Given that everything has a vibrational frequency, including ourselves, it makes sense that sound frequencies impact how we feel. That’s why particular songs and types of music often bring about specific types of emotions from us. Sound healing, which is an ancient healing technique that uses tonal frequencies to bring the body into a state of vibrational balance and harmony, plays upon this as well.
So, how does it work? During a sound healing session, also known as a sound bath, you’ll typically lie down on the floor or a yoga mat, perhaps cuddle up with a cozy blanket, and simply listen up as a practitioner plays a variety of instruments and you “bathe” in the soothing sounds and vibrations. Roxie Sarhangi, a certified sound healing practitioner based in Los Angeles, describes it as a “meditative acoustic sound concert.” The sound frequencies then slow down brain waves to a deeply restorative state, which activates the body’s system of self-healing.
Singing bowls, gongs, Tibetian bowls, tuning forks, and drums are the instruments that practitioners most often use in sessions. However, says sound healer, Reiki master, and yoga and meditation teacher Susy Markoe Schieffelin, “if used with the proper intention, almost any instrument can be used in sound healing.”
Each instrument serves a different purpose. Crystal bowls, for example, Sarhangi says, “are tuned to the notes of the seven chakras.” The gong, she adds, is said to help release tension in the body and stimulates the glandular and nervous system.
And although sound healing has grown in popularity in recent years, it is a healing modality that dates way back. “From vocal chanting to instruments such as Tibetan singing bowls, shamanic drums, and more, you will find some form of sound healing in every culture on Earth,” Schieffelin says. “It is said that sound healing can be traced back 40,000 years to when indigenous Australians used ancient didgeridoos for healing. One of my favorite historical examples of sound healing is the sound chambers created by the ancient Egyptians in the pyramids.”
Not sold on the ancient practice just yet? Keep reading to learn some of the body-boosting benefits it can offer, what to expect from a sonic session, and the different ways you can get your sound therapy on.
4 benefits of sound healing
1. It’s super-relaxing
Deep relaxation is one of the most significant and universal benefits of sound therapy. “The sounds permeate our system returning it back to harmony,” Sarhangi says. So if you take nothing else away from a sound healing session, relaxation on its own is worth it. With our busy schedules and so much going on in the world, we can all use some chill vibes.
2. It helps clears energetic blockages
Some people experience deep healing during sound therapy as the sound vibrations open, clear, and balance their chakras and release stuck energy. Schieffelin describes it as an “energetic deep tissue massage” that leaves you feeling balanced and replenished.
“When [a healing] happens, you may also feel physical sensations like tingling in your hands or feel or a sense of being hot or cold,” Schieffelin says. “Breathe into the sensations without attaching to them or labeling them. Instead, focus on your breath as you allow them to pass.”
3. It boosts your health
That’s right—it’s not completely woo-woo. “Research has already demonstrated that sound healing can be incredibly beneficial when working with [a variety of] patients,” Schieffelin says.
Benefits can include improved sleep, reduction of chronic pain and blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, and a decreased risk of heart disease. (Although, for professional help with these ailments, please see a certified medical practitioner.)
4. It supports mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being
It also heals on the mental and emotional levels. “Sound healing helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression,” Schieffelin says. “It balances and clears the mind, and leads to a renewed sense of purpose, well-being, calm, and happiness.”
“Sound healing balances and clears the mind, and leads to a renewed sense of purpose, well-being, calm, and happiness.” —Susy Markoe Schieffelin, sound healer
What to expect from a sound healing session
Like with most alternative healing modalities and meditative practices, everyone’s experience is different, and new things may come up in each session. Most people will feel very relaxed and peaceful during a sound healing; some might have visualizations, receive creative downloads, or have an emotional breakthrough.
Others may go to “the place,” which Schieffelin explains is a “a mental state in which you are not quite awake and not quite asleep. It often feels like you’re floating peacefully through time and space.” Meanwhile, some folks may emerge from a dreamy sound bath feeling more wired than blissed out. Again, each experience is unique.
3 types of sound healing therapy you can try
1. a sound bath
Attending a sound bath is a great way to snag the benefits of the practice but with a group. “During a sound bath, which is somewhat like in an extended savasana in yoga class, you lie down and relax comfortably while you are bathed in healing vibrations of sound,” Schieffelin says.
To find one local to your city, Sarhangi recommends doing a Google search for sound baths, sound therapy, or sound healing.
2. a private session
If groups aren’t your thing and you prefer one-on-one attention, you can also book a private sound healing session with a trained practitioner who will play instruments such as Tibetan singing bowls or tuning forms and so you can “bathe” in the sounds.
3. A solo session
A notable (and perhaps even cool) reality of sound healing is that it’s accessible to everyone and free to practice on your own accord. You can do this by humming, chanting, and singing. “Try humming to yourself for just two minutes and notice how your mood begins to shift,” Schieffelin says. “You can also choose specific frequencies to hum to clear and balance particular energy centers in your body.”
Listening to pre-recorded sessions is another easy way to experience it. To really take your practice to the next level, though, Sarhangi suggests investing in instruments and playing them for yourself.
Still doesn’t sound like your thing? Here are three alternate ways to unwind. Or maybe, a simple walking meditation will fit the restorative bill for you.