An Insider's Guide To Sound Bathing: What To Know Before Tuning In
Perhaps you've tried yoga, meditation, or even breathwork—but have you ever heard of sound bathing? This immersive experience offers more than just relaxation—and anyone can have a sound bath right in their own home. Here's what to know about the increasingly popular practice.
What is a sound bath?
Sound bathing (also sometimes called "sound meditation" or "sound therapy") is the practice of mindfully listening to different sounds that help relax the body and mind.
As sound therapist and meditation teacher Sara Auster explains to mbg, sound baths provide an immersive, full-body listening experience "that can bring balance, relaxation, and a sense of calm to your whole being."
Unlike certain meditations or breathwork practices, sound baths don't involve much guidance. Instead, they call on the audience to be present and listen. You can either attend an in-person sound bath (usually in a group setting) or listen to audio at home.
You can create a sound bath experience using many different instruments. Auster, for example, plays "singing bowls, tuning forks, gongs, and other overtone-emitting instruments to stimulate the alpha and theta brain waves," Auster explains.
How sound therapy works
When you settle in for your sound bath, Auster notes, you lie down, perhaps get cozy with a blanket and an eye mask, and allow stillness to wash over you. "You feel completely off-duty—as if getting ready for sleep," she explains, adding, "Your body has permission to slow down and rest, to receive without the need to respond or react."
From there, the sounds begin to provide a stable frequency for fluctuating brain waves to latch on to, in a process known as entrainment1.
"By using rhythm and frequency," sound therapy practitioner Nate Martinez previously wrote for mindbodygreen, "we can entrain our brainwaves, and it then becomes possible to down-shift our normal beta state (normal waking consciousness) to alpha (relaxed consciousness), and even reach theta (meditative state) and delta (sleep; where internal healing can occur)."
"As sound slows the heart and respiratory rate," Auster adds, "it can also create a therapeutic and restorative effect on the mind and body."
Benefits of sound baths
Deeper states of consciousness
Auster explains that sound baths are "are an invitation into a deeper state of consciousness, an opportunity to unplug from external stimuli and to gain perspective of what's going on within you."
By accessing brain waves like alpha and theta, we're able to reach states similar to those achieved in meditation.
Sound baths may help promote deeper sleep and less stress. While research on the therapeutic qualities of sound healing is relatively limited, one 2017 study in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine concluded that Tibetan singing bowls can reduce feelings of tension, anxiety, and depression and increase overall spiritual well-being2.
A chance to recharge
And of course, if nothing else, sound baths present the opportunity to relax and recharge. "Many participants have sent notes [to me] expressing that these sound baths have provided a deep rest and release that they haven't been able to find on their own," Auster tells mbg.
They provide a chance to "power down your phone, get quiet, and listen without the need to consciously respond or react," she adds.
The way you react and relate to sound says a lot about you. "If you find a particular sound to be triggering or annoying, then I think it's a very interesting thing to investigate. Why is that happening? There's a lot of information there," Auster previously told mbg. It's also OK to stay away from sounds that interfere with your relaxation.
Tips for getting started
Sound bathing is very accessible. Even if you don't live in an area where regular group sound baths are available, you can find recordings and audios online to try yourself. Auster notes her own sound bath recordings are available on her website via subscription, and a quick search will provide other options as well.
If you're curious to see (or hear) what it's all about in a group setting, try reaching out to your nearest yoga studio or wellness center to see what they provide, or do an online search for sound baths in your city.
And if you opt to go the at-home sound bath route, get your recording ready, lie down somewhere comfortable (yes, even on your bed!), and prepare to relax. Dim the lights, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and let yourself become immersed in the sounds. Headphones or quality speakers are recommended, but work with what you've got.
Lastly, you can consider getting your own instruments to experiment with different sound therapies yourself, whether you invest in a singing bowl, chimes, or gongs.
Who may benefit from a sound bath?
Anyone can benefit from a sound bath, though they are particularly helpful if you want to unwind, relax, and/or achieve higher states of consciousness.
Common instruments used in a sound bath?
Some common instruments used in sound baths include singing bowls, chimes, gongs, steel drums, didgeridoos, and sometimes vocals and ambient tones.
How often should you do a sound bath?
Depending on how you're feeling, you may benefit from a sound bath once a month, increasing the frequency to once a week when you're more stressed.
Are there side effects to sound baths?
Sound baths have not been found to have any negative health side effects. Most people will feel relaxed and potentially sleepy after a sound bath, though it's possible to uncover a range of different emotions depending on your experience, from anger to sadness.
Sound bathing is akin to other practices like meditation and breathwork in that it allows you to access deeper states of consciousness, relaxes your body and mind, and gives you a chance to reset—whether you listen for one minute or one hour.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.