Wellness

All The Benefits Of Sound Baths, According To Experts

Think of it as a musical cleanse.

What is a sound bath? Experts explain what a sound bath is and the benefits.
Shutterstock

With nearly 114 million views on TikTok, sound baths are one of the latest and greatest health practices to take off on social media. Stemming from a concept that originated in Tibet thousands of years ago, modern-day sound baths still hit all the right spots, especially when you’re stressed after scrolling.

A typical sound bath is an immersive, full-body, meditative experience that “bathes” you in different sounds, says Gabrielle Juliano-Villani, MSW, LCSW, a sound healer and therapist. “If you’re doing a sound bath in person, you can expect to be [in a studio] for about an hour, lying down, usually in low lights while [a practitioner plays different instruments] to facilitate healing such as gongs, Tibetan bowls, chimes, drums, crystal singing bowls, and many more,” she tells Bustle. You’ll often find pillows or blankets to help you get extra comfy, too.

Although many sound baths occur in yoga or meditation classes, you can also find all sorts of variations from creators on Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok. Bathing in person allows you to feel the sound waves in the room, but listening online is just as effective, says Juliano-Villani, especially if you tune in with headphones. The long, reverberating notes of a sound bath will lull you into a meditative state so you can rest, reset, or focus on an intention.

A sound bath can be incredibly relaxing, but that isn’t its only benefit. Here’s what else it can do for you, as well as a few samples from TikTok.

The Benefits Of Sound Baths

A major draw is how meditative a sound bath can be. “In a sound bath, you’re typically guided by the practitioner into a meditation while lying down,” says Megan Sherer, a licensed holistic therapist and founder of The Self Care Space. You might focus on a word or the suggestion as you kick back, as a way to tune in and focus your mind.

As the sound washes over you, it’s said to improve your mood by releasing tough emotions — and that’s also why you might see TikToks tuned to certain chakras, like the heart chakra. “The vibrations of the bowls help to dislodge stuck energy,” Sherer says, which is why you might even cry or feel super tired afterward, as your body lets go of pent-up tension.

The tones also help you tap into theta waves — the brain waves that occur when you’re in a half-awake, half-asleep meditative state. “When sound bowls are played, they emit specific frequencies that entrain with your brainwaves and allow you to become more relaxed,” Sherer explains. She notes that theta brainwaves allow you to reach a very creative, meditative state, which can in turn help you process emotions and imbalances in a quick and effective way.

Not only can a theta brain wave state help boost your well-being, Sherer says it’s also a way to improve your sleep and increase levels of creativity, depending on when you listen. Lots of folks “take” sound baths first thing in the morning to prep for the day, before bed as a way to wind down, or whenever they feel the need to reset.

If you’re into the idea of meditation but don’t think you’re very good at it, sound baths can also be a quick ticket to centeredness. “Rather than giving you a melody to latch onto, the sounds should help you focus your mind and free it from trying to find a pattern in the sound,” says Brandt Passalacqua, the founder, director, and lead teacher at Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy. “You will let go of the patterns in sounds, which will help you to release your patterns of thinking as well.”

Close your eyes and listen to the interesting and unpredictable intonations, and you might find that you’re finally able to relax. “If traditional meditation has been challenging for you or you struggle to sit in silence, then a sound bath could be an excellent alternative,” he tells Bustle.

A relaxing sounds bath may be good for you physically, too. “Sound is an ancient tool, and it’s one that is easily used for mindfulness,” says Juliano-Villani. “Mindfulness is the act of being aware of the present moment without judgement. When we are practicing mindfulness, we are also in the ‘rest and digest’ response of our nervous system.” While more research is needed, that’s why sound baths are thought to help release physical tension and pain, which may improve your health by giving you an outlet for stress.

Sounds baths are considered safe, but it is good to b aware of a few potential side effects. It’s best not to use them to treat an illness, and you may want to avoid going to a sound bath if you’re pregnant because of the vibrations. You should also ask your doctor first if you have epilepsy or if you’re prone to headaches.

How To Do A Sound Bath At Home

While an hourlong in-person sound bath would certainly be a nice treat, there are plenty of sound baths available on TikTok, and many only last 60 seconds. The next time you’re stressed, simply pop in your headphones, listen, and see if it helps you feel more focused or refreshed.

According to Sherer, sound baths are an accessible and beneficial practice for pretty much anyone. And the more frequently you do them, the better you’ll feel. She recommends starting with 30 to 60 minutes once a week but notes that even one sound bath can be a “transformative experience.”

Studies referenced:

Ellis, RJ. (2010). Music and Autonomic Nervous System (Dys)function. Music Percept. doi: 10.1525/mp.2010.27.4.317.

Goldsby, TL. (2020). Eastern Integrative Medicine and Ancient Sound Healing Treatments for Stress: Recent Research Advances. Integr Med (Encinitas). MID: 33488307; PMCID: PMC7819493.

Salamon, E. (2003). Sound therapy induced relaxation: down regulating stress processes and pathologies. Med Sci Monit. PMID: 12761468.

Sources:

Gabrielle Juliano-Villani, MSW, LCSW, sound healer, therapist

Megan Sherer, licensed holistic therapist founder of The Self Care Space

Brandt Passalacqua, founder, director, and lead teacher at Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy