What are sound baths and will I get wet?
The second question is easy to answer. No. You will not get wet in a sound bath.
The first question requires a bit more analysis.
Sound baths are part of a meditative process that involves the introduction of sound waves while a person is in a relaxed state, or as part of a way to relax.
Instruments such as singing bowls, bells and gongs are used to generate the sound waves. Someone experiencing a sound bath will be lying down in a comfortable position on their back. The practitioner will ‘play’ a series of sounds that are designed to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system to help you heal, restore and find balance.
Your parasympathetic nervous system is the part of your body responsible for activities that occur when the body is at rest, especially after eating, but also including sexual arousal, salivation, tears, urination, digestion, and defecation.
If you are having a sound bath, you are literally being bathed in waves of sound vibration. There will be no recognisable rhythm or pattern to the sounds, and that is deliberate, because the purpose of a sound bath is to free the mind and body from conscious activity. Depending on the Practitioner, there may be some humming, or there may not. It won’t matter if you don’t want to hum along, remember, like all these things, your own personal experience is what matters.
The sounds will ‘wander’. Musical patterns that you are familiar with, such as a song, will engage your brain too much, not allowing your consciousness to disengage for a while, which is what meditation is used for.
If that sounds all a little ‘wooo-hooo’ to you, the reality is, there is enough science behind it to justify a closer look.
We have understood the value of vibration and the effects of music on the human body for millennia.
The English playwright, William Congreve, wrote “music soothes the savage breast” – meaning the savage heart, however, over the years this line was misquoted as “music soothes the savage beast”, which sounds cooler than the original, and is also correct.
Music, we know, is a panacea.
Ever since humans began making sound, they have been making music. Music is one of the most powerful forms of communication we have. It tells stories, it gives us strength in times of stress, it expresses our pain, it makes us angry, it unites us, it puts babies to sleep, it calms our nerves.
Ultrasound- which are just waves of sound- is used to discover what is happening inside the body. It is safe enough to use on unborn foetuses, and it is strong enough to heal aching muscles and destroy things like kidney stones.
Because the human body is around 70% water, and vibration travels well through water, we are particularly sensitive to sound.
This is why sound baths are actually as effective at calming the body as they claim.
It may seem weird, laying on the floor focussing on gentle gong sounds, but a remarkably visceral reaction starts to happen inside the body when certain notes are struck. Obviously, depending on how you are feeling at the time will dictate which sounds ‘strike a chord’, just the same way as certain songs appeal to certain people and not to others, but as these reactions occur, the body is somehow able to let go of certain tensions and the mind kind of ‘tunes out’ to other thoughts.
Scientific studies have shown that music lowers the stress hormone cortisol in the blood and alters brain waves.
Sound baths send hundreds of waves of sound and vibration into and over the body.
People for whom ‘normal’ meditation is difficult find it easier to ‘unthink’ in a sound bath.
Some people experience a feeling of ‘lightness’, some people experience a kind of ‘trip’, and some people even fall into a deep sleep, it’s all good.
Like many alternative therapies, sound baths bring to the participant only what they are willing to accept.
Having said that, if you are looking for an interesting and relaxing way to zone out for a while, a sound bath is a nice choice and, as an added bonus, you might end up feeling fresh, shiny and clean without having taken your clothes off.