Dear friends & community members,
Last August, our worship team took a field trip to experience the Sound Bath at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. I was deeply touched by experiencing Sound Bath for the first time and also the hundreds of siblings who gathered on a Friday night to bathe in the reverberation of sound. Since then, our worship team has dreamed of having a sound bath at Lake Merritt UMC to offer the experience to our neighborhood community. I would like to share what I am learning about sound baths.
Though a sound bath may seem like a “new age” concept, the practice of healing bodies through sound is technically thousands of years old with deep roots in cultures across the world. The “spiritual, cleansing music” varies according to place and culture but it can be as simple as chanting as om following your yoga session or as complex as an hour-long experience in a dedicated space with a sound practitioner.
What is Sound Bath?
According to Medical News Today, in general, a sound bath is a meditative experience where those in attendance are “bathed” in sound waves. These waves are produced by various sources, including healing instruments such as gongs, singing bowls, percussion, chimes, rattles, tuning forks, and even the human voice itself. The music doesn’t have a catchy melody or rhythm like you’d experience at a rock concert or symphony but, instead, is a carefully selected wash of instruments and voices with notable resonances and overtones.
“The intention is really to change and help balance the energy of the participants. During a sound bath, you don’t want to hook into a melody. You don’t want to repeat things because you don’t want the brain to recognize a repeated beat. Instead, you want participants to release, and you want the brain to let go,” explains Tamalyn Miller, the lead sound practitioner at Naturopathica Chelsea in NYC.
What Happens During a Sound Bath
During the sound bath, participants lie on their backs – sometimes referred to as the Savasana position in yoga – for the entire experience, adds Christina Resasco, a sound healing practitioner and yoga therapist at Saffron & Sage in San Diego, California. The sound healing practitioner facilitates the experience, and sometimes the entire group participates with chants, mantras, or rolling oms. A guided experience like this generally lasts anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes. After a sound bath, participants may be advised to move slowly when transitioning to a seated position. Other advice after a sound bath ends can include staying hydrated, getting rest, and staying relaxed.
Where does the practice of sound bath come from?
According to the Tricycle Foundation, which is a Buddhist nonprofit, the origins of both singing bowls and sound bath are unclear. There is a common misconception that the practice must come from Tibet because singing bowls are sometimes known as “Tibetan” singing bowls. While sound and music have long been part of religious practices in Tibet and other East Asian countries, chimes and bells seem to be more prevalent. However, a Japanese instrument called a rin is similar to a singing bowl. This may be where the Western understanding of singing bowls originated. Despite claims that sound bathing is ancient, the practice that exists today may have emerged from contemporary Western or New Age Spiritualism.
Benefits of Sound Baths
According to Medical News Today, most of the evidence about the benefits of sound bathing is anecdotal. Proponents of this practice claim it is relaxing and meditative and may promote spiritual well-being. Only a few studies have explored sound baths or the use of singing bowls, but what does exist suggests that the practice may offer some health benefits.
For example, in one 2020 study, 105 participants took part in a single 40 min long sound bath. Following the sound bath, all participants showed reductions in negative mood and increased in positive mood based on a positive and negative affects rating scale. The 10 participants who agreed to heart rate monitoring saw a decrease in their heart rate. A 2018 randomized, controlled study assessed the effects of music using singing bowls on 60 people awaiting surgery. The participants either listened to music or listened to music or wore headphones without sound.
The music group showed lower measures of anxiety based on an anxiety inventory. They also showed a slight decrease in heart rate variability, suggesting lower anxiety and stress.
In some previous research, blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate also improved. A 2016 observation study of 62 adults found participants reported lower tension, fatigue, depression, and anger after singing bowl meditation. The effects were strongest among people new to this form of meditation. (Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/sound-baths)
Siblings, LMUMC is hosting our first Sound Bath in our own sanctuary on November 10, 2023, Friday at 7:00 PM. Would you join us? I will be there! Amen.