The world is a bit tumultuous these days and it feels like we can all use an extra dose of calm. Any relaxation we can get, right? If you're already a pro at meditation and yoga and looking to try something a bit different, consider a sound bath. Before we get too deep into the details of a sound bath, we should clarify: this type of bath doesn't involve any time soaking in water. Instead, sound baths are a sensory experience where various types of musical instruments are used to help you enter a deep state of calm. You may be skeptical at first, but let me tell you—it feels pretty amazing.
Here's what you need to know about sound baths:
Meet the Expert
What Is a Sound Bath?
A sound bath is an sensory experience where gongs, Tibetan bowls, chimes, bells, and other instruments are used to produce sound frequencies, tones, and vibrations that are said to help you achieve a deep and meditative state of relaxation. "Certain instruments, specifically alchemy crystal singing bowls, can create binaural beats when being played and these affect our brainwaves," Harlow explains. "Brain waves change according to what we are doing throughout the day and different brain waves have different functions."
She goes on to explain that some sound frequencies can have a soothing effect on the nervous system. "Research has shown that sound vibrations and frequencies send signals to our body and brain that slow down our stress response," Harlow tells us.
What You Can Expect From a Sound Bath?
Upon entering a sound bath studio, you can expect to sit or lay on a yoga mat in a very relaxing atmosphere while listening to calming sound frequencies for the next 60 to 90 minutes. You'll probably have access to pillows, blankets, bolsters, eye pillows, and other props to make the experience extra cozy and comfortable. Sound baths can either be a private or group experience, so think about what sounds most enticing to you, and choose an option to match.
One majorly appealing quality of a sound bath is that unlike some other mindfulness practices, a sound bath doesn't require much mental effort aside from being open to listening to the sounds, Harlow says. The way a sound bath feels will vary from person to person. "Many people report feeling tingly or heat sensations in the body, feeling emotional waves, and feeling less stressed or tension melting away," Harlow says. "Many also report gaining clarity or having deeper introspection during and afterwards, and you can almost guarantee a good night's sleep following a sound bath."
Some people report feeling like they are floating out of their body. This is referred to as the theta brainwave state, Rutsch explains. She adds that you also might find yourself in a deep dream-like state—the delta brainwave state, which is said to be a place of deep healing.
"Healing sounds can naturally and effortlessly shift the mind out of an excessively busy, cluttered, and anxious state by helping to regulate stress hormones," Rutsch says. "This helps bring you into a healing state of calm, quiet, and stillness.
What Are the Benefits of a Sound Bath?
According to a 2016 study, sound baths have a meditative effect on anxiety and tension relief. "The body flips into the parasympathetic, which is the rest and digest state of the autonomic nervous system," McBride says.
You may also experience shifts in your mood, Wolanin says. Entering a deep state of relaxation may be able to help alleviate anxiety, stress, depression, and other conditions where calming the nervous system can be beneficial.
Is a Sound Bath Safe for Everyone?
There aren't any major drawbacks to a sound bath, but the experience may not be right for everyone. People who are sensitive to sound may find the sounds of some of the instruments to be too intense.
Following a sound bath, Wolanin stresses the importance of grounding yourself before driving home. This could include drinking lots of water and stretching if you aren't feeling centered or alert. If you have any concerns about a sound bath or have any health conditions, it's a good idea to check in with a healthcare professional before trying a sound bath.
Here's How You Can Experience a Sound Bath
If you're looking to try out a sound bath for the first time, you have options.
- Yoga studios: Many Yoga and meditation studios offer sound baths. Finding a sound healing offering in your area is as often as simple as a quick Google search of local studios. Yoga and meditation studios tend to offer a great environment for a sound healing session, McBride tells us. If you regularly practice yoga, you may have already experienced a bit of sound healing at the end of a yoga class while resting in savasana.
- Online sound healing experiences: It seems like nearly every type of wellness class or experience is available online these days, and sound baths are no exception. If you try a virtual sound bath, McBride suggests using earbuds or a headset in order to get the most out of the experience.
- Try sound healing while on vacation: Sometimes it's easier to relax when you're already on vacation, so this could be a good time to try a sound bath. Many resorts offer sound bath experiences, including Shou Sugi Ban House in New York, L'Auberge de Sedona and Miraval in Arizona, and Ojo Santa Fe in New Mexico.
Sound baths are safe for most people and can be a helpful way to relax. Many sound healing experiences can be streamed online, or you can try a sound bath in person at a studio, spa, or resort.
Goldsby TL, Goldsby ME, McWalters M, Mills PJ. Effects of singing bowl sound meditation on mood, tension, and well-being: an observational study. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017;22(3):401-406.
Cotoia A, Dibello F, Moscatelli F, et al. Effects of tibetan music on neuroendocrine and autonomic functions in patients waiting for surgery: a randomized, controlled study. Anesthesiol Res Pract. 2018;2018:9683780.