What is a Sound Bath and its Benefits?
At Shanti-Som we welcomed Sound Relaxation Coach, Christine Heckel, to facilitate a Cosmic Sound Bath experience. The soothing sounds of a gong and 12 metal singing bowls filled the air and all guests left evidently relaxed, with an aura of humble calm around them. We decided to look into what is a sound bath exactly and the benefits to our wellbeing and health.
What is a Sound Bath?
It is basically a therapeutic and meditative experience whereby you “bathe” in the sounds and vibrations produced by different instruments such as gongs, tuning forks, and crystal bowls. Through these sounds and vibrations, your mind enters a meditative and relaxed state. This brings about healing at mental, emotional, and physical levels.
During a sound bath, the brainwave state is altered from normal waking state (beta) to relaxed state (alpha), dreamlike state (theta), and even restorative state (delta). As the mind and body relax, the heart rate and blood pressure decrease and our breathing become deeper. It is in this state that deep healing can occur.
Thus, a sound bath not only reduces stress and anxiety by inducing a state of relaxation, but it also has physiological benefits. These include a reduction in pain, better sleep, removal of toxins, and strengthening of immune systems.
Benefits of a Sound Bath
Sound has proven to have healing effects on the mind as well as the body. A sound bath session can lead to reduced anxiety levels, tension, and sadness as well as diminished pain. Research into this subject is limited, but there have been studies that indicate a sound bath may improve your mood and release tension in your body, among other things.
It may seem like sound baths are yet another New Age trend, but sound therapy is as old as time, dating back over 40,000 years. Ancient Greeks used flutes and lyres to treat digestion and mental health, Tibetans used singing bowls for over 2,000 years for meditation purposes, and Australian aboriginal tribes played the didgeridoo to heal the sick.
Mental health benefits
Sound baths may help treat mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
One 2016 study of 62 adults gauged their feelings before a sound bath, and again after a meditation session that included a sound bath. The researchers found that tension, anxiety, and negative moods decreased significantly after the therapy.
A 2018 study with 60 participants asked 30 of them to listen to the music of Tibetan singing bowls before getting surgery and gave the other 30 headphones with no music.
The analysis found that heart rate and other vitals that indicate anxiety improved in those who were given the headphones with music.
Physical pain reduction
Participants in the previously mentioned 2016 study were also asked whether they were in pain, and to rank their pain on a scale from 1 to 5 if they did feel pain.
Before a sound bath, these study participants tended to rank their pain higher than they did afterward. More research is needed to confirm whether this trend in pain reduction would reach clinical significance, though.
In the 2020 review, physical symptoms such as blood pressure and heart rate also saw improvement. The review concluded, however, that more research is needed to definitively say sound bath has these effects on most people.
What to expect during a sound bath
Most sound bath programs last 45 to 60 minutes. During a sound bath session with a practitioner, you lie down on a yoga mat with a comfy cushion under your head. The practitioner then asks you to focus on your breath for a few minutes to relax and then uses different instruments like healing bowls, tuning forks, and gongs to produce different sounds and vibrations.
The sounds wash over your mind and body and take you to a deeper state of consciousness such as during meditation. You actually unplug from external stimuli and enter the state of inner peace and harmony.
Throughout the sessions, people experience a range of physical and mental sensations. Most commonly, they fall into a deep state of relaxation. But participants have also had creative “aha!” moments, shed tears, and even slept. Others may feel very little.
Can You Do a Sound Bath at Home?
You can certainly have your sound bath session at home if attending a group session is not practical for you. There is plenty of sound bath music available on the internet.
Once you have selected the recorded music or session sounds you want to play, lie down comfortably. Then, close your eyes and take deep breaths. Focus on your breathing and relax and then focus on the sounds around you. Listen and focus on the difference created when the sound fades away.
Continue experiencing the sounds and let them anchor you to the present. Don’t judge any sound just observe them. If you become panicked or restless, don’t react, just acknowledge the emotion. Do this for the remainder of the recording while becoming aware of the space around you.
Once the recording is complete, lie in silence for a minute or two, and then slowly open your eyes. Observe how your consciousness has changed.
Listening to recordings at home is a great way to enhance your meditation practice and slow down and relax. However, there’s nothing like being in the same room as the instruments and the practitioner responding to the individual or the group.
A sound bath is a meditative practice that’s safe for most people to try. A sound bath can be easier than other meditative practices because it doesn’t require a lot of discipline or patience to learn how to do it — all you have to do is listen.
Keep in mind that sound baths aren’t a replacement for medication or therapy with a licensed mental health provider when treating anxiety or depression. But since relaxation is the main byproduct of this practice, it could be worth to try as a way to recharge.