THINK OF IT AS A WOO-WOO HORIZONTAL CONCERT.
Part meditation, part listening exercise, sound baths are healing musical performances played with Himalayan singing bowls, crystal bowls, gongs, biosonic tuning forks, shamanic drumming, and chanting. Participants lay on the floor in supported savasana (corpse pose) and let the waves of sound wash over them.
Proponents suggest that sound bathing calms our often overstimulated nervous systems and balances the subtle body. (If you’re not familiar with the subtle body: it’s also known as the energetic body, where our life force – Qi, Chi or prank – exists.) Sound bathing is said to work both the physical body and the subtle body to help heal depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia, and to deepen meditation and spark creativity.
Sound baths are popping up in yoga studios across the country, most frequently with Kundalini teachers. I’ve experienced several (my favorite was at Shoshoni Yoga Ashram), and I have a few tips to share.
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What You Need to Know Before You Go
1. Bring Your Own Mat / Blanket / Eye Pillow
Three words: yoga mat BO. I made the mistake of not bringing my own stuff to my first sound bath, and I spent the hour trying to find my bliss while enveloped in the odor of a stranger’s sweat rising up from the mat I borrowed from the studio. So bring your own stuff. And keep in mind that it may feel like a sleepover for yogis, with everyone camping out and getting cozy.
2. Be Open to an Intimate Experience
You’ll probably be laying with your face and feet next to other people’s faces and feet. Many times, the sound healer will have her singing bowls with her in the center of the room, with everyone spread around her in a circle, heads close to the bowls. (Greater vibrational healing that way.) It’s usually a small space, often a yoga studio. It’s intimate. It can feel awkward and vulnerable. It can be hard to get comfortable and relax. Just breathe into it. It’s weird . . . but wonderful once you let go.
3. You Might Feel Like Laughing – or Crying
It’s said that sound healing works to release emotions trapped deep in the subtle body. I have to admit: I have experienced tears during a sound bath. They came and went quickly, and they weren’t brought on by a conscious thought. They were spontaneous and fleeting – almost like part of me was defragging itself (to use an old computer analogy), aligning things inside and creating space. Then there was the time I got a bad case of the giggles. You know the feeling, when everyone is perfectly quiet and suddenly, for no reason, you think you might erupt into uncontrollable laughter? Well, that might happen. Just let it come and go.
4. Get Ready to Be . . . Soft
Tias Little is a world-class yoga teacher; in his book Yoga of the Subtle Body, he uses the anatomy of the physical body as a tool for navigating the subtle body. Highly recommended reading! Years ago, I took a Prajna yoga workshop with Tias, and I’ll never forget how he reminded us to “be soft.” He said that in yoga we often strive so hard with the physical body, we deteriorate the subtle body and lose many of the benefits of our practice. So in your sound bath, don’t strive. Don’t even listen. That’s right, don’t listen. Just lay quietly and let the sound wash over you, gently and without effort. Chill out.
5. You Will Feel the Sound in Your Body
Have you ever been to a concert where the bass is so thumpin’ you feel your bones vibrating to the beat? That’s the power of sound. Fans of sound bathing believe that specific frequencies of sound can bring our physical and subtle bodies into a state of balance. So during your sound bath, place one hand over your heart and one hand over your belly – imagine the vibrations permeating both your physical and subtle body. Sometimes feeling the sound in this way can lead to a deep state of relaxation.
6. You Might Fall Asleep
That’s okay. I’ve been told that we receive the healing of sound bathing even if we sleep through the session. (Just try not to snore!) And even if you don’t fall asleep during the sound bath, you might enjoy an intensely deep sleep that night. I’ve experienced that myself, and it’s one of the most common things people say after sound bathing. Ahh, delicious sleep.
7. Ease Yourself Back Into Your Day
If you’ve read my article on sensory deprivation therapy, you know that I made the mistake of getting a microdermabrasion facial immediately after my float. It was torture. So here’s my advice: if you feel any sense of serenity after your sound bath, protect it. Don’t roll up your mat, hurry into your car, hop on the highway, and rush through some errands. Don’t go back to work. Don’t answer phone calls or emails – just for a little while. Give yourself time afterward to absorb the experience. Bring a book and curl up in a nearby café for an hour. Have a cup of tea. Re-enter the noisy chaos of your life slowly and quietly. (A nice session of forest bathing would be perfect.)
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