In the rapidfire world of modern wellness, sound baths can be considered welcomingly antithetical. Instead of centering around a new and ever-changing product lineup, the practice simply uses the sound of instruments being played to improve mental wellbeing—sans supplements, juice shots, or face masks. So, how can you try it out for yourself? Two sound practitioners walk us through the process.
WHAT IS A SOUND BATH?
The phrase “sound bath” is often used to refer to an experience where you allow instrument-produced sound to “wash” over you and encourage a relaxed, meditative, or therapeutic state of mind. However, not all practitioners use that wording. “The two terms that I like to use are either sound therapy or sound meditation, and both of those depend on the setting. There is a reason why we’re not using the words sound ‘bath’ and sound ‘healing’,” says David Shemesh, a sound facilitator, co-founder of New York City’s Woom Center, and owner of Sound Ceremony.
“Sound can and may heal, but the practitioner is not the healer. The person that is actually experiencing the healing is the receiver,” he continues. “And we don’t call it sound ‘bath’ because that suggests that the receiver is having a passive experience. But in retrospect, it’s a very active experience.”
SO, WHAT DO SOUND BATHS DO?
Shemesh notes a familiar saying: “Energy flows where attention goes, as simple as that.” For many, a sound bath can act as a way to flow your attention towards “one single point” in order to meditate, similar to being mindful of your breathing or mantra repetition. “In this case, it’s listening to sound vibration that’s been produced by overtone-emitting instruments,” Shemesh continues. “You can’t tell yourself, ‘Oh my God, I’m meditating right now.’ Because, the moment you’re going to say that to yourself, you’re not meditating any more.”
“It’s like a massage on a cellular level,” says Avi Sherbill, sound practitioner and owner of Los Angeles-based SoundRx. “When we start the sound bath, the deep breathing techniques help people enter the rest state and takes them out of fight or flight.” There are limited scientific studies on the benefits of sound baths, but there is some evidence that sound therapy can reduce depression, tension, agitation, and anxiety.
Still, others experience reactions to the process far beyond what you might expect. “People have these really profound experiences because, for a lot of people, it’s one of the first times where they’re laying their energy fields open, and they’re also letting go and letting their body open, letting their mind loosen up,” says Sherbill. “I’ve had people leave crying. They’ve told me they’ve healed their inner child. Someone who I worked with said it was like the first time they had felt safe in years, somebody that had experienced a lot of trauma. Somebody said they had a non-drug-induced psychedelic experience.”
Though not quite the same as an in-person healing experience, there are thousands of sound meditation videos on Youtube you can listen to from home:
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A SOUND BATH?
Prepare to lie down—get really comfy—and do absolutely nothing but focus on the sound for the length of the treatment. The practitioner will often walk around the room (if you’re in a group) or around your body while playing the instruments. “There’s a full participation that’s been required from the receiver to have during a session, and that participation is a very simple one: Remain present and listen, carefully and judiciously, to the sounds being produced by the instruments being played,” notes Shemesh.
What those instruments are depends on your practitioner. “Oftentimes it does incorporate some sort of singing bowls, but I’ve seen people play harp, people play different wind instruments,” explains Sherbill; who personally uses different types of bowls, a gong, and wind chimes during his practice.
Make sure you talk with your practitioner ahead of time about how long the process will last, too. “I’ve taken part in a sound bath that lasted 12 hours,” he adds. “That’s on the extreme end of it. But I’ve done them where I play for 30 minutes, I’ve played for 45 minutes. I would say the regular is like an hour.”
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN A SOUND PRACTITIONER?
“There isn’t a standardized certification for this as far as I’m aware,” says Sherbill—who does have his Registered Alcohol and Drug Technician (RADT) certification through California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals, allowing him to practice his work in treatment centers. Different sound facilities do offer their own types of programs akin to certification, though—such as the Woom Center’s Sound School—which can be used by newcomers to gauge a practitioner’s experience level. “Oftentimes, it is other sound therapists who have a lot of experience leading classes,” Sherbill adds.
HOW MUCH DOES A SOUND BATH COST?
Sherbill notes that the cost of an individual sound experience can “vary widely depending on technique and experience,” and that he’s seen anywhere from $80 to $500 for a 1-hour session. Those interested in group baths will find that price lowered: “I would say that the average studio price is $20, $25 for a class,” says Sherbill.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU ATTEND ONE?
“I partake in it every day,” says Sherbill—adding that he sees repeat customers attend a one-on-one practice or group session once or twice per week. “I don’t think there is a limit to feeling well, you know?”
From: Harper’s BAZAAR US