When I first began teaching yoga, I already had been a sound healing practitioner for several years, working with a modality called Acutonics — a non-invasive approach of placing vibrating tuning forks on acupuncture points or near the ears. I loved to see how the sound or vibration of a tuning fork could bring my clients so much peace and I desperately wanted to share that same peacefulness with my yoga students. I tried playing forks individually to students while they were in Savasana but longed for a more efficient way to bridge the gap of the healing benefits of yoga with the healing benefits of sound.
Several years later, I had my first experience with crystal singing bowls and I immediately knew they had a natural home in the yoga practice. The depth of sound from a single bowl and how it can feed and fill the yoga studio was exactly what I had been looking for to enrich the experience for my students.
I currently lead monthly sound baths around each full moon and I feel empowered and inspired to share the wisdom of the chakras, the energy of the moon cycle and the power of yoga all in one evening of relaxing sound. I have been amazed by the outpouring interest from yogis in different stages of their practice — those new to yoga and those with advanced practices. A common sentiment I hear is that students had no idea what to expect, but they left feeling calm, rejuvenated and restored. Specific feedback has run the gamut from students enjoying the best night of sleep ever, to having experienced waves of uncontrollable laughter and joy. I once even had a student reveal that she felt taller afterward.
But back to the main question I often get asked: why sound baths? That is a multifaceted question with many answers.
What is good sound vs. bad sound?
We spend so much of our day being exposed to sounds that are out of resonance with our healthy state. Think about when you hear a car alarm, the sound of traffic, someone yelling or even the background noise of a TV. None of these are sounds that feel “natural” for our mind or body, and if unbalanced these sounds can negatively impact on our system.
Studies have shown that when we are around sounds that are loud, grating and irritating, we experience a higher level of stress. When we are around sounds that are peaceful, stress can dissipate. Given the overwhelming amount of negative sounds we can experience in any given day, it becomes so important to foster times in our life when we can come back into “tune” with good sounds, like the healing sounds of crystal bowls.
How do these practices compliment each other?
I came to my yoga practice back in 2001 for a sense of well-being and stress relief. I stayed for the depth of practice, inherent wisdom and my capacity to continuously come back to my mat over and over again to find healing. This seems to be a common theme for many people who start to practice yoga, and sound baths can offer another, deeper level of healing.
As we look at the shifting dynamic of yoga over the past 20 years, we are seeing all sorts of adjunct practices that are being integrated into the studio. Peaceful sounds can help us gain another level of energy while focusing on our breath.
How do the crystal singing bowls work?
The crystal bowls I work with are tuned to the chakras and therefore access specific energetic and physical areas when played in combination and on their own. I often use the metaphor of a garden hose that has a kink in it — this kink is an energetic or physical blockage in the body. When we turn on the hose, the water pressure builds up until eventually the hose unwinds.
Likewise, when we experience crystal singing bowls, stronger energy begins to run in the body, pushing against physical, emotional and energetic blockages. Oftentimes these blockages will release during a sound bath and practitioners will experience an unexpected release of energy, emotion or even a rushing physical sensation. Much like pranayama in the yogic practice, we open energetic channels so that energy can flow freely through the body.
What is a sound bath?
The sound bath evenings that I lead usually begin with a 10-minute introduction to help open the energy channels and prepare the body to receive the sound. Then, over the course of an hour I invite students into a few restorative yoga poses followed by savasana. During this time, I play the crystal singing bowls and invite students to dive into the sound. We end our evening with at least five minutes of silence. There is typically such a profound appreciation for silence after experiencing so much sound. I’ve found that it offers students the opportunity to explore silent meditation on a much deeper level.
With the fast-paced, high-stress lives so many of us live, finding the time to drop-in and reconnect with our breath and body is extremely important, and there are times this can even get lost in the rigor of our yoga practices. Sound baths offer not only the spaciousness for self-connection, but the enlightening opportunity for deeper healing through the experience of the crystal bowls. So, I invite you to experience it.
[Photo credits: Anjelica Sloan & MJ Daniels]
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