What Is Sound Bathing?

Photo by: Brandon Smith

Photo by: Brandon Smith

Sound bathing is a meditative practice using sound, that can be done lying or sitting. It utilizes gongs, Tibetan and/or crystal bowls, chimes and other musical instruments to help transform the subtle body to a more clear, relaxed and stress-free state. Certainly physical practices like running, spinning or power yoga can help reduce stress levels, but the practices that slow you down and utilize stillness can be extremely potent and insightful for stress management.

Sound bathing is growing in popularity because it is effortless and it works. The only effort is mentally letting go, and relaxing into the journey of sound itself. These instruments create powerful and multi-dimensional ripples of sound that grow into waves. These waves literally travel through the air and into the muscles, bones, and cells-bathing the entire physical and subtle body. It becomes a psycho-acoustic gateway to heightened states of awareness, that brings you from a physical to a meditative state.  This is helpful for people who doubt the benefits, or struggle with meditation.

Lets not forget the agenda of yoga, which is ultimately about the calming of the incessant mind-chatter. There are many pathways to achieve this, but sound bathing offers the power of sound to help quiet and calm looping thoughts. Getting the thinking mind to settle down is no easy task, but with the help of the instruments it becomes more accessible. The instruments are not playing any specific songs or melodies.  Once the logical and analytical part of the brain realizes there is nothing to “figure out” or “do” it disengages.  This makes it more possible for you to get out of your head, and into the healing effects of the moment-to-moment experience.

Sound Bathing is based on the scientific principles that all matter, and most importantly the cells in your body, vibrate to a precise frequency when healthy, and to a dissonant frequency when in “dis-ease”.  It creates resonance in the body and entrains brainwaves, proving that the strongest pure vibration in any given environment will bring all other like vibrations into uniformity with it. This is why resonant vibration, rhythms and tones can help balance brain hemispheres, stress levels and even tension in body tissues and cells that have fallen into “dis-ease” or “dis-harmony”.  Excessive energy is toned down and deficient energy is made full.  

Sound Bathing can also help recalibrate the parasympathetic nervous system. Signs of this include heavy arms and legs, regulated heartbeat/breath and in some cases sleep.  

Sound bath practitioners report a full range of experiences, from nothing to having outer body experiences. Some people report bodily sensations, visions, and “other” sounds that didn’t happen. Some people fall asleep, some get agitated, and some are in complete bliss. 

One thing is for sure, meditation meets you where you are. It is through your practice that you can learn to meet, greet and be with whatever is passing through. The moment to moment experience of being with what is arising, unfolding and passing away teaches you not to identify with the impermanent aspects of your life. Through the practice you will instead, learn how to identify and anchor into, your core essence. The essence that is timeless, endless and free in nature. 

Clinical research from around the world, including studies from The National Institute of Health, have shown a myriad of positive effects from sound, vibration and music. Stress reduction, pain management and even cancer treatment are just a couple categories that have been studied. 

A Yoga Unplugged collaboration - written by Jennifer Reuter, edited by Sarah Burchard