Forget traditional spa treatments. Immersing yourself in the sound of gongs and crystal bowls is the ultimate way to feel chilled…
There’s no denying our lives are becoming busier and more stressful by the second, but instead of booking in for a facial or a massage, you might want to give 2018’s buzziest treatment a whirl – the sound bath.
What is a sound bath?
Shelve any notions of tubs and rubber ducks, because there’s no water or actual bathing involved at all.
A sound bath focusses more on enveloping you in the relaxing, meditative noise of sound waves from crystal bowls, gongs or other instruments. The concept of sound baths originated in Tibet some 2000 years ago but has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity thanks to noted evangelist, Gwyneth Paltrow mentioning them on her site, Goop.
What happens during a sound bath?
Most sound baths take place in a room with other people, but some sound bath specialists offer one-on-one experiences for the ultimate in relaxation.
Once in the room, you’ll be asked to lie down on either a bed or a yoga mat complete with a pillow. You’ll then put on an eye mask and make yourself comfortable and cosy under a blanket. Your sound specialist should encourage you to relax your body muscle by muscle before starting to play gongs, crystal bowls or other instruments like tuning forks. The sounds will start off softly to ease you in, but will get progressively louder. Instead of giving you a headache, they have the clever ability to soothe your mind.
The session leader won’t guide you through meditation in the traditional way of instruction – it’s more about creating sound that helps you reach peacefulness. Before your session, you can always tell the leader what you’re struggling with emotionally or mentally, and they can tailor the sounds to help.
And if a sound bath doesn’t involve water, what do you wear?
“As baths can last up to an hour, it’s important that you are warm and as comfortable as possible. Wearing loose clothing is advisable!” explains Kulbir Bhandal of Sunshine Hub.
What are the benefits of a sound bath?
Sound baths take a two-pronged approach to help you zone out: Firstly, the combination of bowls and gongs used are said to open your chakras, encourage greater relaxation and release tension. “Unlike other meditations the beauty of the sound bath is that you don’t have to do anything other than lie down and listen. For me it is the fastest way to enter a meditative state,” adds Kulbir.
How? Because the noise itself is so enveloping. Anyone who’s ever tried to practice mindfulness but found themselves distracted by the sound of their own breathing, a car horn outside, a tickly cough or indeed, basically anything, will respond to how transformative sound baths can be. Attendees describe it as ‘mind-emptying’ rather than mindful, saying that after a session, your brain actually feels clear and light for once – kind of like doing a hard reset on your iPhone.
There is also a healthy amount of research around sound healing, with studies linking it to a decrease in stress and anxiety, lifted moods and crediting it with lowering blood pressure more than traditional meditation.
“The gong can release stuck mental or physical stresses and tension,” explains Kulbir. “In general most people will feel very calm and relaxed after a bath. However, it is also possible to feel very emotional once the sessions are over. This is often due to subconscious thoughts surfacing during the bath or experiencing a deeper connection or awareness of emotions that are present.”
At the end of most sound baths, there is a period of silence to ‘bring you back in the room’ but once the session ends, your sound specialist should be on hand to talk you through your emotions and to give you any advice you might need.
Should I try a sound bath?
While sound baths might sound better suited to those who meditate regularly, the reality is that sound bathing can help people from all walks of life – especially those in high-stress jobs or experiencing anxiety and finding it hard to switch off.
“Sound as meditation is a time-proven method to increase awareness and inhibit the stress response. Calming the mind and body has profound health benefits. When we can cut through the mental chatter in our minds, and have better control over the way we think and feel it can be a very powerful way of moving towards being more content and happy in our lives,” explains Kulbir.
If you aren’t sure, you can always ask for a taster session or further advice from a sound specialist before booking in.
5 sound baths to try now
Lush, The Sound Bath, London
If you want a bath with a beauty twist, Lush offer a treatment called ‘The Sound Bath’ that uses tuning forks, church bells and singing bowls to immerse you in noise while you experience a facial and head massage using hot and cold stones for deep relaxation.
£80 for 60 minutes, uk.lush.com
Gong Spa, Manchester
If group sessions aren’t your thing, gong practitioner and sound healer Martyn Cawthorne will come to you. Having graduated from the College of Sound Healing, there isn’t much he doesn’t know about the relaxing properties of sound waves and he holds courses, workshops and retreats for those interested in learning more about sound meditation.
Price on request, gongspa.co.uk
Sunshine Hub 2hr Hatha Yoga and Gong Sound Healing, London
This two-hour long session combines hatha yoga, which includes a number of physical poses and breathing techniques, to the sounds of numerous gongs. Sounds specialists Kulbir and Dawn provide yoga mats, meditation cushions, blankets, ayurvedic tea and snacks.
£12 for 1 hour, sunshinehub.co.uk
Pure Sound Group Sound Bath, Wales
Group sound baths at Pure Sound harness quartz crystal and Himalayan singing bowls as well as grounding instruments to lull you into a peaceful state of being. A period of silence known as “the Shunyata” concludes the sound session to leave you feeling zen for hours on end.
£10-14 for 1 hour, puresound.org.uk
Sound Gong Bath, Devon
During his group gong bath session, sound expert Peter Whiteheart plays the instruments extremely softly to begin with and dials up the volume as the session progresses. Sounds are never unbearable and there is no fixed rhythm, which encourages the brain to ‘surrender.’
£10 per session, sound-gong-bath.co.uk
Images: Getty / Instagram