SOOTHING SOUNDS

With gong baths, sound meditation classes and ecstatic voice workshops cropping up all over the country, the healing power of sound is being recognised as never before. Tune into 2020’s hottest wellbeing trend.

I’m lying on a mattress in a darkened hall, with blankets over me to keep me warm. I Don’t notice the sound at first but eventually realise a soft, low note is winding its way around the room. Slowly, begins to build and I feel it travelling through my body. Different notes weave their way in as a sound healer works with crystal bowls at the front of the hall. I feel as though I’m being hypnotised by the sound. At some point, I drift off completely, although I’m still aware of the sound – it’s like a very deep meditation, the sort I can’t normally achieve. I’ve been taking part in a sound bath, the healing therapy sweeping the nation that uses the calming sound of Tibetan Singing bowls, crystal bowls and ancientgongs to relax and de-stress participants.At the end of the session, I feel extremely relaxed but also refreshed, as though I’ve Slept for 12 hours. The healing power of sound has been known for centuries.

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If you’re feeling flat, down or demotivated, simply listening to song you love can quickly boost your mood. Conversely, catch a tune that reminds you of a sad breakup or another unhappy time in your life and you can be plunged into a reflective, melancholy state.It happens to us all, without putting any intention into it – so imagine how powerful sound can be when you actively use it to change the way you feel.Sound healing is big news this year. From Gong baths in yoga studios to shamanic drumming workshops at festivals, there’s a growing recognition that sound can have huge effects on your wellbeing.‘There’s a newly revived interest in ancient healing practices such as sound healing,’ says Natalie Blow, content producer for Balance Festival (balance-festival.com). ‘We’re going to see them becoming much more mainstream this year; you’ll be as likely to head to a sound healing session as you are a yoga class.’And it’s not just happening on the fringes of the wellbeing circuit either, London Fitness studio Frame is now offering sound baths and HIIT classes set to music with healing frequency believed to align your chakras.While research on sound healing is in its infancy, some theories of modern science back up what ancient cultures believed about sound. The physical world is made up of vibrating energy so anything that impacts on that – such as sound – can change that energy. Celebs are getting in on the act – including wellbeing influences such as Jasmine Hemsley who recently launched sound healing company Sound Sebastien with friend and wellness consultant Toni Dicks. Source Source: Star Styles

On a wave

Sound can help trigger shifts in your brainwave state through a process known as ‘entrainment’, where steady frequency and rhythm synchronise brain waves. In a sound therapy session, your usual beta brainwave state, keeping you in conscious high alert, relaxes into alpha – a relaxed state of consciousness – or even theta, the meditative state, or delta, which is sleep.Meditation can also create this relaxed brainwave state but, if you always find your mind wandering to what you need to get for tonight’s dinner, or worrying about thatrow you had with your man, you’ll know that switching off during meditation isn’t always easy.‘A lot of people find it hard to meditate in the traditional way,’ says Hemsley. ‘With a sound bath, you don’t have to make an effort. You just lie back and relax and the sound does the work for you.’ Gong baths have been used for thousands of years to help shift the mind, using gongs or Tibetan Singing bowls. These days, you can take adipex with a sound bath that lasts an hour, oris part of a yoga class, or immerse yourself fully with a whole evening of sound, or even an all-night session.

SOOTHING SOUNDS

At London’s first gongand crystal sound bath studio, Crystal Sound Lounge, city dwellers can recharge with 45-minute gong baths described as a sonic massage’. Founder Laura Franses,a former TV executive, set up the Crystal Lounge after trying a range of practices from yoga to meditation to try to help heal a health condition with no result. Finally,Franses stumbled on a crystal singing bowl session during a trip to Mexico. ‘Within 10 minutes I felt a profound sense of peace like never before,’ she says.But you don’t have to be with other people to reap the benefits. Some healers and shamans use sound healing in one-to-one sessions, either in person or over Skype. You can even do it by yourself with an app such as Third Ear (see boxright), which lets you choose from sound-enhanced short meditations or a full immersive gong bath – just plug in your earphones. You can also take an active role by joining in with creating the sound.Drumming, sacred chanting and ecstatic voice workshops – where you get intouch with the primal power of yourvoice, without worrying about conventional rules about music – all lend themselves to this and you’ll find classes in most areas, and informal sessions at summer festivals.So what are the benefits? ‘The main benefit from sound baths is relaxation,’says Hemsley. ‘Lots of people find stress-related conditions ease – from headaches to digestive problems – and they sleep much better.’ Of course,stress can influence your whole body,so reducing it can ease many conditions.But practitioners claim sound healing also works for other reasons. Many believe all our body’s cells are affected by sound,so it can have an effect on everything from immunity to heart health.

