While it may seem as if sound baths are a new trending idea, the practice of using singing bowls is something that has been done by the Tibetans since at least the fifth century. This soothing practice, which has been linked to a reduction in stress and anxiety, has captured the interest of many in the West. Its devotees tout it as a way to enhance body awareness and become more mindful. Despite its name there’s no literal bath involved — the term is metaphorical, and you are actually bathing in musical sounds that immerse your senses with a sonic frequency that can release you from the stresses of modern life. It’s essentially a deeply meditative experience. Are you already more relaxed?
How do sound baths work?
While there are variations to the practice depending on the teacher, some use a different style of bowls or there might be a live person chanting. Either way, the outcome is about the same. “We use crystal sound bowls in materials ranging from quartz to ruby, which is tuned to various notes of a musical scale,” says Leah Kinsella, meditation, yoga, and Pilates instructor at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort. The sound waves that are emitted are meant to produce energy that is absorbed by participants. “Each note also corresponds with the energy centers of the body called Chakras,” says Kinsella. The purpose is to get your body in harmony and frequency with the bowls. This connection can create a small amount of heat and/or new energy. “Basically, the body absorbs the sound waves and immediately harmonizes, thus relaxing and healing.”
What are they meant to do?
They are designed to relax the body, nervous system, mind, and energy. “When these systems are allowed to release, the healing can begin,” she says. But this is no woo-woo theory: In a recent study published in the Journal of Anaesthesia, the use of relaxing music prior to a surgical procedure reduced anxiety and stress for participants. Researchers used binaural beats, which is the combination of two sub-audible frequencies that target the right and the left hemispheres of the brain, creating a single frequency that the brain tunes into. This allows us to reach a deep state of meditation, leading to relaxation and calm. The use of sound waves has even been found to lower blood pressure.
Preparing for the Experience
The best way to take advantage of all that you can from a sound bath is to make sure that you’re open to it and feel free and unencumbered. “Prepare by dressing comfortably,” says Kinsella. “Set electronics aside and check in with the teacher.” Leave behind all the things that can interfere with your chance to be in tune with your body and mind. The room will be dimly lit but you can also choose to wear an eye mask. There are usually other participants, much like a group yoga session. The instructor may choose to do breath work and shortly thereafter you are immersed in sounds produced at different frequencies. Go with how you are feeling and let your breath guide you. Relax your body, nervous system and mind. Kinsella says, “When they are allowed to release, the healing can begin.”
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