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The Girlfriend’s Guide To Sound Baths

Just don't doze off.

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Woman at Wellness massage with singing bowls
kzenon/Getty Images/iStockphoto
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Back in the day — say, a year ago — a warm bubble bath was the ideal way to unwind after a long day. Now you can find your zen via a sound bath, an immersion in sound frequency intended to cleanse your soul and leave you feeling mentally and physically rested. No water or tub necessary.

Why am I just hearing about this? Well, the practice is the opposite of new: Tibetans have been using ancient instruments, considered sonic frequency technologies, for more than 2,000 years. But thanks to the booming health and wellness overall industry, Westerners (that’s us) have renewed interest in it. Now Sound Bath courses are being offered all over the country at around $25 a pop. A class can last up to three hours.

How does the bath work? Just to reiterate: It’s only a bath in the metaphorical sense. If anything, the experience is more akin to a group yoga session. During a Sound Bath immersion class, you lie down on a comfy padded mat or beanbag and put on an eye mask (though most rooms are dimly lit). After a few minutes of breath work (led by an instructor), you’ll hear different kinds of sounds and frequencies in succession.

What am I listening to? Not Beyoncé. You’re not even going to hear rhythm or beats. The good vibrations are created by using an array of instruments with different frequencies that can include pulse drumming, Biosonic tuning forks, gongs, a shruti box, a Himalayan singing bowl, mbira, various percussion, chimes and overtone singing. The therapeutic audio should take you to a deeper emotional and mental place, enabling you to arrive in a calm state. It’s sort of like how you feel after a massage at the spa.

How does this benefit me? Researchers have found that sound waves affect the human nervous system and decrease blood pressure more than traditional meditation. Indeed, the power of sound can bring all your body parts into harmony: Ideally, you’ll combat your stress and anxiety, and induce relaxation by turning off all the chatter in your brain. Some bathers report a release of emotions, feeling overjoyed one minute and sad or uneasy the next. Crying is possible, too. The goal is to follow your intuition and let your breath guide you through whatever is happening. No judgments. Just don’t doze off — you’re supposed to stay present!

But I Can’t Meditate! Even better. The experience is a great first step if you want to gain the benefits from meditation but haven’t yet learned how to get there on your own. And unlike yoga, you don’t have to twist your body in a pretzel to reap the benefits. You just need to lie still and relax. Plus, think about it: You already have a long-term relationship with music, so you’re not trying to jump into the deep end. Sound good?