A woman taking a relaxing sound bath

Sound Baths

Your ears hold the key to the latest and greatest way to really relax.

November 2016

Soaking in a hot tub has long been a reliable method of relaxation and rejuvenation—but have you ever tried a sound bath? Just like slipping into a warm, inviting bubble bath, entering a sound bath can be a comforting and healing escape.

Here’s how it works. Practitioners, known as “sounders” or “sound healers,” play music while participants lie down and meditate. The acoustic experience creates another point of focus to help people achieve mindfulness. If meditation hasn’t come easily to you, you may find sound baths to be a good alternative.

Music meditation

Meditation is the practice of freeing the mind from interfering thoughts to achieve a state of calm and renewed focus. The most common methods involve sitting still in a quiet space and stilling the mind through simple breathing rhythms. The practice works wonders for those who can achieve this state, but for many people balancing multiple responsibilities, 20 minutes set aside for meditation can become five minutes of mental stress followed by the abrupt abandonment of the exercise to get started on the day’s to-do list. For some, music meditation allows listeners to free the mind by focusing on the sound and vibrations. Sound therapy practitioners, like New York-based Sara Auster (pictured at top), focus on the transformative power of sound and music to “support, access and cultivate deep relaxation”—whether in private sessions or mass events for thousands of participants.

The sound bath experience

Yoga studios frequently offer sound baths, but you may find sessions at music studios or community centers, too. Bathers can join group sessions or arrange for a private sound bath. Sounders typically play bronze or quartz crystal Tibetan singing bowls, which are essentially upside-down bells that produce a harmonic frequency when mallets are struck or slid along the rim. Listeners describe the sound as profoundly peaceful and the resulting vibrations as deeply relaxing. Some sounders also play chimes, tuning forks or gongs.

Good vibrations

Advocates of sound bathing claim the combination of meditative restoration and musical vibrations can create a form of sonic healing for listeners. People seek sound bathing for relief from stress and anxiety, insomnia and jetlag, and even muscular pain and high heart rates. Whether you have a specific ailment or simply want an increased sense of wellness, it may be worth visiting a sound bath to sample the euphoria and transcendence such an experience can reportedly provide.