Regardless of who you are, chances are that stress is affecting your life and you could benefit from a little self-care. Personally, I tend to bottle up my stress, but when I started wedding planning it all felt particularly unbearable. I was constantly thinking about my neverending to-do list and it really started to make the whole process unenjoyable. As my bachelorette party approached, I was determined to find some way to enjoy myself — and I was open to anything. Enter sound baths.
I'd heard of the craze already, and to be honest, it seemed a little weird to me. Did a sound bath involve an actual bath? Were we going to listen to a stereo play rain sounds? Though I didn’t quite know what I was in for, I had nothing to lose and was willing to take the chance, so before heading to my bachelorette party in Palm Springs, my friend Claudia booked us a three-hour sound bath at The Den in La Brea. Let me repeat that. The sound bath was three full hours.
At the time, I was not thrilled about walking into a three-hour experience but technically, it was originally my suggestion, so I couldn’t really back out. After all, what better place to do a sound bath than L.A., the land of green juice, crystals, and good vibes? So I tried it, and three hours later, I was in love. Here's some more information about my personal experience and sound baths in general.
The Ancient Origins of Sound Healing
Though many people have only recently heard of sound baths, the use of music for healing is nothing new. From Tibetan singing bowls to Aboriginal didgeridoos, music has been used for its therapeutic effects for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks used sound vibration to aid in digestion, treat mental disturbance, and induce sleep, and even Aristotle's De Anima detailed how flute music could purify the soul.
Then, at end of the 19th century, researchers began to focus on proving the correlation between sound and healing. These studies proved that music could lower blood pressure, decrease pulse rate and assists the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for digestion and some metabolic processes. This totally makes sense — after all, I feel amazing when I listen to Beyoncé, and who doesn't have a go-to song for decreasing their anxiety?
The Basics: What Is a Sound Bath?
But having a primer on the history of sound therapy still doesn't tell you what a sound bath is, which was exactly what I wanted to know before I attended my first session. Essentially, a sound bath is a meditation class that aims to guide you into a deep meditative state while you're enveloped in ambient sound played by instructors, or sound therapists. Sometimes participants stay in a seated position on comfortable cushions during sessions, though some instructors ask attendees to lay on yoga mats.
In general, meditation is excellent for managing stress and improving your overall wellbeing. While it sounds easy enough, if you’ve ever actually tried to meditate, you know it can be very difficult. It's hard enough to quiet the distractions in your physical environment, let alone the distractions in your own brain.
Personally, I find it very difficult to turn off my thoughts. I have quite a short attention span and am constantly checking my phone. I could easily spend 45 minutes on Instagram and look up from my phone without having learned anything. It’s a mindless activity that’s not restorative. If you’re like me and have difficulty with meditation, you may find sound baths helpful.
Tools of the Trade
Sound baths use repetitive notes at different frequencies to help bring your focus away from your thoughts. Generally, these sounds are created with traditional crystal bowls, gemstone bowls, cymbals, and gongs. I’ve also attended a class in which a didgeridoo was used, but that's not a typical experience. As long as your instructor has a few bowls, you will still likely enjoy the benefits and effects.
Similar to how a yoga class works, each instructor has their own way
of creating the flow of a sound bath.
Each instrument creates a different frequency that vibrates in your body and helps guide you to the meditative and restorative state. Sara Auster, a Brooklyn-based sound therapist, explains on her website, “By using particular combinations of rhythms and frequencies, it is possible to shift our normal beta state (alert, concentrating, reacting) to an alpha (creative, relaxed), and even theta (meditative state) and delta (deep sleep; where restoring and healing can occur).”
For beginners, as long as you leave the normal beta state of being alert, concentrating, and reacting, then you should consider your experience a success. Calming those three instincts should leave you feeling relaxed and recharged.
Some people believe bowls made from certain types of crystals and gems can channel different restorative properties. For example, Susan Paul, a Shamanic Energy Healer and Crystal Therapist from The Den in La Brea, uses a black tourmaline bowl that she says helps clear negative energies. Tourmaline crystal is believed to absorb negative energy and emit positive energy. (Our Beginner's Guide to Healing Crystals can help you decipher which bowls would be good for your intended purposes.)
What It's Like to Experience a Sound Bath
When I attended my first sound bath, I walked into an open room that had spots set up for attendees with blankets, pillows, and mats. It looked like a professional napping set-up, and I was instantly in heaven. We laid in savasana (a yoga pose in which you lie down flat on your back),and I was so grateful that I had dressed for a nap rather than a buttoned-up board meeting.
The first 15 minutes were filled with breath work and I kept getting distracted by the performance of the instructors. Then I started focusing on the sounds, the environment, and my breathing, and something changed. By the last hour, I felt like I was asleep but was also fully aware of my surroundings. It was wild — I believe that it was my first time experiencing a meditative state.
However, not every sound bath, nor every person's experience, is the same. For example, while The Den conducts its sound baths in a dimly lit space, Inscape in NYC uses colored lighting to set the mood. Sara Auster’s Brooklyn-based sound bath, Scent and Sound, occurs on a city rooftop when the weather permits.
I felt refreshed and relaxed after the sound bath, like I had just
experienced a great massage.
Not all sound therapists use the same instruments, either. But they should all share the goal of leaving you feeling refreshed and relaxed. Take your time finding the right sound bath for you and treat it the same way you would find your favorite exercise class: through trial and error.
The Bottom Line (and the Small Print)
Sound baths can be an excellent way to meditate, especially if you're in a rut with your usual self-care routine. While I love my meditation apps, spending 15 minutes listening to my phone really can’t compare to an in-person session with live, deeply resonant sounds. Sadly, sound baths aren't necessarily accessible to everyone, either because of geographic or economic factors.
A group sound bath session can range anywhere from $30 to $65 while private sound baths could ring in at a much higher cost, depending on your guide. Plus, the experience is more widely available to those who live in large, urban areas. While other forms of meditation (say, Yin yoga) occur nationwide and are often scheduled on a daily basis, the sound bath experience is still gaining steam, and even the most popular events usually occur on a monthly or one-off basis. But if you can spare the cash for a session, then I recommend checking out the calendars of your local yoga studios and event spaces.
Further, some people find sound baths challenging, and it isn’t unusual to feel frustrated the first 20 or 30 minutes as you work to clear your mind. But as long as you try to focus on the sounds, your breath, and being present, you will likely experience some level of relaxation, even if you don't reach a meditative state.
As I said, I ended up reaching a meditative state during my first sound bath. Though I was initially worried about the three-hour length, it didn't feel that long in the end — in fact, I actually wished it was longer, and I felt refreshed and relaxed as though I had just experienced a great massage.
Don't forget to follow Allure on Instagram and Twitter.
Source: Read Full Article