photography by masta leegowtu

What Are Sound Baths? – Sound Bath Health Benefits

It turns out a sudsy soak in a bubbly tub isn’t the only kind of bath that can have health benefits. Sound baths are just as good for the body—and the soul.

You may have heard the term thrown around with words like meditation, relaxation, or even healing. Maybe you know someone who’s tried one, but you aren’t sure if it’s the right fit for you. Although sound baths may seem like a nontraditional idea, the practice of healing through sound is actually thousands of years old with deep roots in cultures across the world.

In fact, sound bath professional Sara Auster says that the discipline of using sound and music as a healing influence on health and behavior is “at least as old as the writings of Plato and Pythagoras.” She adds that the use of singing bowls in particular—a type of bell that vibrates and produces a rich, deep tone when struck—originated in Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago and made their way to Tibet, Nepal and India, “which all have singing bowls in their history and culture dating back some 2,000 years.”

Given their rich past, sound baths are worth learning about, which is why we tapped a real-life expert to outline what they are and how they work. Before long, you just might be scheduling (or conducting!) your own session.

What is a sound bath?

“A sound bath is a deeply-immersive, full-body listening experience that intentionally uses sound to invite gentle yet powerful therapeutic and restorative processes to nurture the mind and body,” says Auster.

The experience begins “with each person lying down or seated in a comfortable position, often with a blanket and an eye mask,” she adds. “After a few minutes of guided focus on the breath, the remainder of the experience is filled with different sounds and frequencies being introduced in succession.” These sounds are created by a variety of overtone-emitting tools, including tuning forks, gongs, shruti boxes (an instrument that works on a system of bellows), Himalayan and crystal singing bowls, chimes, vocals, and other instruments.

photography by masta leegowtu

Sara Auster

When you sink into a sound bath and guide your awareness to listening, “you allow your brain waves to slow, shifting from a more active state to a more relaxed state, or even a dream-like state,” Auster explains.

The sounds introduced are an “invitation into a deeper state of consciousness, an opportunity to unplug from external stimuli and to gain perspective on what’s going on within you,” she says. “The goal of the experience is to invite deep rest and relaxation, and explore self-inquiry and self-discovery.”

Sound bath benefits

A sound bath is kind of a music therapy-meditation hybrid, Auster explains, which makes it an incredible and accessible tool for calming the storm that is busy daily life. “Sound has been shown to help reduce pain, increase neural connectivity, and generally increase the quality of life,” she adds, noting that sound baths in particular “help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, improve sleep, increase attention, and invite a greater sense of compassion, empathy and connection.”

Research corroborates these claims. For example, a 2020 research review that analyzed four different studies found improvements in distressed mood, tension, anger, and confusion among study participants after a sound bath with Tibetan singing bowls. Another study showed improvements in blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rates.

How to experience a sound bath

Yoga and meditation studios often host sound bath events and are a great place to start your search. Where you live will affect how many opportunities there are, but in general, it shouldn’t be too challenging to find a local option.

In general, first-timers may find it easier to enjoy the experience if they’re guided by an expert. However, you can also purchase sound healing instruments, or use your own voice, to create a sound bath at home. If that seems intimidating, consider listening to a sound bath recording. Many sound bath professionals, including Auster, offer several recordings online, and there are also a number of sound bath apps. You can find some of Auster’s recordings available online at Audible Sleep.

Find all the essentials you need for a sound bath starter kit below.

Who should participate in a sound bath?

With the exception of those who have suffered concussions or may be extra-sensitive to sound, the experts say that sound baths are great for any person who’s interested in experiencing one.

Sound baths are for anyone, at any stage in life. They can be particularly helpful for those who have had difficulty connecting with traditional meditation or yoga. So for all you over-thinkers, a sound bath might be just what the yogi ordered.

There is no athletic ability or flexibility required to participate, and most sound bath experiences prioritize comfort over all else, so come as you are and see the benefits for yourself.

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