I’ll admit it: To say I’m a yoga and meditation pro couldn’t be further from the truth (a hard pill to swallow, considering I’m a wellness writer and a native of the land of green juice, healers, and crystals, AKA LA). Sure, I can do Pilates in my sleep and I’ve got my shut-eye schedule down to a science (humble brag), but when it comes to practicing poses and getting my mind to quietly sit still for minutes at a time, I’ve got my work cut out for me. So when I first heard about a sound bath, I took it as a challenge to up my yoga and meditation game. Plus, it’s said to improve mood and mindfulness, so maybe it could be the missing piece to quieting my mind and improving stress levels. With the help of Eva Hooft, a breathwork and sound facilitator, I break down what a sound bath is, its advantages, and my personal experience.
Certified Holistic Health Coach & Breathwork and Sound Facilitator
In her practice, Eva focuses on reconnecting people to their bodies and intuition through specific enzyme detoxes and hosts carefully curated events and classes that deepen this inner connection throughout LA.
What is a sound bath?
Though recently becoming popular in the United States, a sound bath is an ancient meditative practice with roots from over a thousand years ago in Tibet. Sound healing and sound therapy may date back even further, with ancient Egyptians using vowel sound chants in healing practices, as they believed vowels were sacred. Sound has long been used to provide healing, or mental and physical benefits. So what is the ancient practice that’s popping up in yoga and meditation studios all over the world?
A sound bath has nothing to do with water (think of it like you are “bathed” in waves of ambient sound). “A sound bath is a meditative experience that uses sound and vibration to bring about relaxation, healing, and a sense of well-being,” Hooft explained. “The sound waves produced can be gentle or intense, depending on the instruments used. Generally, this includes instruments such as crystal bowls, Tibetan singing bowls, chimes, drums, rattles, or gongs. These are used to create a sonic atmosphere that can create an altered state of consciousness.” Each instrument emits a different frequency, creating harmonic vibrations in the body meant to stimulate the alpha and beta brain waves, promoting deep relaxation and allowing your heart and breath rate to slow down.
Don’t expect catchy tunes, but rather highly resonant music that envelopes you and ideally puts you in a deeper state of consciousness, shutting off your body’s “fight-or-flight” mode so you can be fully present and let it all go. The result? A restorative effect on your mind and body. And unlike taking a yoga class or some meditation and breathwork methods, you’re not guided throughout a sound bath. Participants usually lie down with eyes closed and are encouraged to just listen, be mindful, and let the meditative benefits set in. Sounds easy enough, right?
What are the benefits?
Because how we take in and interpret sounds vary from person to person, each individual is going to experience a sound bath differently, as with any other wellness ritual. But the general consensus is that the calming effect of sound baths alone can help you hit reset and feel more at ease and grounded. Still not convinced? According to a 2017 study on Tibetan singing bowl meditation, sound meditation may produce mental and physical health benefits, namely reducing feelings of tension, anxiety, and depression, increasing spiritual well-being, and lowering blood pressure and heart rate.
“Sound baths have a range of mental, physical, and emotional benefits,” Hooft affirmed. “They can help to reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, and regulate breathing patterns, which in turn can reduce anxiety and improve sleep. The soothing vibrations also allow for deep muscular relaxation, which can help relieve pain or inflammation in the body. On a psychological level, they are great for reducing stress levels and clearing out negative thought patterns. They allow us to reach a state of mindfulness where we can become more aware of our own feelings and thoughts without judgment or attachment.”
Are there any drawbacks?
“For most people, there aren’t any downsides to doing a sound bath,” Hooft said. “However, there is a small chance you may get a little dizzy or nauseous afterwards (this usually fades pretty quickly). It can also bring up emotional trauma, which can be overwhelming for some people.” Additionally, sound baths may not be suitable for people with sensitivity to sound, epilepsy, metal implants, or who are pregnant. If you have any hesitation, consult your doctor before engaging in a sound bath.
When I visited Breathwrk in Venice to take part in my first sound bath, I was met with what looked like an ordinary yoga studio, except with colored mood lighting, mats laid out with folded blankets on top (the perfect set-up for a good cat nap, if you ask me), and at the front of the room sat a semi-circle of sound bowls lit by candlelight. I scored the best mat in the house, according to Hooft—front and center—to get the most out of the experience. The theme of the 75-minute session was manifestation, so we started by sharing what we desired and what stood in the way of us achieving our dreams (think: limiting beliefs, fear) with a partner. Then, we moved into breathwork and the main event: the sound bath. At first I struggled to clear my mind, but it didn’t take long to become fully immersed in the symphony of resounding tones.
After what felt like 10 minutes (I lost all sense of time), I felt a floating-like sensation as I visualized my desires and tapped into the feeling of living them, intertwined with excitement and pockets of grief from the recent loss of a loved one. Even though I was present in my own journey, I was still aware of the other attendees and their occasional sighs, sniffles, or snores that found their way into the mix. Translation: I found my meditative state. I managed to stay awake throughout the session (much to my surprise), tune out the excess chatter in my mind, and realize a relaxation similar to that of getting a solid massage, leaving my mind and body filled with nothing but gratitude, motivation, calmness, and the strong urge to crawl into bed for a blissful night’s rest. And that I did, sound Zzzs and all.
Please note that a sound bath shouldn’t be considered a replacement for any medical treatments you’re having. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.
Source: Cosmo Politian
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