What Is a Sound Bath? Guide for Beginners

Published August 17, 2022
person having sound bath using a singing bowl

You've seen a bird bath, and probably taken a bubble bath, but have you experienced a sound bath? Sound bathing is an ancient therapeutic practice that stems from Tibet and the Himalayas.

It involves tapping a musical instrument, such as a singing bowl, with a mallet and circling the bowl's edges to create different sounds. These musical sounds and vibrations help people relax, unwind, and even improve their overall well-being. Doesn't that sound like music to your ears?

What Is a Sound Bath?

A sound bath is the practice of fully immersing yourself in sound. It is called a bath because the variety of high-intensity and low-frequency sounds and vibrations wash over a person's body. It is believed that this experience can trigger the body's natural relaxation response.

A variety of instruments, such as gongs and singing bowls are used to create deep, rich sounds and vibrations that surround a person's entire being. It can guide people into a deep, meditative-like state that can immediately boost their well-being.

A sound bath is not the same as music therapy. Both practices involve the use of sound to improve well-being. However, the way they are experienced is different. In a sound bath, participants are guided through a meditation while they experience the vibrations and sound. While in music therapy, people listen to music without a guide, and the experience does not involve feeling vibrations from the instruments.

Origins of Sound Therapy

The healing power of sound has been used for centuries throughout different populations in the world. In fact, sound healing has been used in Australia for over 40,000 years.

Sound therapy, also known as sound healing, has been used throughout history in religious ceremonies. Tibetan monks would often include sound therapy in their rituals and meditation practices. The first Tibetan singing bowls were made over 6,000 years ago, and many people still use these instruments in sound therapy.

Tibetan singing bowls and their use in sound healing are relatively new in the United States. The first singing bowls made their way to America in the early 1970s when they gained a foothold in the music world. Today, they are still used by musicians, yoga instructors, and sound healers.

Sound Bath Instruments

Several instruments are used in sound bath healing. The specific types of instruments used often vary from culture to culture and create a wide variety of sounds. Some common instruments include:

  • Australian didgeridoos
  • Bells, as well as specific varieties called dorges
  • Gongs
  • Singing bowls, such as Tibetan singing bowls, or crystal quartz singing bowls
  • Ting-shas, which are tiny cymbals

Singing bowls are one of the most commonly used instruments in sound bath healing. They look similar to the cereal bowls you have in your cupboards. However, they are made from different materials, such as metal alloys or quartz crystals. In addition, they come in a variety of different shapes and sizes that create different sounds and vibrations when they are played. There are many different types and sizes of singing bowls, but here is a sample of costs and sizes of a few different bowls.

Tibetan Bowl Sizing Chart
Diameter (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs.) Cost (dollars)
Thadobati 4-9 2-4 .5-2 $250+
Jambati 9-16 4-8 2.5-14 $300+
Ultabati 10-16 4.5-6.5 3.5-10 $230+
Naga 2-8 1.5-7.5 .5-3.3 $150+
Mani 4-9 2-5 .8-5.5 $30+
Manipuri 3.5-9 1.5-4 .5-3.3 $35+
Remuna 6-8 3-4.5 1-1.75 $100+
Lingam 3.5-10 3.5-10 .5-5 $50+

Health Benefits of Sound Baths

Sound baths have been used throughout history for their healing benefits. According to research from the Journal of Evidence-Based Complimentary Alternative Medicine, sound bath meditation can boost a person's mood, increase their energy, and improve their overall mental health.

The study included 62 participants, some of whom had previously participated in a singing bowl meditation, and some that were new to the experience. At the beginning of the study, participants filled out forms to measure their self-reported levels of anxiety, depression, physical pain, and other elements of well-being. Then, the participants were led through a guided sound bath with several singing bowls, chimes, and musical instruments for one hour.

Afterward, they filled out self-report scores again in the same categories, which showed that the majority of participants had improved wellness rates compared to their initial scores across all categories. Some additional benefits found in the study include:

  • Decreased feelings of tension and anger
  • Decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Decreased symptoms of physical pain
  • Improved blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increased feelings of well-being, as well as spiritual well-being
  • Increased rates of emotional healing
  • Lower rates of fatigue

According to the results of the study, participants ages 40-59 years old experienced the highest boost in physical pain relief. And, people that had never experienced a sound bath before reported higher rates of pain relief than people that had previously experienced a sound bath.

How Sound Baths Affect the Brain

person getting sound bath by hearing singing bowl

Although more research needs to be done in the field of sound bath healing, several studies show that the practice has physical and mental health benefits. This has led researchers into taking a deeper dive into exactly how and why these soothing sounds boost a person's overall health and well-being.

According to research from the Journal of Integrative Medicine, sound baths can change a person's brain waves. Researchers measured peoples' brain waves when they were in meditative states, such as during a sound bath. The results found that sound baths can generate theta and delta brain waves, which are associated with the deepest state of relaxation.

This means that by just listening to certain sounds, you can change the way you feel in the moment in an impactful way. Not only can you take a deep breath when you want to relax, but you can also listen to the gentle hum of a singing bowl.

How to Experience Sound Bath Healing

Want to know what it's like to experience a sound bath? You can engage in this healing sound therapy in just three simple steps. If you don't have any instruments to create soothing sounds, you can always listen to instrumental audio or follow along with a guided meditation online.

Step 1: Get Comfortable

In order to prepare for your sound bath, the first thing you need to do is get comfortable. You can lay down on the ground on a blanket or yoga mat. Or, you can sit in a chair or criss-cross on the floor.

You might even want to dim your lights a bit or light a few candles to help create a relaxing environment. If you are experiencing a sound bath with others, you can spread out in a circle in the room. Find whatever feels good for you.

