Crystal sound baths appear to be popping up in urban spaces faster than you can say ‘rose quartz’, with many of us asking: what actually are they?
Sound baths are a form of sound therapy, and the idea is that sound is harnessed to create a sense of calm, using frequencies to bring the body and mind back into harmony. Many people who engage with sound therapy report feeling stress-free and relaxed.
One reason for sound therapy's popularity – especially in urban spaces – is that it offers a guided path to relaxation in the midst of noise and chaos. And, it’s particularly good for people who find regular meditation impossible.
Essentially in a sound bath, you’re sitting fully-clothed in a room, lying down while a sound therapist guides you through a meditation using instruments – whether that’s bowls, crystals or gongs. It’s called a bath as the sound waves feel similar to water washing over you.
Lyz Cooper, Founder and Director of the British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST) says: “Sound therapy uses carefully considered therapeutic sound techniques which have been shown to affect physiology, neurology and psychology.
“Humans have evolved to respond to sound and music in certain ways and therefore it is natural that we would find ways to use the properties of sound and music not just for pleasure, but to improve health and wellbeing as well.”
BAST ran a survey on people who had undergone sound therapy to find that 95% of them felt an increased state of calm. Although research has a while to go yet, they also attached clients to a machine to monitor the effects on their nervous system and found it reduced stress.
Dating back thousands of years, sound therapy or sound healing was first thought to be used by the Aborigines, via a didgeridoo. In Chinese Qigong, there are sounds that are thought to stimulate certain parts of the body, and in Tibet, singing bowls are used to create sound that supposedly heals as it flows over you.
Cooper says there are different types of sound therapy, which can use a number of different instruments.
Sound therapy that involves a gong, for instance, is said to help the brain to reach delta and theta wave states which helps natural healing and nurturing. Leo Cosendai, a gong bath instructor in London, says they are the slowest brain waves and usually we only experience them when daydreaming or in a deep sleep.
But it’s not all about group sessions. “Sound Therapy can be used during 1-2-1 targeted sessions for specific conditions such as stress, chronic pain, insomnia and depression,” Cooper says.
“Sound therapy works in a targeted way,” she adds, “Following treatment the therapist will then give the client (or group) mindfulness exercises to help them to develop new and life affirming strategies to help improve their health and wellbeing.”
Do they actually work though? Amy Jones, a video producer based in London, tried one out while doing research for a podcast and said: “I admit, I was very cynical when I went in. But actually, I found it really relaxing.
“Mine was in a living room in North London. The woman running the session used a number of instruments over the course of an hour while I lay back with my eyes covered, and it was really soothing. I fell asleep a few times and jolted myself awake.
“Afterwards she told me how sound baths can physically heal the body. I don't know how much of that I believe. But it really was a lovely, relaxing thing to do for an hour.”
Regardless of whether you believe in crystals or the healing properties of sound, there’s no denying that at the very least, it offers a chance to be switched off from your phone, in a calm and safe space. And who can say no to that?
Where to try one:
Crystal Sound Lounge, London
It’s hard to believe this quiet little space is only a few minutes from Paddington, one of London’s busiest stations. As the name indicates, crystal singing bowls are used for their sound baths, but they also have teachers that specialise in gong baths.
Gong Spa, Manchester and Cheshire
Martyn Cawthorne has experience with meditation and music for over two decades, and he specialises in gong sound baths. He’s also the founder of the Northern School of SoundSmiths, which teaches others to harness music in the same way.
Soundsphere, Scotland – various locations
Suzy Nairn offers sound therapy in the Scottish borders at a number of beautiful locations from Peebles (where she lives) to Edinburgh. Handily, she does individual sessions as well as ones for couples, and uses Tibetan Singing bowls, harmonic overtone voice, stunning crystal singing bowls, gentle gong, and heart drum.
Pure Sound Group Sound Bath, Wales
Mixing sound with silence, Pure Sound use quartz crystal and Himalayan singing bowls to transport you to a peaceful state. They also incorporate a period of silence called "the Shunyata" at the end to leave you feeling very zen.
Sound Sebastien, various location across London
Co-founded by wellness expert Jasmine Hemsley, Sound Sebastien uses Crystal Alchemy Singing Bowls and Tuning Forks to create a peaceful experience with lavender-infused pillows and comfortable blankets. Set in locations across London, check the website for upcoming events.
Main image credit: Jessica Flavia on Unsplash