why everyone is so obsessed with sound bathing right now
It's basically a lullaby for grown-ups.
Josie from Eleven Healing
Welcome to safe + sound, our new fortnightly column exploring the lengths people take to find a little spiritual wellbeing in this manic world. From womb rituals to shamanic healing, we’ll chart the growth of these new-age therapies and trial them for ourselves to uncover the crux of their allure. This week, we discover the melodic delights of sound bathing.
Despite bouts of spiritual skepticism, I’m up for trying anything and everything in the pursuit of a more “high vibe” life. Even if it means I wind up lying on the floor of a fancy penthouse suite next to an aggressively snoring man I’ve never met before. These chakras ain’t gonna align themselves! But that’s exactly where I found myself, having signed up to try one of the trendiest alt therapies right now -- sound bathing.
I should note, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I’d experienced the lulling energy of a sound bath a couple of times before, so I already knew I was gearing up for one of the greatest, most satisfying naps life has to offer.
Described as vibrational therapy, sound bathing is like an amped-up version of meditation, in which the sweet, sweet sounds of a healer rimming -- for want of a better word -- large crystal bowls drown out the manic, distracting thoughts like daunting to-do lists, texts you forgot to reply to, impending political armageddon, making it far easier to ‘switch off’. Dreamy.
I like sound bathing because it’s the most passive of new-age therapies. It doesn’t require you dig deep into your psyche to set serious intentions for the future, nor does it really take any ‘faith’ as such. It just works. “Just turning up and being ready to receive is enough, and the rest is taken care of by the sounds,” adds Josie from Eleven Healing, the very floaty, serene healer leading this session at London’s The Mandrake hotel. “The best advice is to let go of any expectation of what may happen as it will likely be a very different experience every time.”
At a sound bath, everyone lies down on yoga mats, usually with blankets and cushions to get comfortable and a lavender-filled pillow to cover their eyes. At the front of the room, the healer sits amongst a selection of crystal bowls and instruments. Josie’s classes always start with her burning sage to cleanse the energy in the room before starting to ‘play’ the bowls, by drawing a wand around the inside of each one in a particular order to make a melody of sorts.
“My alchemy crystal singing bowls are made from 99.99% high quality quartz crystal and are infused with other crystals and minerals such as amethyst, platinum, selenite and palladium. Each bowl has its own unique frequency which affects various parts of the body and energy system,” Josie explains. “It can be a very physical experience. Sometimes the body can twitch and move as it is naturally guided to shake out any old emotions.” The vibrations are super intense, so there’s definitely a physical sensation and weirdly, you start to feel pretty cold although Josie says that’s totally normal -- the vibrations cause a drop in body temperature, hence the blanket.
After a while the mind goes blank and you start to drift off, which is when “your brain waves change, breath pattern deepens and naturally you fall into deep relaxation,” Josie reckons. It’s like a lucid state between being awake and being asleep, like you’re just nodding off but not quite. Or in the case of my snoring pal, you actually fall fully asleep. Josie rounds up her classes by playing certain instruments, like the high-pitched tuning fork directly over your head and I swear, it’s magical.
Like many alternative therapies, sound healing might have only recently reached your Instagram feed but it isn’t exactly new. “Sound is one of the most ancient forms of healing tools used,” explains Josie, but the reason it’s resonating with stressed-out millennials right now is because our love of music has honed our appreciation of the power of sound. “We all connect to music. It has the power to heal, and has a rapid and powerful effect on us. Just listening to your favourite track can shift your emotional and mental state. It literally releases endorphins into you brain which induce feelings of pleasure,” she explains.
Unfortunately, sound bathing isn’t really something you can recreate at home; you kinda have to be there in the moment. Josie does recommend the Third Ear app though, “It has all kinds of sound recordings available to help you meditate and experience sound from wherever you are.” There are recordings of a couple of her crystal bowl sessions on there, too, which, without the clarity of IRL crystal vibrations won’t give you as intense an experience, but sometimes it's nice to lie there and just ‘be’, right?