendos and waveforms, creating a symphony of sound for the subjects. Practitioners may also align sound bath sessions to chakra therapy. For example, a grounding session is tuned to the note of C which aligns with the root chakra; a relationship healing session is tuned to the note of F which aligns with the heart chakra.

Gong Baths

Last year while in Singapore attending the Global Wellness Summit, I had the opportunity to attend two gong bath sessions, both which were incredibly cathartic. The gong therapist, Martha Collard, Founder of Red Doors Studio in Hong Kong, found her calling in serving others through ancient intuitive healing arts. I recall Martha explaining her first-hand experience with the gong’s extraordinary power to exorcise toxicity, blockages, and maladies from the human body, as if the sound would penetrate, latch, dissolve and dissipate the unwanted entities.

“The sound of a meditation gong induces a state of spontaneous meditation and relaxation, which facilitates the movement of chi or prana (positive life force) throughout the body,” notes gong teacher Mehtab Benton. “On a physical level, the vibrations eliminate tension, stimulate the circulation and glandular systems, and regenerate the parasympathetic nervous system. Listeners experience a sense of connectedness and peace. They are lulled from a Beta, or awake state, into a Theta, or lucid dream state; a state that allows our bodies to heal and rejuvenate. The sound waves gently clear blockages to restore inner harmony.” In my experience, the energy I felt from the gong’s vibration felt so powerful in each session, that my whole body felt like it was reverberating even hours later. It was if I had been lifted into a different dimension, one that felt lighter, airier, and freer.

What To Expect During a Sound Bath

When attending a sound bath in person, it is customary to be lying down flat on ones back with your head facing toward the sound source. Blankets, pillows, sheepskins or other comfort objects may be used. Lighting is often soft or dim. An eye mask is helpful for inward focus. Concentrating on the breath, letting go of the mind, and staying present in the moment without drifting into sleep help activate the therapeutic benefits.

Many people feel an immediate sense of stress relief, anxiety reduction and relaxation during a sound bath. Others feel overtaken by emotion and even cry. A sound bath is best not be used as a sole solution for healing. Rather, it is best used as a compliment to other modalities of healing.  Consult a physician before attending a sound bath if you have any head trauma such as a concussion or chronic migraines. When arising from a sound bath, it is typical to feel hyper-sensitive. Gentle movements, low sounds and light may help ease reintegration. Replenishing hydration, minimizing stimulation, and engendering gratitude help to perpetuate the work that has been started.

Virtual Sound Baths

Attending a live concert is a far better experience than listening or watching one online. Similarly, attending a live sound bath is a far richer an experience than listening or watching one online. That being said, there are many sound bath videos on YouTube that can give you a sample of what they’re like.

Have you attended a live sound bath before? If so, what was your experience? If not, would you try it? Let us know what you think!