What are sound baths? How ancient practices can transform your modern life | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: July 19, 2024

BY THE OPTIMIST DAILY EDITORIAL STAFF

Whether you’re an experienced meditator or just starting out on your self-care path, including sound baths into your regimen could be the ideal method to relax and decrease anxiety. This ancient discipline, which makes use of sound waves from instruments such as gongs and bowls, provides a distinct and powerful method of meditation.

The essence of a sound bath

A sound bath is essentially a meditation session in which participants are immersed in ambient noises created by sound therapists. Unlike guided meditations, which use spoken words to direct your attention, sound baths employ the vibrations of various instruments to transport you to a deep, contemplative state. According to Brooklyn-based sound therapist Sara Auster, “If meditation is taking the stairs, a sound bath is taking the elevator.”

According to Auster, sound baths can induce relaxation and meditative states in a single session, whereas other meditation techniques may require weeks or months of practice to get comparable results. 

Trying out a sound bath

During the session, participants usually sit on comfy cushions or lie down on yoga mats. Closing one’s eyes is recommended to separate from extraneous distractions and focus on the sounds. Alexandra Janelli, the founder of Modrn Sanctuary in Philadelphia, states, “By closing their eyes, clients can disconnect from the world around them and tune into the sounds that will begin to surround them.”

Instruments like bowls, gongs, bells, rainsticks, and tuning fork chimes generate vibrations that the brain and ears detect, guiding meditation. This sensory immersion allows individuals to feel completely present in the moment.

Benefits of sound baths

Meditation is well known for its stress-relieving properties, but sound baths go a step further. Auster points out that music has been demonstrated to alleviate pain, promote neuronal connection, and improve quality of life. According to a 2016 study conducted by integrative health research psychologist Tamara Goldsby, those who participated in singing-bowl meditations experienced less pain, anxiety, tension, rage, and melancholy.

Dr. Dave Rabin, a board-certified psychiatrist and neuroscientist, describes how music and sound affect our physiology by altering the rhythms of our internal systems. “Sound impacts us in these rhythmic ways very, very quickly, usually without us noticing. It changes our heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological responses,” he says.

Because of this natural response to sound, sound meditation is a good beginning point for novices and a welcome shift for those who have been practicing meditation for a while. Dr. Rabin believes that sound waves give relaxing stimulation, allowing the body to quickly reach a deep meditative state.

The ancient roots of sound healing

Though many people perceive sound baths to be a recent trend, the use of sound for healing dates back to ancient times. From Tibetan singing bowls to Aboriginal didgeridoos, civilizations all around the world have used music for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks used sound vibration for a variety of health purposes, including mental health therapy and sleep induction. Aristotle even thought flute music might purify the soul.

These techniques have been verified by research dating back to the late nineteenth century, which shows that music helps lower blood pressure and pulse rate, and assists the parasympathetic nervous system, all of which alter digestion and metabolic processes.

Instruments and techniques for sound baths

Sound baths often use repeating tones at various frequencies to assist shift attention away from ideas. “I always call [the instruments] a doorway into the present moment,” says Vinny Colandrea, a sound practitioner at My Zen Den in Beacon, NY. These healing sounds are created using instruments such as crystal bowls, gemstone bowls, cymbals, gongs, and bells.

Each frequency has a distinct healing potential, and when combined, they can create binaural beats, an auditory illusion that assists the brain in entering meditative states. According to Dr. Rabin, binaural beats impact numerous areas of the brain, including sensory processing, emotion, and cognition.

What to expect during a sound bath session

Each sound bath instructor has their own distinct style. Colandrea enjoys creating a “push and pull” using instrument sounds, beginning with calming tones and progressing to more tension-inducing sounds. “I try to create a journey through themes,” he explains. 

Participants may use bowls composed of specific stones and jewels, which are thought to have distinct therapeutic effects. For example, tourmaline crystal is said to absorb negative energy while emitting positive energy. The experience changes from session to session, and people may respond differently each time. “It’s a process. Things can happen slowly at first and then all at once,” says Janelli. 

Are sound baths right for you?

Sound baths can be a fantastic complement to your self-care practice, particularly if typical meditation methods haven’t worked for you. “When you practice mindfulness, you are practicing the art of creating space for yourself—space to think, space to breathe, space between yourself and your reactions,” Auster explains.

However, due to their high cost, sound baths may not be accessible to everybody. Group sessions typically cost between $30 and $65, and private sessions might be more expensive. If you can locate a class that matches your budget and needs, sound baths can be an effective stress reliever and relaxant.

Exploring sound baths may lead to a stronger connection between your mind and body. This old method, strengthened by modern science, provides a distinct way to relax and manage stress. Whether you’re new to meditation or searching for a different method, sound baths could be an excellent complement to your wellness routine.

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