I’ve been feeling a bit down and anxious recently. And in an effort to get back to feeling like my old self ASAP, I’ve been willing to pursue some interventions I would have previously dismissed as being… well, a bit too woo-woo.
For example, I now make 20 minutes of meditation a non-negotiable part of my morning routine. I recite positive affirmations and, on a few occasions, I’ve chanted to an ancient figure named Green Tara that a Buddhist friend tipped me off about.
And these changes have definitely coincided with an improvement in my mood — so when my friend Leanne suggested we try attending a yoga sound bath together, I was primed and ready to take her up on her offer.
What is a Yoga Sound Bath?
A sound bath — also known as singing bowl meditation — refers to the purported ability for certain sonic frequencies to heal ailments. There’s not a ton of research to support its efficacy, but one recent study suggested that sound bathing may help reduce tension and improve feelings of spiritual well-being.
“I’ve already been to three sessions,” Leanne told me as we drove to a Friday evening sound bath session. She added that she’d found them to be an amazing way to relax, relieve stress, and get a great night’s sleep.
When we arrived, we were ushered into a sparse, all-white space with around a dozen yoga mats. In one corner of the room, there were 14 bowls on a large table. We were invited to grab a pillow, blanket, and eye mask and lie down on our mats. While no particular position was specified, everyone seemed to choose savasana.
After everyone had settled in, a barefoot man dressed in white — certified sound healer Colin Hillstrom — explained that each bowl on the table produced a different note, which he demonstrated by running a mallet around the rim of each bowl. He also explained that the bowls were made of quartz, but each one contained a different precious or semi-precious metal or stone that supposedly served a different therapeutic purpose — gold for spiritual abundance, platinum for divine feminine consciousness, and so on.
What to Expect at a Sound Bath Session
Once Hillstrom finished his introduction, the session began. I was immediately aware that, as each bowl was played, the sound seemed to orbit my head. I peeked from behind my eye mask and saw that the speed at which the sound seemed to be circling my head was tied to the speed at which the mallet was traveling around the rim of the bowl.
Initially, Hillstrom played notes that harmonized with one another. But as the session wore on, the paired notes were more dissonant. These skull-vibrating combinations almost felt like invisible hands massaging my brain — kind of like using one of those metal scalp massagers. In other words: amazing.
Occasionally, the sounds of snoring interrupted the mix, but only briefly — at the beginning of class, Hillstrom had asked us each to consent to a gentle nudge if we fired up the buzz saw.
At a few points during the session, I could see lights — similar to the aurora borealis — behind my eyelids. I’ve experienced that before during meditation, but this seemed more vivid (and not as dependent on me “clearing my thoughts” first).
One downside: I soon realized that an hour of savasana is a lot more challenging that a few minutes of savasana at the end of a yoga class. My tailbone bore the brunt of the discomfort, and I spent several minutes shifting my pelvis this way and that before sliding my hands under my butt to relieve the pressure.
Other than that, the session flew by. I was surprised when the last notes decayed and the dozen of us were gently urged to come back to earth — I’d assumed we were only halfway through the session, but the full hour had elapsed. Hillstrom offered some closing remarks, including a word of caution about stepping into traffic in our relaxed state.
The verdict? The sound bath was somehow both invigorating and relaxing — but while the calming benefits of meditation usually last throughout the day for me, I’m not sure the effects of the sound bath lingered once we jumped in the car and headed to dinner. Still, I’d definitely like to do it again — ideally on a thicker mat next time, and in a setting where dozing off is allowed.