Step 2: Immerse Yourself in Sound

The next step in experiencing a sound bath is to immerse yourself in sound. You can do this by using instruments, such as gongs, singing bowls, or cymbals. If you are seated, you can place the instrument in front of you. If you are laying down, you may want to place the instrument behind your head or towards the center of the room.

You can play these instruments and guide yourself through the meditation. Or, you can attend a sound bath that is led by a healer or yoga instructor. In these classes, you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the sounds, as your guide will lead you through your experience and play the instruments.

In some sound bath practices, singing bowls are actually placed on a person's body. This can help them better experience the vibrations of the instruments and become more fully immersed in the sound.

Step 3: Be Present

The final aspect of a sound bath is to allow yourself to fully experience it. Be present in the moment. Make sure your electronics are put away and that you have set aside enough time for yourself to enjoy the experience and relax.

Check-in with your body and see what you feel. Notice areas of tension or heat. Try not to judge your thoughts or feelings in any way. If you notice your thoughts start to wander, gently bring them back to the room.

If you choose to experience a sound bath with a guide, they will most likely lead you through a meditation. Listen to the sound of their voice and allow them to guide you. If you choose to experience a sound bath at home, you can listen to a guided meditation online to help you fully immerse into the experience.

Tips for Sound Bathing

person receiving gong therapy for health wellness

If you're new to sound bathing, you're probably wondering how to get started. There are many ways for you to experience the healing benefits and find a practice that fits your needs.

Sign Up for A Guided Session

One way to dip your toe into sound healing is to sign up for a class. There are several sound bathing centers and organizations that offer sound bathing classes both in person and online. Check your area for local classes and studios to see what they have to offer.

A guided session will also help introduce you to the practice of meditation, which can further your relaxation. And, when you take a class with a sound healer, you won't have to worry about bringing supplies, purchasing any musical instruments, or learning how to play them.

Use a Sound Bath for Sleep

Sound baths can help people enter a deep state of relaxation. For this reason, you might want to practice sound bathing before bed to help you get a good night's rest. Incorporate a sound bath into your nighttime wind-down routine.

This doesn't have to be elaborate or for an extended period of time. Just set aside an extra five or ten minutes in the evenings to allow yourself to relax and experience a sound bath. You can sit on the floor in your pajamas, or lay down in bed with the bowl beside you.

You can even keep track of how you feel over time by writing your sleep experiences down in a journal. How did you feel when you drifted to sleep? How did you feel when you woke up? Have you noticed any changes in your mood or energy levels on the days you sound bathe? Find a routine that works for you.

Try Solo and Group Sessions

couple getting sound bath therapy by listening to singing bowl

You can participate in sound baths by yourself, as well as with a group in a larger session. If you've never tried a sound bath before, you might want to experience both kinds of sessions and see how each makes you feel.

You might find that you like the one-on-one attention of a solo session. Or, you might like feeling like you are connected to others around you in a group session. Try both options and see what works for you.

Allow Yourself to Experience Something New

A sound bath can be a new and exciting wellness activity. However, it can also be intimidating or maybe even push you outside of your comfort zone. Especially if you've never tried anything like it before.

Try and push these thoughts aside if you're interested in the practice. Allow yourself to try something new. You might find that not only do you feel better but that you are actually able to enjoy your experience.

Learn More About Sound Baths

There are a lot of great resources out there that can take you further into the world of sound baths. You can learn more about guided meditation, how sound baths impact the body and mind, and which singing bowls might be the best fit for you. Some books on sound healing you might want to check out are:

Explore Virtual Sound Bathing

There are several videos online of sound bathing sessions and guided meditations. Explore these virtual opportunities to experience the benefits of sound bath healing, even if there aren't sound bathing sessions available in your area, or if you don't have instruments at home. Some virtual sound bathing experiences you can utilize for your practice are:

Sound baths offer the unique opportunity to utilize the healing power of instruments. Many people find meditation to be daunting because it can take a lot of consistent practice to get a hang of things. However, sound baths can help you achieve a meditative-like state in a way that is simpler and more enjoyable for you. Will you take the dive into sound bathing for your health?

Sound Bath Therapy FAQs

What sound bath instruments are used in the healing practice?

Many different instruments are used in sound baths to create a variety of unique and relaxing sounds. Some of the most common are singing bowls, gongs, and chimes.

Are there different types of singing bowls?

There are many different types of singing bowls. They create a variety of different sounds, tones, and shapes, and are even made from different materials. For example, Tibetan singing bowls are made from a metal alloy, while crystal quartz singing bowls are made from natural gemstones.

Does the size of the singing bowl affect the sound?

The size and shape of a singing bowl can affect the sound it creates. For example, bowls with larger diameters have a deeper pitch than bowls with smaller diameters. In addition, bowls that have thicker walls have higher pitches.

The size of the bowl, as well as the material it is made from, can affect the cost of the instrument. In addition, some bowls are crafted with elegant designs imprinted in the metal, which can also increase the price.

How do I play a singing bowl?

There's no right or wrong way to play a singing bowl. In sound baths, many people gently tap the outside of the bowl with a small mallet. Then, slowly move the mallet around the outside rim of the bowl. You can experiment with a series of taps, and different rotations around the outside of the bowl.

Notice how the sound and vibrations of the bowl change depending on how hard you tap it, as well as how fast you move your mallet along the rim. Play around with the different ways of making sounds, and discover what sounds are pleasing to you.

Why do people try sound baths?

Many people use sound baths to improve their overall well-being. Sound bathing has been found to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as physical pain in the body. In addition, many people use sound baths for sleep, or to help them relax.

What Is a Sound Bath? Guide for Beginners