What To Know Before You Try A Sound Bath

Contemporary culture seems fascinated by alternative spiritualities and wellness regimens. From reading up on crystal healing and astrology to infusing moon water, people are lapping up practices that can help them feel more grounded, centered, and self-aware. But among these various rituals and habits, one mindful self-care staple continues to reign supreme: meditation.

Meditation has seen waves of popularity over thousands of years, and at this point, the benefits of meditation are widely accepted. To sweeten the deal, meditation is highly personal, with styles to suit any practitioner and mood. While some people prefer to quietly clear their mind in silence or with ambient nature sounds, others meditate while listening to music or guided visualizations. Now, another style of meditation is gaining popularity among these options. Known as sound bathing, this calming practice is popping up in spas and specialty studios across the country. But what does sound bathing actually entail?

What is a sound bath?

At its essence, a sound bath is a form of meditation that uses resonant sounds from musical instruments like gongs, chimes, and singing bowls to help your mind slip into a relaxed state. These long, soothing sessions are called "baths" because the idea is to surround you with sound waves (via Medical News Today).

While the health benefits of sound baths are still largely based on anecdotal evidence, studies suggest positive effects from the practice. One research review published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine summed up these effects, noting "improvements in distress, ... anxiety, depression, fatigue, tension, anger, confusion, and vigor," as well as "improvements in blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate" and other conditions.

"Vibrational sound healing has been shown to help reduce stress, promote restful sleep and relax tension in the body while activating the body's own healing process," according to experts at SNDBath, a sound bathing service operating in Atlanta and LA. "In our culture, we are becoming more and more aware of holistic approaches for relaxation and healing, to combat the everyday stresses of modern life—a sound bath can offer the perfect solution."

So, is a sound bath worth trying? Though the benefits are still up for some debate, those who have tried sound bathing speak highly of its results. And there doesn't seem to be any downside, wellness-wise, so many new enthusiasts are clamoring to give it a shot.

What should you expect at a sound bath?

Most sound baths tend to last between an hour and 90 minutes, though some can run as long as three hours. These lengthy sessions are usually guided by trained professionals, who will lead the group through the experience. Attendees are encouraged to wear flexible, comfortable clothing, and you may be asked to bring a yoga mat, eye mask, or even a pillow and blanket (via Insider).

All that said, it's hard to make generalizations about sound bathing, as pricing and ambiance can vary widely. In the same way you might find differences in style between yoga or fitness classes, each sound bath will be somewhat unique. While they are all designed to help you reach that restorative, meditative state, sound baths can use a variety of tools, approaches, and locales — from large, indoor group sessions to intimate rooftop gatherings.

Of course, you may be wondering whether it's even necessary to attend a sound bath in person. While virtual sound bathing is available, practitioners suggest that live sound bathing events seem more powerful and effective. "In live sound baths, there is no 'filtering' of the sound and vibrations," Jamie Bechtold, owner of The Soundbath Center, tells Reebok. "But people still feel some benefits from the virtual experience." So if you're able to attend a sound bath locally, that's probably an ideal way to get started. But if that's not feasible, virtual sound bathing may be the next best thing.