What a Sound Bath Is - And Why You Should Try It
I’ve always been fascinated by how I could use music to affect the way I feel. Whether it was to hype me up for an important interview, help me cry it out after a breakup or allow me to scream the anger out (to a loud and preferably profane song), listening to music has been my drug of choice for altering my mood and relieving stress. So, when I first heard of the concept of sound baths, I knew I had to try it. And it did not disappoint!
My first experience was extra special as I was on a yoga retreat in Lake Tahoe, and we hiked to a clearing under ponderosa pine trees next to a mountain stream. The person leading the sound bath had us get comfortable before guiding us to notice how the sounds of nature blended with his cello playing. Even thinking back on it now, I immediately relax at the memory of it. While I’m sure the location added to my experience, I’ve also done sound healing at home and in a yoga studio so I know you can get just as blissed out without being surrounded by nature.
Read on to find out about this new (but also ancient) practice and why you might want to give it a try.
What is a sound bath?
This may come across as cheesy, but it’s true – you are being bathed in sound during a sound bath. The practitioner, trained in sound healing techniques and often with a background in music, uses an instrument(s) to create calming and overlapping sounds. There is typically no pre-defined melody nor words as the focus is on the vibrations of the sound.
There are a variety of instruments that can be used in sound healing, including singing bowls, gongs, chimes, drums, the human voice, and digital recordings. Depending on the practitioner, they may use one or several instruments during the session.
Why try a sound bath?
Sound has been used as a healing modality around the world for centuries. As we have refined the use of sound for healing, research has started to show the mental and physical benefits of it.
A 2016 study done on the effects of a Tibetan singing bowl meditation showed that hourlong practice reduced anxiety, anger, tension and fatigue in the participants.
A study with fibromyalgia patients found that sound stimulation reduced the pain felt by the participants and improved their sleep.
Another study using Tibetan singing bowls with patients about to undergo surgery concluded that the music helped lower anxiety.
Personally, I have always felt more relaxed after a sound bath and have found that I get deeper, more restful sleep the night after. Another benefit that one of our sound healing experts highlighted is that a sound bath can help begin the process of unsticking stuck emotions in the body. (If you think of all the times music has gotten you pumped up for a night out with friends, this last benefit doesn’t seem too ‘out there.’)
What to Expect During a Sound Bath
Each sound bath will be unique, but you are typically lying down during the experience. Before creating the sounds, the practitioner will either offer up an intention for the session or ask you to set your own. Then the sound portion will commence. You may find that you can easily relax and even drift off during the sound bath. However, don’t be surprised if you find yourself irritated or even overcome with emotion to the point of crying. Just let whatever comes up, move through you. Everyone else is lying down with their eyes closed; no one is watching you or judging you.
A few recommendations for after your sound bath:
Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel like it.
Journal about your experience, even if it’s just three sentences describing how you felt before, during and after the sound bath.
Do lower energy activities in the hour(s) following the sound bath to linger in that parasympathetic (rest and digest) state.
Get to bed early to (hopefully) take full advantage of a deeper, more restful sleep.
As much as I love experiencing sound baths live, it’s not always possible, and you can still benefit from virtual and recorded sessions. (Side note: I started listening to recorded sound baths during the pandemic and have now made it part of my weekly routine.) If you want to try it from the comfort of your home, you’ll want to make sure that you find a quiet, distraction-free room, use headphones, and bring all the blankets and pillows you need to be comfortable. Pro tip: I like to do a simple 10-15 minute yoga or stretching session before settling into the sound bath.
Want to dive deeper?
Episode 72: Move Stuck Emotions with Sound Healing with David Khan
Special soundscape giveaway for listeners of the NoBS Wellness Podcast: https://www.thebladeandchalice.com/nobs