Sound Baths: What Are They?
When I hear the word sound bath, I think of my ear getting a soothing massage or a tiny bee playing soft classical music inside my ear. I visualize my auditory cortex light up, and my brain relax. It’s passive, and it’s calming. So I close my eyes and connect with the sounds.
Humans have five ‘senses’. (Some people claim a sixth; check this out!). But staying in the paradigm of science and medicine, if you look at human anatomy and the sensory organs we all have:
- Eyes for seeing: the visual system
- Ears for hearing: the auditory system
- Skin for touching: the tactile system
- Nose for smelling: the olfactory system
- Tongue for tasting: the taste system
We have a corresponding brain map to these five functions.
The homunculus is a classic image that represents the maps of the brain and the corresponding body parts it moves and sensesJust like a bath, where your skin is surrounded, touched and soothed by water, a sound bath is music and sound waves that surround and soothe your ears, eardrums and eventually, down the line, the brain. The main purpose is to relax. Many people who are into or enjoy practicing yoga and meditation either have heard of or already participated in a sound bath. It’s a complementary activity to both practices. Sound baths are becoming popular, and you will see virtual events and in-person events host them.
While yoga moves the body, exercises the lungs and hearts, works the muscles, joints and bones, meditation exercises the mind, emotions, feelings, and spirit. You learn to let go; you learn to tap into the Inner Self. Meditation is a practice that helps you relax, clear your mind, and connect with your true intentions and your inner peace. Sound baths come in pretty neatly because adding the sound element adds both a layer of relaxation and introspection.
Sound baths actually don’t have a sequence, melody or rhythm like an ordinary song or composition. The music that a sound bath practitioner creates features no-loops and shouldn’t induce a specific emotion in the listener. Just like many meditation masters suggest to ‘think without judgement‘ or ‘observe your thoughts without judgement,’ sound healers also urge that you ‘listen without judgement.’ The idea is to let go, to go within.
So how does Sound Baths work?
The sound creator uses various instruments: gongs, tuning forks, singing bowls, percussion, chimes, and even their own voice. The listener lies down just like Shavasana (corpse pose as the end of any yoga class or many meditation practices), maybe with an eyemask, maybe with a blanket, or both. You connect with your breathing as you receive the sound: both the music and the energy bring healing.
Many sound healers title their circles or events with words like ‘journey‘ or even ‘meditation‘ because, very precisely, it fits both concepts. Typically they last about one hour.
Humans have been using sound and musical instruments to heal since we exist. For example, aboriginal people in Australia (think Didgeridoo), Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks and Tibetan Monks all have music as part of healing in their cultures. Whether it is a combination of chanting and drums, bowls and crystals, the rituals these cultures have practiced for years have the aim of balancing, healing and helping the body and mind recover from the disease.
A 2016 study took a look at the effects of singing bowl sound meditation on mood, tension and well-being. Researchers at the University of California San Diego used 62 participants to evaluate mood, anxiety, pain and spiritual well-being. Several tests and assessments were used to measure tension, anger and confusion, depressed mood, and anxiety before and after the meditation. Participants were lying down with their yoga mats, and almost 80 Tibetan bowls, crystal bowls and gongs were used. The instructor guided and played the music for 60 minutes. The scores for most participants revealed significantly lower indexes. Everyone relaxed!
Theories and other researchers are looking into how music and sound affect the brain and mood. Binaural beats have become popular on Youtube and are associated with ‘concentration,’ ‘focus,’ and healing. Brain researchers looked at cortisol, melatonin, serotonin, dopamine, blood pressure and other physiological measures in participants. All these measures showed an improvement. Binaural beat technology seems to improve and aid with stress and anxiety management. It is believed that sound healing and sound baths work similarly. The idea that frequencies can heal the brain is becoming widely accepted by science and non-science people alike.
Another study explored the effect of the singing bowl in a meditation setting and how it influenced blood pressure and heart rate. Again, it was straightforward: the participants either participated in a Himalayan singing bowl session before a directed relaxation session, or they participated in a silent meditation session before the directed relaxation session. Participants exposed to the singing bowl session showed a greater decrease in systolic blood pressure than the silent group.
During the pandemic, many people sought out online therapy. We joined meditation sessions on social media, we played fun soothing podcasts, we got into all types of healing resources available online. Some are free, some charge. A quick Google search can reveal many available ‘Sound Bath’ or ‘Singing Bowl Meditation’ sessions. Many different artists worldwide offer these, and I invite you to explore, join and participate in one. If you have the chance to be part of an in-person one, you won’t regret it. It’s a truly immersive and peaceful experience.
A sound bath mentor and healer once said about sound baths: ‘we define them as an immersion in sound frequency that cleans the soul.‘ Sound baths go beyond relieving anxiety, depression and the nowadays common mental issues on the rise. Sound baths heal the soul. Sound baths reach a deeper part of the human brain and thus a deeper part of the spirit.
The instruments used usually create long, soothing tones that can help focus but also let go. You may find chimes, didgeridoos, singing bowls, harps, gongs, crystal bowls, and some sound bath experts use their own voice. If you are looking for a way to connect to your inner peace, cultivate clarity and feel grounded, take some time to explore this wonderful tool.
Here are some links to recorded sound baths sessions on Youtube:
–3 Hour Crystal Singing Bowl Sound Baths at 432 Hz Frequency: very slow, relaxing and soft. (3 hours)
–Long Tibetan Bowl for the Third Eye: soothing, helps disconnect, ideal for background music while reading or meditating. (3 hours)
–Short ‘Chakra Tuneup’ with Himalayan Singing Bowls: this short 11-minute video plays the different frequencies to tune up the chakras. Perfect for a quick meditation.
Dive in, disconnect and feel your heart and spirit connect with the sounds of the bowls!