Even the best of us can use all the help at our disposal. On tumultuous days when the most tranquil of settings can’t put you at ease, know that all is not lost yet. If yoga or guided meditations fail to propel you into your zen mode, then it’s time to give sound bathing a try.
Otherwise known as sound therapy, sound bathing is an ancient method of using resonant sonic waves during meditation to trigger healing. Oftentimes, it includes the use of instruments such as singing bowls and gongs, but depending on your practitioner, they might even have other tools up their sleeves. Just like your regular meditation class, the idea is to get as comfortable as possible—so dress for cosiness. Some instructors will have you either sitting up or lying down, but some also offer an in-hammock experience.
The Science Behind Sound Baths
According to the board-certified psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr Dave Rabin, sound affects our physiology. “Soothing, quieter music and slower rhythms bring the body into a calmer, sleepier state and winds it down,” he said in an interview with Allure. Hooked to your playlist of slow tunes? Then you already know what he’s talking about.
“Sound impacts us in these rhythmic ways very, very quickly and usually without us noticing it or being aware that our bodies are changing and our heart rate and blood pressure are changing. That soothing stimulation helps the body feel safe enough to drop into a meditative state quickly and deeply.”
For local practitioner Sarah Lian, the bath is exactly that: a cleansing ritual, except in a more spiritual sense. “It’s for anyone who is looking for a place to find calm in their lives,” she shared. And just like any form of ablution, you can do it as much as you want to. There is one caveat, though. “A regular consistency is highly recommended,” advised Lou Eu of Bangsar’s Alchemie Boutique, whose clients come as often as every week.
If you’re toying with the idea of attending your first sound bath, here’s what it could look like for you. “Expect the possibility of experiencing a variety of mental, emotional, and physical sensations. You might fall deeply asleep, feel strong rhythmic pulsations, and experience a variety of emotions,” Eu, who has been hosting sessions since 2009, continued.
The effects don’t just end there. Afterwards, you can expect a steady sense of quietude to permeate throughout the oncoming days. Over time, and with diligent practice, the feeling of lightness can last longer.
Is a Sound Bath for Everyone?
No two individuals will go through the same experience when attending a sound bath. In fact, no two sessions are equal either. Each succession progresses you further into the practice, and your healer may work with different tools. One class may have you floating in serenity for days. Another could have you deep in a pensive spell. For instance, I had a restorative sound bath that kept me energised for several days. However, after the following session, I found a sense of composure that counteracted my tendency to make snap decisions. And all that came from attending two introductory classes.
While practically everyone can benefit from a sound bath, some individuals should proceed with caution, especially if they are sensitive to sounds. People with pacemakers and expectant mothers should check in with healthcare providers for further advice. Those using hearing aids, on the other hand, may be required to completely remove their devices or to adjust them to the lowest setting.
‘Wouldn’t a meditation playlist do the trick?’ The short answer is, no. This is because the instruments can emit ultra-low and ultra-high frequencies (even ones that are outside of human hearing capacity), which, more often than not, can’t be captured at recording. Both Lian and Eu agree: it’s better to carve out the time for the real deal.
“The vibrations from the bowls reverberate, and because the body is made up of over 80% water, we become a medium to the sound and feel it,” Lian explained. “Ultimately, you attend a sound bath to be immersed in the sound. All the spacial sensations of sound and vibration are very healing, and cannot be replicated with audio equipment,” said Eu.
It’s All Relative
It can take a long time (and a whole lot of discipline) to get to a point where you can reap the benefits of a classic meditation. But if you want a taste of what that could look like, a sound bath is a shortcut you can take—again and again, too. This makes it the perfect entry point for meditation novices. The next time quick remedies fall short, trust that there’s somebody out there with answers to your troubles.