What Is a Sound Bath?
A sound bath is meditative experience in which you listen to ambient sounds caused by singing bowls, chimes, gongs, drums and cymbals. Many of the sounds you’d hear during a sound both are vibrations produced by traditional metal bowls or other tools that are played by sound therapists.
During the experience, attendees usually lay down (in the yoga pose savasana or corpse pose) or sit in a comfortable position, such as on a meditation cushion or yoga mat. They “bathe” in the sounds in the environment in order to keep their attention fixated on the present moment, much like during other types of meditations.
Sound baths are intended to be deeply relaxing and can also lead to other benefits, like “self discovery” and insight. Some practitioners describe the experience of attending a sound bath as a “journey of self healing.”
What are the benefits of a sound bath? Based on its ability to help fight the negative effects of stress, sound bath and singing bowl benefits can include:
Calming the nervous system, helping you to cope with symptoms tied to chronic stress
Improving your mood and decreasing depression and anxiety symptoms
Deepening meditation and focus
Boosting creativity and decision-making
Helping with management of chronic pain
Improving sleep and reducing insomnia
Supporting cardiovascular and digestive health
The reason that sound baths (and music therapy and other types of “sound therapies”) are capable of leading to health improvements is due to how they affect the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you cope with stress and keeps you in balance (homeostasis).
Here’s a bit more about some of the main benefits of sound baths:
1. Can Help Enhance Meditation/Focus
Like other forms of meditation, sound baths emphasize focused concentration and mindfulness (moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness).
If you find it hard to meditate or relax because you can’t easily “turn off your brain,” then this type of practice is a good option for you. The vibrations, chants and other sounds you hear during a sound bath help quiet the distractions going on in your physical environment and in your mind, allowing you to relax and focus more easily.
A sound bath can even mimic the peaceful state of mind you would achieve in a float tank, in which you experience sensory deprivation. The resonant frequencies produced by singing bowls and other instruments are subtle distractions that may actually alter your brain waves in a way that promotes a calm, meditative state of mind.
A 2018 study uncovered evidence that people recovering from cancer who were part of a Tibetan Sound Meditation group performed better on a verbal memory test, short-term memory and processing speed task, and improved in cognitive function and abilities, mental health and spirituality scores at the end of treatment.
2. May Lift Your Mood
One observational study found that singing bowl meditation “may be a feasible low-cost low technology intervention for reducing feelings of tension, anxiety, and depression, and increasing spiritual well-being. This meditation type may be especially useful in decreasing tension in individuals who have not previously practiced this form of meditation.”
3. Can Aid Digestion
By reducing the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and helping you feel calmer, meditative practices can improve metabolic processes and digestion. Due to the “gut brain connection,” by feeling less stressed overall you may deal with fewer symptoms like indigestion, lack of appetite, diarrhea and constipation.
4. Can Help Improve Sleep
Sleep requires you to be in a relaxed, restorative state, which is what sound baths can provide. The more you practice relaxing your body and letting your thoughts pass, the easier it should be over time to drift off into restful sleep when the time is right.
5. May Help Improve Blood Pressure
By incorporating a regular meditative practice into your routine, you can help support hormonal balance, cardiovascular function and even immune system function.
A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that when people participated in relaxation sessions that included an introduction with 12 minutes of Himalayan singing bowls they experienced a greater reduction in systolic blood pressure and heart rate compared to sitting in silence before a directed relaxation session.
The researchers concluded that singing bowls may be used as an adjunct to directed relaxation session to produce positive physiological and psychological responses, including among adults with hypertension.
6. Can Help You Cope with Pain
Stress tends to only make pain worse, such as by increasing tension and inflammation, which is why stress-relieving practices can help you cope with chronic pain.
One study found that adults who used “vibroacoustic sound therapy” (singing bowls) experienced a significant decrease in stress perception and pain intensity compared to adults who were placed in a placebo group. Another study demonstrated that sound stimulation therapy can help those with fibromyalgia better cope with discomfort.
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