What is a Sound Bath?
Have you heard of the latest wellness craze, which is actually as old as (at least) the Ancient Greeks? Sound baths are not where you sit in a tub and listen to music (although, I suppose, that can be healing too). Basically, you lay on a mat in a dimly lit room while another person, who knows how to blend the particular instruments plays them to help you meditate and to use sound as a healing energy. “Sound bathing is the practice of intentionally creating waves of harmonic sound which envelop and surround your body.” (Per Shanti Bowl) Recently I had the chance to participate in a sound bath experience. This first-hand knowledge helps me to better explain it to you.
Mom’s Singing Bowl
My first encounter with the concept of sound bowls pretty “regular.” Someone had given my mom a pretty crystal “Singing Bowl” as a present. We loved how it made pretty notes when you rubbed the mallet around the edge. This reminded us of a fun time with my mom and Aunt Diane where we “played” our crystal water glasses at a fancy restaurant. I never gave the bowl much thought as to it having healing properties.
Is it “Woo”?
Enlightened practitioners, spiritualists, yogis and energy healers often conduct sound baths. This association can lead you to think it’s “woo” (a word that refers to those who have unconventional beliefs). I had two encounters over the past several years. The experiences made me think it was more of a trendy hipster event. (BTW, I think of hipsters as the washed, current version of hippies).
Over the years I have experienced the sound healings (see above photos) as well as had friends who participated in sound bowl meditations. Two close friends, who are very spiritual, experienced shifts via sound. They were ecstatic when describing their experiences. One believes it help align her chakras (a system of energy in bodies). Another felt like her whole insides became “unstuck” and she was energized to take on the world. In my opinion, who cares if it’s “woo” or not – the experience made my friends feel better. Word of mouth is indeed a good referral. It was their emphasis that inspired me to try a sound bath when I finally had the opportunity.
The science stuff
You probably have already experienced the healing properties of sound when you’ve sung along during a religious ceremony or danced to your favorite song or left a concert feeling elated. Water makes up most organisms (humans!) Our internal water vibrates to musical sounds.
Masaru Emoto was a Japanese scientist who discovered that positive/loving sounds and words turned water into beautiful water crystals. (And negative/hateful ones made for ugly “water spoils.”) Other research has shown that sound baths can aid in the healing of anxiety, depression, dementia, blood pressure, heart rate and even schizophrenia. (Note: healing is not curing…it’s part of the journey to wellness.)
In other words, while Sound Baths may still be considered unconventional, science is starting to bring this trendy healing method into hospitals and other more mainstream places.
Other instruments for Sound Baths
At the sound bath I went to, the meditation leader had quite an array of instruments. Some I had never seen before – so I made sure to ask afterwards. Not every session will use all these instruments. It depends on the practitioner’s talent and skill with the different sounds. To help you learn new things, and feel more comfortable with this “new” healing modality, I’ve included videos when I’ve found decent ones to share the sounds. These are some of the tools for during sound bath sessions:
Tibetan Singing Bowl
Ancient Tibetan Buddhism used bowls made using different metals. Practitioners strike the bowl with a mallet to create a vibration that helps to balance your energy. (click here for video – note it’s an hour long – so up to you how much you listen!
Crystal Singing Bowl
These bowls are made of quartz crystals. Crystal singing bowls are designed to produce a specific tone to align with your specific energy center. (5 minute video here)
Tuning forks are made of steel. They produce a single precise tone. The practitioner will often tap the fork and hold it near your body. (demo video here)
Some believe wind chimes can cleanse your aura. Practitioners in feng shui commonly use them. You may have wind chimes hanging around your home!
This tool plays soft sacred music in a geometric pattern. Apparently, loud sound vibration from a gong releases stuck or trapped energy from your body. (15 minute video here. You may want the sound low, as it can be intense)
Quality handpans (and steel drums) are among the very few instruments where each note is tuned to a 1:2:3 frequency ratio. That means there are 3 frequencies in each note anytime it is played. (Video here. I really like this one!)
Well known Australian instrument. Aboriginal elders apparently would play near sick people to help them heal. It has deep vibrations.
In many ritual practices, drums are a symbol of divinity. Drums help to heal by improving focus and stimulating your energy center.
When swirled around, the little metallic pellets inside a drum head create a sound similar to rolling ocean waves or a soft rain. (Video here. It’s by the manufacture, but it’s educational -I’m not endorsing them.)
The Shruti Box s a hand-pumped reed instrument used to provide droning chords and notes. It originates from traditional India music, and often compared to accordions. (20 minute video here.) I hesitated to include this instrument because during the sound bath session I found myself very irritated by the tones. Sound baths do impact your emotions, good and otherwise. I realized my irritation was a lesson to learn. I decided to try and flow with the music. I’m not sure what the lesson was, exactly. Maybe it was helping break up a blocked chakra, that didn’t want to be unblocked? It all depends on how you look at it!
Are you ready to explore this?
“According to quantum physics, every cell is made up of small pieces of vibrating matter joined together by magnetic forces. It is believed that during illness or disease the vibration in the cells is less effective or there is a reduction in the frequency of the vibration. Alternative health practitioners theorize that when your body is exposed to healing sounds, the sound vibration helps to raise the frequency of your body which brings health and spiritual enhancement. This is the basis for the belief of alternative health practitioners that sound therapy helps you to achieve an optimal vibration.” (Shanti Bowl)
If you’re feeling stressed, stuck, anxious or curious – why not give this a try? It can’t hurt! If I can do it (and I’m hearing impaired/tone deaf) and get something out of it, you can too!
Where to explore…
When you live in major cities, it’s easy to find events through yoga studios, meditation centers and mystical retail outlets. If you live elsewhere, the search may be harder (but not impossible!). Although not the same (vibrationally speaking), there are tons of videos you can listen to, while laying on your own mat at home. If you have a yoga place nearby, ask if they would sponsor an event. Are you musically inclined? You could even learn to conduct your own sound bath!
Let me know if you have a Sound Bath Experience (in the comments below!)