For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, a gong bath - also known as a sound bath or gong meditation - is a form of receptive music therapy and it works on the basis that we are affected by sound and it’s vibration. This makes sense when you think of common human responses to loud crashing noises, the sound of fingernails sliding down a chalk board or a soft lullaby. The gong bath experience generally sees participants lying in warmth and comfort in a dimmed room whilst being submerged in sound by a gong master. Gongs may be played alongside tuning forks, Tibetan bells, flutes, drums or crystal bowls to create a rich and often hypnotic soundscape.
Being enveloped in these sound waves is said to affect the body at a deep cellular level taking the participant on a healing and meditative journey. During a gong bath, people can move from "a normal waking state (beta) to a relaxed consciousness (alpha), to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, deep meditation (theta), and deep sleep (delta) where internal healing naturally occurs."
Whilst sound bath gatherings may appear to be novel additions to yoga studio schedules, they're actually steeped in history. The Aboriginals of Australia were amongst the first people known to have used sound for healing more than 40,000 years ago. They used the unique sounds of the didgeridoo to heal many different types of injuries such as torn muscles and illnesses. Sound has also been used for healing by most ancient cultures including Peruvian shamans who conduct healing through powerful medicinal songs called icaros.
Sound healing became a subject of interest in the West in the 1930s and was studied in more depth in the years following. In his studies, the French otolaryngologist and inventor Dr Alfred Tomatis discovered that sound could be used as therapy in the treatment of attention deficit disorders, learning disabilities, autism and sensory processing and motor skill difficulties. His methods were said to have helped adults “fight depression, learn foreign languages faster, develop better communication skills, and improve both creativity and on-the-job performance”.
Whilst there is very little scientific evidence today that supports the benefits of sound as a healing modality, there is a 2016 study examining the effects of Tibetan singing bowl meditation on mood, anxiety, pain and spiritual wellbeing. Researches found that those exposed to the singing bowls reported significantly less tension, anger, fatigue, and depressed mood after their sound meditation which suggests that singing bowl therapy may be useful in maintaining physical and emotional, well-being.
So what are you waiting for? Take a dip into the world of gong meditations and see if you can pick up some good vibrations for 2019.