May 4, 2018
Why Sound Healing is the New Meditation
Get in tune with a bath for the sonically inclined
Photo courtesy of @Aleeenot/Twenty20
By Natalie Shukur
writer for The Natural
If you’re the type who appreciates a little guidance when it comes to winding down, as opposed to sitting in silence and attempting to fend off thoughts through sheer willpower, sound-based meditation might be for you. Known variously as sound therapy, sound baths, and sound healing, the practice of stilling the mind and relaxing the body via sonic vibrations is picking up speed as a popular therapeutic practice.
As someone who is sonically inclined (I sing in the shower, switch on the stereo when I get in the door, and hate music-less car rides), the discovery of sound baths was a welcome addition to my wellness arsenal. I had tried various guided meditations or “yoga nidra”, the kind where you’re instructed, in dulcet tones, to picture yourself on a beach or slowly focus on resting each individual body part. More often than not, the facilitators voice would irk me or the choice of words would throw me off with their vaguely devout leanings.
Sound baths, however, are devoid of verbiage. Instead, sessions are conducted using various instruments, from drums and singing bowls to tuning forks, a shruti box, and overtone singing (similar to humming). Often carried out while comfortably lying down, it’s a deeply nourishing experience, akin to being plugged in and recharged. There’s something physical about the sonic vibrations during a sound bath that I can best describe as getting into the nooks and crannies of your nervous system. It helps me sleep better, let go of tension and, when practiced regularly, I imagine it can offer other profound benefits.
Photo courtesy of @vegasworld/Twenty20
Like yoga, each practitioner’s style is a little different, so it may take some experimentation to find your sonic groove. “I think everyone is utilizing sound in the way they know and have learned, and because of this there are many ways you can experience it,” agrees Nate Martinez, founder of NTM Sound, who holds regular sound meditations and baths at Sky Ting yoga, MNDFL, and the Brooklyn Zen Center, and is a pioneer of the therapy in contemporary New York. “It is not a regulated field, and because sound affects us so uniquely on an individual level, I'm not sure it can be.”
Martinez’s practice is particularly in service to over-stimulated New Yorkers. “I can't think of a single person who isn't overwhelmed with modern life in some way. We have so much information and technology overload,” he says. “Sound therapy can be a tool to achieve a relaxed state and as a way to balance our daily life stresses and responsibilities. It can also provide an environment to shift consciousness and your perspective on things.”
How should a first-timer approach the modality? “It's best to not view the experience as a concert or performance because if you do, you could easily become too invested in analyzing the sounds or wonder where it will go,” advises Martinez. “That's music in its structured form, and this is the clear difference between the two. Try to open up your auditory sense to all the sounds you hear throughout the sound bath—this includes sounds emitted from the instruments but equally important are environmental sounds. Each and every sound is part of your experience.”
Many yoga studios and meditation centers offer sound baths on their schedule or you can find recordings, such as Martinez’s Awave, which is a great introduction to the practice that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home. “One important thing to note is that sound therapy is not just crystal bowls, and just because someone has them does not mean they know how to use them,” says Martinez. “Ask your friends and community for recommendations if you want to seek this out and it's also good to verify that the facilitator is certified.”
Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.