The latest relaxation practice to infiltrate the trendy landscape: sound baths. With climate anxiety at an all-time high – 45% of young people say it’s impacting their daily life – there’s never been a better time to resume your meditation practice. And it turns out that just adding sound can be the key to maximizing your mindfulness.
Sound healing has grown in popularity in recent years, including on TikTok, at your local yoga studio, and in the streams of celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Lizzo (the latter’s meditative videos, which featured her signature flute, were a balm for the summit of the pandemic; the first is a fan of crystal singing bowls). The concept of using certain audio frequencies and music to relax is nothing new, but the latest (and liveliest) iteration seems to be here to stay.
But what exactly is a sound bath, anyway?
What is a sound bath?
“To put it simply, a sound bath is just another form of meditation,” say partners Justin Ballatore and Jami Avery of The DEN Meditation in Los Angeles. “For us, a sound bath is an opportunity to break free from the daily hustle and bustle to experience deep healing on a cellular level through vibration.”
Sound baths aim to calm anxiety and promote positive changes in the body through (you guessed it!) sound. To do this, practitioners – or simply musicians – use Tibetan or crystal singing bowls, gongs, drums, flutes and various other instruments, playing notes and songs while participants relax on a carpet and soak up the sound.
“Most sound baths last between 30 and 90 minutes, and our goal is for each guest to be as comfortable as possible,” says Avery, who adds that attendees use blankets and pillows for optimal comfort. “Sound bath experiences vary in the frequencies used in the session and how they translate to the person. Some fall asleep. Others have wild out-of-body experiences, see colors, or feel a range of sounds. emotions as they move through different sounds.
The use of the power of sound in healing or worship practices is nothing new, with deep (and augmented) roots around the world, and sound baths are separated from music therapy by the addition of a meditative element. “It’s incredibly soothing and relaxing like you’re tuning your body to a constant frequency,” says Suze Yalof Schwartz, CEO of Unplug Meditation, where teachers rely on crystal bowls, Koshi chimes and ocean drums.
The unifying power of music and the comfort that comes with well-chosen notes seem to be among the main attractions of a modern sound bath. But, if you ask fans of the practice, they also count the vibrational frequency and its power to promote positive changes in the body as a bonus.
Healing with sound
According UCLA Healthmusic can regulate breathing, increase oxygen throughout the body, and reduce cortisol levels (i.e. reduce stress) while improving immunity.
“Because our bodies are primarily made up of water, the frequencies used in our sound baths have the potential to create impactful change,” says Avery. Claims of ease are supported by relatively recent research: one study indicates that Tibetan music is effective in reducing nervousness, tension and fear in patients before surgery, while another notes that the practice is effective to improve general well-being, mental and physical.
Although more research is needed to determine the exact effects and why (hertz promoting deep relaxation and mood affecting physiology are two common theories), the ancient and universal power of sound serves as proof in itself. And really, why not up the ante on your meditation game with soothing sound?
How to afford a sound bath
Start with an instrument or sound frequency that comforts you.
“Perhaps you are just ringing a bell when you are seated, or you find a way to circle the outside of your crystal bowl by closing your eyes. These frequencies are pleasant even when you create them. yourself,” says Ballatore. “When you are able to implement sound into your meditation at home (even if it is your own voice), it adds a level of ritual that helps the body and mind prepare for the ‘immobility.”
For a little extra guidance, apps like Unplug: Meditation from the aforementioned studio offer pre-recorded sound bath sessions from some of the world’s top healers. “Plug in your headphones, cover your eyes with an eye mask or clothing, lie in bed and just melt into the sounds,” says Yalof Schwartz.
We already feel more relaxed.
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