SOOTHING SOUNDS

The instruments of change

In theory, any instrument can be used in wound healing, but these are the ones most commonly used:

SINGING BOWLS: often Tibetan Himalayan. Made of metal alloys, these bowls are stuck to produce a sound that vibrates, or a wand can be rotated around the rim to make a gradually building ringing tone. Crystal singing bowls are also increasingly used and can range in size from a diameter of a few centimetres to up to a metre. The different tones they produce are thought to resonate with different chakras, or energy centres,through your body. ‘That can help you get into a state of deep relaxation and meditation,’ says Hemsley. They’re Commonly played at sound baths, in yoga classes and in cacao and other shamanic ceremonies. The healer may have several resonating at the same time, to create a pattern of healing sounds.

TUNING FORKS: these are struck to produce vibrations at different notes.Practitioners believe they have specific healing properties for different parts of the body, reinforcing healthy cells and discouraging unhealthy cells in various conditions. They may be used in healing sessions, held near the ear or other parts of the body (you may feel rather than hear the vibrations) or during sound bath alongside other instruments.

GONGS: Usually hanging, they’re struck,gently at first, then building, but never to the point where the sound reaches an unbearable ‘white noise’ volume. Gongs Are often used in large rooms because of the way they resonate around the space,and they can create quite loud, powerful sounds. Singing bowls and tuning forks may be used with them to vary the sound.

DRUMMING: Simple bongo drums and shamanic drums, held and struck with a stick, often feature in sound-healing circles.It’s considered a part of most sacred traditions, and listening to drumming can help you slide into a meditative state. There Are more scientific studies into drumming than other modes of sound healing. In2014, the Department of Cognitive Biology At the University of Vienna, Austria, found listening to repetitive drumming could lower cortisol and heart rate, inducing a dreamlike experience. Another study, in the Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine, found taking part in a drumming circle could lower blood pressure. Time to give it a go! ■

SOOTHING SOUNDS

What can you expect at a sound bath?

The venue: It may be a beautiful place such as a deconsecrated church, or something simpler, such as a yoga studio. Hopefully, it will feel calm and quiet.

What to bring: You may be asked to bring a yoga mat,although mats are usually provided. It could be a good idea to take an eye mask,warm socks and an extra blanket for added comfort.What to do beforehand: Make Sure you’ve eaten a light meals you’re not hungry. Don’t Drink alcohol.

What happens: You’ll usually lie down on yoga mats,probably with blankets and pillows to keep you warm and comfortable. There may be a short explanation of what’s going to happen or you may go straight into the bath, with the healer starting gently softly striking a gong or bowl The sound will start to reverberate around the room and will build gradually.

How you’ll feel: You may begin by wondering how you’re going to manage lying there for an hour (or more) with nothing but bowls and gongs to distract you. But you’ll probably find you very quickly start to feel deeply relaxed, as though you’re meditating or have been hypnotised.You may even fall asleep.Afterwards, you’ll probably be quiet dazed, so don’t plan to do anything other than go home to bed.

SOOTHING SOUNDS

Sound healing apps

Third Ear

Choose from sound- enhanced short meditations or a full immersive gong bath – just plug in your earphones. Third Ear gives free Access to some content, or pay a yearly subscription (£39.99), or monthly (£3.99). Find it at the Apple App Store.

Natura Sound Therapy

This trains the mind to relax deeply, and is ideal for meditation and yoga.The app has 34 nature and musical sounds and you can save 100 favourite mixes. £9.99, from Apple App Store.

Soothing voice

Whether singing or chanting, the human voice can be a powerful tool, says sacred singer Heloise Pilkington, who runs course on connecting with your inner voice(heloise pilkington.com). ‘The voice is different to other instruments in that it comes from within you,’she says. ‘That means it can transmit emotion very powerfully. When you make sound, which is vibration,it causes energy in the body to move. If you have lots of fear or other emotion inside you, connecting with those feelings and expressing them authentically helps you release the emotion. That can be both soothing and healing.’ What if you’ve always worried about your singing voice? ‘It’s not about being a great singer,’says Pilkington. ‘Instinctive primal sounds can be the most powerful way to change energy.’And singing, even if you think you’re no good at it, can be a great way of building confidence.

Try it yourself

Look out for sound baths in your area via local Facebook groups. Kundalini yoga teachers often offer sound healing as part of classes.

soundsebastien.com is a pop-up sound workshop in London creating calming,uplifting sound baths using the harmonics of gemstone, mineral and crystal alchemy.gatewaytotheheart.co.uk offers sound healing using shamanic icaros (songs),which can be incorporated into fullershamanic work.yogi2me.com offers gong baths and sound healing to create deep levels of mental calmness and harness positive vibrations.

SOOTHING SOUNDS

SOOTHING SOUNDS

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