Welcome to 2017, where we live in a highly stimulating, digital, and desk-driven world. For better or for worse, our daily accomplishments are measured by volume, speed, and efficiency. How much and how quickly of anything can you get done in a day? Although the fruits of our labor benefit society at large, the reality is that as a result, we often feel rushed, stressed, and fatigued.
Our minds and bodies do their best to keep up, but often times stress wins. We pay the price with our health and attitude—to name a few—which then correlate to what yogis called the sukshma sharira, or subtle body. The subtle body consists mainly of sensory experiences, vitality, prana (source energy), and mind. Stress is like a greasy, sticky film that coats and dampens this subtle body, making it function less than optimal and leaving one energetically compromised.
In comes the power of yogic sound bathing, a “non-movement” practice that involves simply sitting or lying down. It can utilize gongs, Tibetan and crystal bowls, chimes, and other musical instruments to help transform the subtle body to a more clear, relaxed and stress-free state. Physical practices like running, spinning or power yoga can certainly help reduce stress levels, but methods that slow us down and utilize stillness can also be extremely potent and insightful for stress management.
Yogic sound bathing is growing in popularity because it is effortless, and because it has been proven to work. Clinical research from around the world has shown the many benefits of sound therapy. According to the National Institute of Health, where vibroacoustic therapy has been extensively researched for over 20 years, vibrations and sounds have been shown to reduce symptoms of stress, pain, depression, and even dementia.
Among cancer patients in a study at Duke University Medical Center, sound therapy resulted in significant decreases in nausea, pain, tension, and fatigue.
In sound bathing, the only effort is to let go and relax into the journey of sound itself. The instruments create powerful and multi-dimensional ripples of sound that grow into waves. These waves literally travel through the air and into the muscles, bones, and cells, bathing the entire physical and subtle body. It becomes a psycho-acoustic gateway to heightened states of awareness, bridging people from physical to meditative states. This is good news for those who doubt meditation, or are meditatively struggling or stuck.
One of the many natures of yoga is to calm the mind and quell what feels like incessant “mind chatter.” While there are many ways to reach that state of calm, the power of sound helps quiet and calm those looping thoughts. Getting the thinking mind
to settle down is no easy task, but with the help of instruments it becomes more accessible. The instruments are not playing any specific songs or melodies. Once the logical and analytical part of the brain realizes there is nothing to “figure out” it begins to disengage. This makes it more possible for one to get out of their heads and into the healing effects of the in-the-moment experience.
The positive effects of sound bathing is based on scientific principles that all matter—and in this case the cells in our bodies—vibrate at a precise frequency when healthy, and to a dissonant frequency when
in distress. It is also based on the principals of resonance and entrainment, or in other words, “like attracts like.” Thus the strongest pure vibration in any given environment will bring all other like vibrations into uniformity with it. This is why resonant vibration, rhythms and tones can help balance brain hemispheres, stress levels, and even tension in body tissues and cells that have fallen into distress or disharmony. Excessive energy is toned down and deficient energy is made full.
Sound bathing can also help recalibrate the parasympathetic nervous system, thus encouraging a restful state within the body. Parasympathetic responses include a regulated heart beat, slowed breath, and heavy, relaxed limbs.
What can you expect from this practice? Practitioners report the full range of experiences: from absolutely nothing, to outer body experiences. Some people report bodily sensations, visions, and even outside sounds that didn’t occur. Some people fall asleep, while others feel agitated. Some experience complete bliss.
One thing is for sure—meditation meets us where we are. It is through our practice that we can learn to face whatever is passing through. The moment-to-moment experience of being with what is arising, unfolding and passing away teaches us again and again not to identify with the impermanence and transient aspects of ourselves, but instead to identify and anchor into the essence of all that is timeless, endless, and free in nature.
Sound bathing can be experienced
on its own, or as a part of other disciplines of yoga such as Yoga Nidra, seated meditations, or restorative yoga. However way one experiences sound, the key is to keep an open attitude and remember that it goes beyond hearing through the ears. Beyond a sensation, the sound is
“vibrational energy” that literally traveling through the body. And because our bodies are constituted mainly of water, consider it a conductor of beneficial tones and frequencies.
It is easy to get stuck in our heads, limiting our realities to what is visible and tangible. Many of us know and feel intuitively that there’s more to life than what meets the eye, but it can be difficult to tap into the “oneness” that is so prevalent in yogic teachings. Meditation is definitely a gateway to such oneness and freedom of thought—an art of relaxing and letting go. Sound bathing thus acts as an effective tool for meditation.
The saying, “Meditation is not
something that you ‘do’ but something that ‘does’ you” sums up the yogic sound bath experience. The sound can help channel one’s attention to the deeply somatic experience, maybe even opening up to a spiritual dimension. One can unplug from looping thoughts, and instead experience a more expanded and bigger view—one that is beyond name, form, and story.
If it’s time to momentarily disengage from a busy life, to plug into healing
vibrations, and experience the recalibration of your subtle body,
give sound bathing a try. You just may discover a new way to unwind—one that is effortless and completely joyful.
By Jennifer Reuter
Jennifer has been certified in the health and fitness industry since 1995, and in 2000 she moved exclusively towards yoga. She is currently a senior student
of Dr. Paul Muller-Ortega’s yoga, tantric and meditation-based studies. Jennifer has been offering RYT teacher training on Oahu since 2008. Her signature
class includes a blend of philosophy, mantra, flow, and alignment.