Last weekend I experienced my first sound bath meditation, and it was such an interesting experience, that I felt compelled to share. While many of our readers are well-versed in the wellness space, some of you are probably wondering, what is a sound bath? It’s definitely not the kind of bath you are used to for self-care. It’s an ancient healing Tibetan practice that is essentially an immersion or “bath” in sound frequency. You are guided into a meditation state while you are bathed in ambient sound from singing bowls and/or other instruments.
Sound baths are often times associated with these benefits:
Calms the nervous system
Increased mental focus and awareness
While a sound bath experience is personal for each individual, I wanted to share my experience in case you have been interested in participating in one yourself. I paid $25 to attend the sound bath experience at a local yoga studio in Raleigh –Midtown Yoga. When I got there we were instructed to find a comfortable position that felt right to us. I chose to lay on my mat in corpse pose (savasana) with a blanket propped under my head, since I wanted to be comfortable for the hour and fifteen minute event. The woman leading our session first started with a 20 minute guided meditation to prepare our bodies and minds for the experience of the sound bath to follow. She used a rain stick, interweaving the sounds from the stick into the meditation as she moved around the room. She then used crystal singing bowls throughout the remainder of the session. Each bowl seemed to have a different frequency that created different vibrations in my body.
It was one of the most relaxing, yet refreshing experiences of my life. I usually have trouble lassoing my brain during meditation, but for some reason, I didn’t find it wandering off during this meditation, but instead, very focused on the unique tones and vibrations I was experiencing. With each sound I heard from the singing bowls, I could physically feel a different vibration in my body and I explained it to my husband as “it made me feel like I could feel every cell in my body.” I have never felt so present in my own body. Another bodily sensation was the feeling of my body being rooted in the ground, like I had a magnet running along my spine that was pulling me (but comfortably) towards the ground. The effect on my mind was close to psychedelic for me. I found myself seeing different colors for different sounds and even seeing some visions. One of the biggest surprises was how quickly time went by. What was over an hour session felt like only 20 minutes at most. After the session was over, I felt calm and well rested, like I had just woken up from a nap.
So how could these sounds have such a profound effect on me? I did some research when I got home to make sense of it all. Research shows that sounds can help create very deep states of relaxation by altering our brainwave states. When our brainwaves move from a normal state (Beta) to an Alpha (conscious relaxed state), we experience a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure and our bodies relax. This is where it is said we can move into a receptive state where healing can occur. Researchers have actually found that sound waves decrease blood pressure more than traditional meditation. Sound also affects our nervous system and can help us switch from an active sympathetic nervous system (stress response) to our parasympathetic nervous system (our relax and heal response).
In summary, while I experienced a pretty profound, deep meditative state during my first sound bath, there is the downside that this is not a practice that I (or most people) have access to regularly. So until I make it big and can afford to hire a sound practitioner to lull me to sleep every night with therapeutic sound bowls, you will find me doing the best I can meditating at home using a guided meditation app, hoping I have 10 minutes before my son wakes up and the craziness of the day begins. 🙂