Is a Sound Bath the Secret to Less Stress?

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Not actually a bath at all, sound baths are a form of meditation relying on, you guessed it, sound, as a method of inducing relaxation. Here’s what we know.

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What It Is
Picture a meditation studio with musical instruments in the middle—in this case, the instruments are bowls of different sizes—and a group of people laying down on yoga mats or other cushions on the floor. “A sound bath is where you immerse yourself in sound frequency,” says Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, a holistic aesthetician and cosmetic acupuncturist. “Sound all around you creates a ‘bath’ of visceral sound where you can feel the frequency of sound in the deepest parts of your body.” After a session, Remedy Place founder and wellness expert Dr. Jonathan Leary says “your body and mind feel similar to how they would after a great massage or a rejuvenating nap. Finding ways to shut off and clear your head is such an integral part of being healthy.”

What It Does
According to Dr. Leary, the sound frequency is used activate the alpha (relaxed and creative) and theta (meditative) brainwaves, which allow your body to be in a deep meditative and peaceful state. “I have yet to meet a person who has not felt more relaxed after leaving a sound bath. Even though they most likely don’t know why (until they read about it), there is actually a lot of science behind it. Studies show that as your parasympathetic nervous system—rest and digest mode—takes over, your heart rate goes down, your blood pressure lowers and your body feels more at ease.”

Dr. Trattner agrees, noting the connection between sound therapy and reduced anxiety. “A study published in the Anaesthesia journal showed that music can be used successfully to relieve patient anxiety before surgical operations, and that audio embedded with tones that create binaural beats within the brain of the listener decreases subjective levels of anxiety in patients with chronic anxiety,” she explains, adding that there is also research that shows sound baths help with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and pain relief as well.

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How It Originated
The story of how sound baths came to be is quite fascinating. Experts have discovered that thousands of years ago, brass singing bowls were used by ancient Tibetan shamans for self-care rituals. “When the Chinese invaded Tibet, they took the bowls because they believed they were pots,” says Dr. Trattner. “Years later they were discovered to be sound bowls and used for music. Sound has always been important to humans—it has always been an integral part of healing.”

How Often You Should Do It
Just like mediation, you can go to a sound bath as often as you want—Dr. Leary recommends basing it on how much stress you’re experiencing. “Some sources have recommended a few times a month,” says Dr. Trattner. “It’s a safe and toxic way to help the body reset.”