If you’ve ever done yoga or tried meditation, you’ve probably at least heard of sound baths. A sound bath is a specific type of relaxation technique where you are “bathed” in soothing tones that are created by a combination of instruments and voices. Most often, these tones are created by special singing bowls, chimes, gongs, and drums.
Lots of yoga studios offer sound bath sessions that give you a total meditative experience. They’ll set up soft lighting, help you get comfortable with props and pillows, and guide you through the session to get as deeply relaxed as possible.
You can recreate this experience at home, too, which is good news since most of us could use some extra relaxation right now!
Music and sound have long been used as a way to heal the mind and body, and there is finally some scientific research into how sound healing works.
The Benefits of Sound Baths
Music and sound have long been used as a way to heal the mind and body, and there is finally some scientific research into how sound healing works. There is still a lot we don’t know, but the concept definitely has merit.
Basically, studies have found that certain rhythms, tones and frequencies can affect our mental and physical states. For example, one study found that singing bowl sessions helped to noticeably lower heart rate and blood pressure.
Other studies have shown that sound meditations can improve feelings of tension, fatigue, anger, anxiety, and depression. This article from Psychology Today goes more in-depth about the research if you’re interested in learning more!
To put it simply, sound baths have the potential to:
– Alleviate pain and tension
– Improve feelings of anxiety and depression
– Lessen feelings of fatigue or anger
– Provide deep relaxation
Studies have shown that sound meditations can improve feelings of tension, fatigue, anger, anxiety, and depression.
How Sound Baths Work
There are differing theories about why sound baths work so well for most people. I’m going to briefly mention a couple because they’re relevant to understanding how to set up a sound bath at home.
One theory is that the vibration from certain sounds, like those made by singing bowls or crystal chimes, stimulates fibers in our bodies that affect how we perceive pain. To put it another way, we’re basically like human water glasses. The idea is that different vibrations cause us to “resonate” differently, and this is what helps us to feel better.
Another theory is that listening to specific frequencies of sound can actually change our brainwaves. Our brains operate through electrical signals that are measured in rhythmic frequencies (which we call brainwaves), and these frequencies can be recorded by using a device called an electroencephalogram, or EEG. Researchers and scientists can use information from EEG recordings to study how different sounds affect the rhythm and frequency of our brainwaves.
There are four types of brainwaves, and each is associated with a different level of conscious awareness.
- Beta waves are the fastest, and they happen when we are alert, focused, and engaged.
- Alpha waves are a bit slower, and they occur when we are alert and awake but resting. An example of this would be sitting down to rest after finishing chores. You’re awake and alert, but you’re not actively engaged in a task.
- Theta waves are even slower, and they’re most often associated with when your brain kicks into autopilot mode (like when you’re driving on the highway) or when you achieve a kind of “flow state” that lets you feel more creative. They’re also present when you’re in the dreaming phase of sleep.
- Delta waves are the longest and slowest of the four, and they come when you’re in the deepest phases of sleep and relaxation.
Still with me?
Okay, so the premise behind the second theory I mentioned is that listening to special frequencies, called “binaural beats,” can actually re-synchronize your brainwaves. An example would be listening to binaural beats for energy and focus—these beats would theoretically be helping to create those beta brainwaves that will kick you into “alert, focused, get stuff done” mode.
I’m simplifying this as much as possible to keep from overwhelming you, but if you’re interested, there is a ton of information out there about how sound baths work.
Creating a Sound Bath at Home
At this point, you’re probably just waiting for me to tell you how to make this happen for yourself, right?
You can do a sound bath anytime, anywhere. If you want the full effect, I recommend setting up in the quietest, most comfortable room of your house. Wear comfy clothes, light a few candles, and get as cozy and relaxed as possible.
Headphones are also essential, especially if you plan to listen to binaural beats. Binaural beats work by playing slightly different tones into each ear in order to create the synchronizing effect, so you need headphones to get the full benefit.
The sounds you choose are, of course, the most important part of the session. The best place to start is with a group of specific tones known as Solfeggio Frequencies. They are listed in hertz, which is the unit of measurement for sound wave frequencies. The lower numbers correspond with deeper, more grounded sounds, and the higher numbers correspond with brighter, higher-energy sounds.
The list of Solfeggio Frequencies looks like this:
|174 Hz||285 Hz||396 Hz|
|417 Hz||528 Hz||639 Hz|
|741 Hz||852 Hz||963 Hz|
Each one is supposed to be associated with a particular theme, such as reducing pain, promoting energy, and creating order. Personally, I recommend that you listen to each one, regardless of what it’s supposed to be used for. I think this is the best way to find the tone that will help you get the most out of your sound bath.
Once you’ve chosen your tone (or set of tones), you can just lay back, focus on your breath, and let the sounds resonate through your mind and body.
Add Some Healing to Your Life
I’ve been using this album for my own sound baths recently. I like to use these while I work, too!
My favorite is the 174 Hz track. I’ve always been drawn to deeper tones (I like brown noise instead of white noise, and I prefer rain soundscapes with lots of deep, rumbly thunder), and I find that the 174 Hz track puts me in that kind of “zen” state where my body is relaxed, but my mind is still alert—perfect for work!
The 174 Hz track is labeled as a “pain and tension relief” frequency, but I don’t really get any mystical healing vibrations from it in places where I have chronic pain. However, I have noticed that listening to it for longer periods of time seems to drain away some of the tension that I didn’t realize I was holding, which is a cool benefit.
If you want an uninterrupted, hours-long loop of any of these frequencies, this YouTube playlist is by the same musicians as the album I linked, and all of the tracks are much longer. I actually use these for work sessions just so I don’t get jarred out of my productive frame of mind when the 30 minute track loops.
And if none of these tones suit you, you can easily Google “sound bath meditation” and find dozens of guided and unguided soundtracks. Do what works for you, even if it’s different from what I’ve described. We all vibrate a little differently, after all.
Have you tried sound baths before? Do you have questions I didn’t answer? Let’s talk about it in the comments!