If you enjoy listening to music or have that favorite song you love to blast on replay, then you’ve already experienced some of the healing powers of sound. Enjoyed by all walks of life, sound baths can help you relax and de-stress after a long day, or a rough patch in recovery. Continue reading to learn why sound baths have been used to heal for thousands of years, and why they’re a beneficial complementary therapy to explore in recovery from substance abuse.
What Is a Sound Bath?
At their core, sound baths are meditative wellness experiences that use soothing music, healing vibrations, and nature sounds to invite powerful restorative processes to nurture your mind, body, and soul. Although every sound bath session is different, they all share one common feature: the creation of an immersive ‘soundscape.’ They typically take place in enclosed spaces, which allows the different sounds to reverberate off each wall and fully surround you, and often feature plush chairs, yoga mats, or pillows to allow your body to assume a relaxed position and fully engage with the mellow tones.
How Do You Prepare for a Sound Bath?
Sound healing experts recommend attending your first session fully hydrated, as sound and vibrations travel better through water. The first step of every sound bath is settling into a comfortable position – either lying down or standing up – that you can maintain for 30 to 60 minutes. Then, think about setting an intention for the meditation. Do you want to de-stress after a tough week at work? Or do you want to connect with your inner self and be more mindful? The choice is yours! Setting an intention can help you better engage with the session, overcome a mental block, and can channel the healing properties of sound to a specific location on the body. Then, close your eyes, and let the sounds transport you to a calm state.
What Goes into Making a Sound Bath?
Aside from comfortable pillows and chairs, there are many other elements to making a sound bath. What you hear when the session begins might differ based on the studio you attend or the guide you select. That’s because there are several different implements used to create an immersive sonic experience. Some of the most common include…
- Singing bowls – also called Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowls, these metallic or crystal bowls trace their roots to the mountainous region of Tibet in the Himalayas and are played by striking or rubbing their exteriors with a wooden mallet. Each produces a unique resonant sound or vibration and can even levitate water droplets.
- Gongs – large circular metal disks, gongs produce deep, reverberating tones when struck firmly with a mallet. They’re used to create powerful immersive, and almost hypnotic vibrations that slowly fade.
- Chimes – also called Tibetan tingshas, these are small cymbals that create delicate and soothing sounds when gently struck together.
- Tuning forks – when tuned to specific frequencies, these metal forks produce sustained tones when struck or activated. Oftentimes sound bath practitioners use these forks to target healing to specific parts of the body.
- Nature sounds – some sound bath session may incorporate the sounds of the outdoors, like flowing water, birdsongs, or wind through trees, to enhance the meditative experience.
- Percussion instruments – some sound bath sessions may turn to non-music instruments, like drums or rain sticks, to mimic the soothing sound of the ocean or falling rain.
How Do Specific Frequencies Heal You?
No two tuning forks or singing bowls are alike because they can be tuned to different frequencies, each of which is unique and has different restorative properties. The term ‘frequency,’ measured in Hertz (Hz), corresponds to the distance between the lowest point of each sound wave, and different frequencies correspond to different sounds. Lower frequencies create lower tones, while higher frequencies create higher pitches. By calibrating each implement to play one of these frequencies, guides can channel the healing powers of sound to target certain body regions or emotions:
- 286 Hz – a deep tone believed to promote regenerative properties in the body’s cells, accelerating healing from injuries and maintaining organ health.
- 432 Hz – a lower tone that is more natural and harmonious than 440 Hz, the tuning used in modern music, which has a calming and healing effect on the mind, body, and spirit.
- 528 Hz or the “Love Frequency and Miracle Tone” – this tone is believed to initiate DNA repair, spiritual transformation, and positive changes by promoting feelings of love, peace, and general well-being.
- 639 Hz – this frequency is associated with enhanced communication, understanding, and relationship harmony. It’s used to facilitate interpersonal connections and conflict resolution.
- 741 Hz or the “Awakening Intuition Frequency” – a mid-range tone that is believed to help with problem-solving, intuition, and self-expression by creating clarity and heightened awareness.
- 852 Hz or the “Third-Eye Activation Frequency” – this frequency also improves clarity and intuition, and is thought to activate the third eye chakra, the center of spiritual power located between your eyebrows.
- 963 Hz or the “Frequency of the Gods and Pineal Gland Activation” – this high tone is associated with spiritual awakening, connection to the higher self and Higher Power, and inner transformation.
How Are Sound Baths Good for Your Health?
The sounds and vibrations produced during a sound bath can lower the frequency of your brainwaves from a normal or agitated state (gamma or beta wave form) to a relaxed state (theta or delta wave form). By relaxing your brainwaves, the sound bath relaxes you, providing numerous mental and physical health benefits, including:
- Stress reduction – sound baths are deeply relaxing and immersive experiences, whose soothing sounds and vibrations promote a sense of calm and tranquility, washing away your stress and tension. Music and natural sounds help reduce cortisol levels, which is the hormone that activates during the body’s stress response. A secondary benefit of lower stress and cortisol levels is improved sleep quality.
- Anxiety and depression – relaxation, emotional release, mindfulness, meditation, and improved present-moment awareness are all factors that can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Enhanced mood – sound baths reduce negative emotions, like feelings of anger, distress, fatigue, and confusion, and increase positive emotions, like cheerfulness, pride, enthusiasm, and joy.
- Self-discovery and spirituality – sound baths can facilitate introspection and foster a deeper understanding of your inner self or spirituality. They can also help you connect to your Higher Power and achieve better spiritual well-being.
In addition to providing long-lasting relief from negative emotions, sound therapy can also promote significant physical health benefits such as:
- Pain management – the vibrations and frequencies used in sound baths are believed to positively impact physical discomfort, providing pain relief for some individuals with chronic illnesses like arthritis. By inducing a relaxed state, they can reduce muscle tension, decreasing the sensation of pain.
- Cardiovascular health – sound baths improved blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate, and circulation, all of which can decrease the risk of serious heart and lung complications.
Why Are Sound Baths Important in Recovery?
Thanks to their many physical and mental benefits, sound baths can be instrumental to people in addiction treatment and recovery from substance abuse. Strong emotions – particularly feelings of anxiousness and depression – are among the most common triggers of relapse in recovering addicts. In one study, sound baths reduced feelings of anxiety by 60 percent, depression by 32 percent, anger by 94 percent, and tension by 89 percent in participants.
Discovering and practicing tools that help you ease and regulate your emotions is an important step to staying on track. In fact, developing a healthy outlet for emotional regulation decreased the incidence of relapse in those recovering from substance abuse by 50 percent. Honing these skills can also help diminish the temptation to use again by more than 35 percent, which can make finding recovery more manageable.
Despite being relatively new additions to the field of addiction treatment, the efficacy of music and sound therapy in treating addiction has not gone unnoticed. Sound baths can improve sleep quality and control of emotions and can also decrease the intensity of withdrawal symptoms in recovering alcoholics. They were also effective at increasing feelings of motivation and determination, and raised treatment completion rates by over 20 percent.
Sound baths are important outlets for individuals in recovery, and their many healing properties demonstrate why sound healing has been a part of Mountainside’s holistic therapy regimen for years. If you’re curious about what a sound bath experience looks like or are itching to join a session yourself, head over to Yelp to find an open opportunity near you.