Though sound baths may seem like a “new age” concept, the practice of healing bodies through sound is technically thousands of years old with deep roots in cultures across the world. This “spiritual, cleansing music” varies according to place and culture, but it can be as simple as chanting an om following your yoga session or as complex as an hour-long experience in a dedicated space with a sound practitioner.
With expert guidance, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about what sound baths are, what benefits sound baths may provide to participants, and how you can experience one yourself.
What Is a Sound Bath?
In general, a sound bath is a meditative experience where those in attendance are “bathed” in sound waves. These waves are produced by various sources, including healing instruments such as gongs, singing bowls, percussion, chimes, rattles, tuning forks, and even the human voice itself.
The music doesn’t have a catchy melody or rhythm like you’d experience at a rock concert or symphony, but instead is a carefully selected wash of instrument and voice with notable resonance and overtones.
“The intention is really to change and help balance the energy of the participants. During a sound bath, you don’t want to hook into a melody. You don’t want to repeat things because you don’t want the brain to recognize a repeated beat. Instead, you want participants to release, and you want the brain to let go,” explains Tamalyn Miller, the lead sound practitioner at Naturopathica Chelsea in NYC.
During the sound bath, participants lie on their backs—sometimes referred to as the Savasana position in yoga—for the entire experience, adds Christina Resasco, a sound healing practitioner and yoga therapist at Saffron & Sage in San Diego, California.
The sound healing practitioner facilitates the experience, and sometimes the entire group participates with chants, mantras, or rolling oms. A guided experience like this generally lasts anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes.
Benefits of Sound Baths
“The general intention of a sound bath is to create a state of harmony in the listener by using sound to clear discordance from the participants’ energy fields. Among the benefits are relaxation, an increased sense of wellbeing, expanded awareness, and access to inner visionary experience,” says Seth Misterka, co-founder of the Crystal Sound Bath in Los Angeles.
In addition to helping the body relax, some healing sound practitioners argue that sound baths can potentially foster physical healing. Miller likens the experience to acupuncture.
“If you go to an acupuncturist, you likely have energy blocked somewhere that the practitioner helps unlock. The sound bath is similar, but you’re using frequency and vibration instead of needles,” Miller says. “At Naturopathica, we’ve seen people have specific areas of their body where they can feel things loosening up or they feel pain literally going away.”
While it may sound “too good to be true,” corroborating data exists. Numerous studies have pointed to the therapeutic effects of music and sound therapy.1
“Sound therapy is deeply rooted in science and based on the principles of quantum physics and sacred geometry. There are hundreds of clinical trials and peer-reviewed white paper studies on the healing properties of sound,” adds Resasco.
“In fact, Western medicine uses sound waves on a daily basis in the form of ultrasound technology, which can be used to break up kidney stones among other things.”
The Ideal Candidate
With the exception of “counter-indicators,” or those who shouldn’t participate—such as someone who’s had a concussion—the experts we spoke to say that sound baths are great for any person who’s interested in experiencing one.
“This is the beauty of sound baths,” says Resasco. “They are for everyone at any stage of their lives. Since you are lying in Savasana (or supported Savasana) the entire time, you don’t need athletic ability or flexibility to participate. In fact, sound baths are very beneficial for pregnancy, prehab and rehab, old and young, or people who are experiencing disease, illness and trauma.”
She adds that sound baths may be particularly beneficial to someone who has had a difficult time connecting with traditional meditation or yoga, but still yearns to experience similar benefits. This is especially true if you overthink or have excessive thoughts that make it difficult to meditate in a more traditional way.
Miller agrees, saying, “For a lot of people, it’s much easier to let go in a sound bath versus traditional meditation. I recommend people go when they feel like they need it. Ideally, you’d come every week, but especially when you’re experiencing overwhelming thought patterns or stress.”
Arguably, the best part is that you don’t have to do anything but show up in comfortable clothing and receive the sounds around you while lying peacefully.
How to Experience a Sound Bath
Sound baths exist in brick and mortar locations across the country, and there are even “pop up” sound baths you can seek out that occur in parks, churches, and other communal spaces.
Yoga and meditation studios often host these events regularly and are a great place to start your search. Where you live affects how plentiful these opportunities are, but in general, it shouldn’t be too difficult to attend one locally.
Resasco also highly recommends a 1:1 sound bath experience, especially if you have a specific injury (physical or otherwise) that you want to target. She says, “The different frequencies of sound healing instruments such as tuning forks and crystal singing bowls, affect different organs, emotions, illnesses, diseases, chakras and trauma. Having a sound therapy session personally tuned to your needs is a game changer.”
You also have the option of purchasing sound healing instruments, or using your own voice, to create a sound bath at home. However, Resasco notes that you may find it’s easier to enjoy the experience if you’re being guided by an expert.
For a happy medium, consider listening to a sound bath recording. Misterka offers several on his website and a number of sound bath apps also exist.
“Ultimately, a sound bath is a subjective experience and you can try out different sound baths to see what works for you,” says Misterka. “Ideally you should feel that the musician offering a sound bath has positive intentions of wellness, love, and healing. It is a unique experience that can’t really be compared to other therapies and potentially a wonderful supplement to any healing or wellness program.”
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