What is sound bathing that helps body to relax and reduces fatigue, stress

Sound baths use the resonance of instruments to stimulate the body at a cellular level, reducing fatigue and stress 
What is sound bathing that helps body to relax and reduces fatigue, stress

At first, Gurugram-based teacher Srishti Chawla couldn’t believe she had been crazy enough to show up for a sound bath session at the behest of her best friend. Chawla had recently given birth and was at the end of her tether because of her new role. It made her irritable and bitter, and things were only getting worse. Chawla’s friend was convinced she needed to relax, so she booked her five, 60-minute sessions 
of sound bathing, a therapeutic practice that uses resonant sounds from instruments to promote physical and mental well-being.

As the new mother lay on the mat, feet and palms stretched, the instructor asked her to focus on her breathing, scan her body for tightness, and then slowly release it with a deep exhale. “What hogwash,” she thought to herself, only to eat her words a few minutes later. “Twenty minutes into the session, I felt calmer. My breathing stabilised, body loosened up, and my head dropped to one side in relaxation. The flurry of thoughts slowed down and I felt, for the first time in three months, peaceful,” says Chawla. At the end of the fifth session, she booked five more.

Staging sound
Conducted in a distraction-less environment, the therapist uses various tools to create a landscape of sounds, causing air molecules around to vibrate at different frequencies, forming waves that interact with the body at a cellular level. Depending on the frequency, the sound stimulates different points in the body.

“Psychoacoustics talks about how lower Hz help alter the brainwave state, allowing one to go from an active beta state to a calmer alpha or theta state,” says Auroville-based Priyanjali Das, who runs Farasha sound immersion, a sound-healing collective.

“Frequencies as low as 40 Hz enhance brain coherence, whereas binaural beats at 6 Hz activate all areas of the brain within 10 minutes, promoting calm,” she says.

‘Instrumental’ to healing
While every practitioner designs the flow of vibrations based on their methodology, what’s fundamental to any sound work is “active listening and cultivating a relationship with to understand how it affects us”, according to Das. That’s where different instruments come into play as each carries a distinct vibration. Those considered to have healing effects are gongs, tuning forks, crystal bowls, energy chimes, bells, didgeridoo, monochord and tingsha cymbals. Some therapists begin the session with grounding sounds such as those created by chimes and tuning forks. “Their vibrations loosen up the musculature and help activate the parasympathetic state or the part of your nervous system responsible for relaxing the body. Playing them at 128 Hz is effective in relieving localised pain,” says Delhi-based sound bath practitioner Shagun Marwah.  

Das, on the other hand, has a different approach. “I like to start with singing bowls that invite the person into an introspective space. Chimes or string instruments can be a bit too stimulating right at the beginning. It’s the same with bass instruments like the gong, which many experts like to open with, but can be too strong for some,” she says.

Irrespective of the sequence, the Tibetan singing bowl is one of the most important healing apparatuses. Made of five to seven precious metals, these come in different sizes, shapes and densities, which determine their vibrations. The clear, smooth sounds from these bowls allow for deeper states of relaxation.

Dating to the 6th century CE, the gong is considered to have the strongest energy and is a stimulator of kundalini energy or life force, located at the base of the spine. Its sound soothes the nervous system, clears emotional bottlenecks, and is particularly useful to treat insomnia, hypertension, muscle spasms and work-related burnout.

DIY sound bath
The first step to creating a do-it-yourself experience is to get familiarised with sound and cultivate active listening. “Sound can only heal if you’re receptive to it. Is there a particular instrument that comforts you? Start by playing it every day and notice how it makes you feel. Does it stimulate any part of the body by making it throb?” says Das. The human voice is another powerful tool in sound therapy. “Simple humming will relax the nervous system. You can try the bhramari pranayama or chant Aaa, Uuuu and Mmm (aum). If nothing else, listen to binaural beats, which are structured in a way to help you enter the rest and recovery stages,” she says.

One size does not fit all
“No two people are the same, nor are their transformational needs. While sound baths make most people feel light and rejuvenated, they can overwhelm others. Some may cry, while others let out a laugh. Some may go into a deep sleep, while others feel restless,” says Marwah. Hit the right note and let the healing begin.  

Before the bath
● Get a good night’s sleep
● Eat a light meal 
● Have a lot of water before and after the session
● Wear loose-fitting clothes; avoid tight hair bands, contact lenses, watches

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