There’s a reason it’s called a bath. Sound baths are a way to totally and completely immerse yourself in the warm, refreshing, soothing sounds lovingly played at the hands of an experienced singing bowl “performer,” for lack of a better word.
But it’s not really a performance. We’re not meant to watch the creator of these sounds in awe and cheer at the end—it’s for finding a place of meditative space in our minds.
Renee Harris, a yoga instructor and meditation guide who works to empower grounding and a healthy sense of self through mindfulness, is also a mother and generous giver of sound baths. She understands and offers the power and connection that they can bestow, as well as a deep state of relaxation.
“Sound has been used as a healing tool for thousands of years; however, it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century, when scientists began researching the effects of music, that we were able to confirm what our ancient ancestors had already known: music has medicinal effects,” Harris shares.
“Research was able to show that music has the ability to lower blood pressure, decrease pulse rate, and assist the work of the parasympathetic nervous system. You have likely noticed how easily music influences your mood on a day-to-day level; that’s because it can have a powerful impact on your brain chemistry. I mean, I have whole Spotify playlists dedicated to the mood I’m in!” Us, too, Renee. Megan Thee Stallion has gotten us through some especially hard times.
“If you have ever wondered why you can listen to your favorite songs over and over and over again, it’s because studies have shown that music can increase dopamine levels (those happy feels) in your brain. While it’s difficult to distinguish how long sound baths in their current form have been around, it’s not surprising to see their sudden rise in popularity as more and more evidence points to the positive impact of sound on our well-being.”
It just goes to show that our favorite guilty-pleasure track might be doing us some serious good on a chemical level. However, slipping on our noise-canceling headphones and blasting some early ’00s Britney is not quite the same as an immersive sound bath.
“Sound baths are a form of meditation that harnesses the healing qualities of sound to create a relaxing and restorative voyage for the mind and body. For some, a sound bath is perhaps a more accessible meditation style, giving our attention a very clear landing space to return to each time our mind wanders,” Harris explains. If you’re someone who has ever had trouble getting into meditation, we are right there with you. These particular wavelengths of sound can help make that a little more accessible.
So what kinds of instruments are used in sound baths? Harris tells us that “while sound baths can include many different instruments, you will commonly see a set of crystal bowls. The frequency and notes that resonate from the bowls are often associated with a specific chakra (or energy centers) in the body, allowing for the frequency of the bowl to connect with, move energy through, and restore balance to the energetic field of a specific chakra.” This is why we may feel an out-of-body experience, or quite the opposite—a deep feeling of connection and feeling very in our bodies.
“Some experts suggest that the sound waves influence our brain waves, too. They believe the sound produced by the bowls moves our beta brain waves (active and external-focused) to alpha (passive, relaxed) and even theta (deeply relaxed, internally focused—the place where subconscious healing can occur).”
While the research is relatively new and much more is needed, the results thus far have been promising, Harris explains. They suggest that “sound baths have the ability to settle the nervous system, helping us to create calm and engender clarity, cope better with stress and anxiety, and aid in pain management.”
If nothing else, the experience of a sound bath asks us to put aside some much-needed time. Harris details that it requires us to take time “from the busy-ness of constantly doing, and make ourselves available for the peacefulness of simply being. Too often, what many of us need is permission to slow down and be still in order to show up for ourselves so that we can better show up for those around us.”