Everything You Need To Know About Gong Baths
As someone who loves music and is of the strong belief that music therapy can reduce stress, improve moods, and increase creativity and self-expression, I was surprised to find out that sound therapy has very little to do with it.
Different from music therapy in that it doesn’t involve melodies or even many instruments, sound therapy (also known as sound healing) promotes overall well-being in a very similar way. The positive benefits of music on mental and physical health are backed by science: a 2017 study confirmed that music can reduce depressive symptoms and ease chronic disease symptoms.
Sound therapy is a form of holistic therapy that more and more people are discovering, and its most prominent form in popular culture is a Gong Bath.
What is a Gong Bath?
Sound therapy is essentially a form of meditation, which is known to count an abundance of benefits and go back thousands of years. Gongs have also appeared in historic records from as early as ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman times, so you can be sure it’s not just the latest untested wellness trend!
The name Gong Bath derives from the passivity of the experience, in which you let the sound wash over you like ocean waves or a spa “bath” treatment, although there is absolutely no water involved. It is a very easy way to relax into the sound, as there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it, all you need to do is let the sound massage your mind.
This healing technique uses vibrational instruments like a gong, crystal singing bowls, or Himalayan singing bowls to produce unique relaxing sounds and induce a meditation-like state to contrast the fight-or-flight mode we might live in day-to-day and our chronic stress.
What are the benefits of Gong Baths and Sound Healing?
Gong Baths can help ease common difficulties like stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue, as well as promote general and overall relaxation, and emotional release and breakthroughs. Its therapeutic benefits stem from the deeply immersive and trance-like nature of the experience itself
Participants report feeling strong emotions throughout, ranging from joy and rapture to sadness and bewilderment , and often tears of relief and abandonment.
According to its practitioners, sound therapy can reportedly help increase blood circulation and lower blood pressure, improve sleep patterns and mental focus, as well as ease the pain of arthritis, menstrual pain, post-operative pain, muscle pain and stiffness.
The science behind Sound Healing and Gong Baths
The science behind sound healing tells us that “all forms of matter – including our body’s cells – vibrate at different frequencies,” and when factors such as stress, depression and disease hit, they “cause cells and organs within our bodies to vibrate at non-optimal frequencies.” Sound therapy, like many other holistic practices, aims to restore balance in the body and specifically return vibracion to its natural frequency.
Gong baths enable people to “relax into alpha-dominant and theta-dominant brain wave states,” restorative phases the human brain taps into when you’re just drifting off to sleep or just after you wake up from a good night’s sleep. These waves measure between 8 and 12 Hz (alpha) and 4 and 8 Hz (theta) and they can be tested by an EEG test, also known as an electroencephalogram.
A 2014 study exploring the effects of repetitive drumming or instrumental meditation music found that participants experienced a decrease in their cortisol level, which regulates stress, confirming the therapeutic effects of shamanic practices.
Ready for your first Gong Bath? Here’s what to expect
Arriving at your Gong Bath appointment, you will be asked to lie down on a meditation or heated mat and find a comfortable position, then close your eyes. This will help you focus on the sounds all around you, as taking away one sense (sight, in this case) your other senses will be heightened. You will start focusing on the sound of the gong, which will start out soft and slowly, gently, increase tempo and perhaps volume.
The gong will be played at different speeds and rhythms to avoid monotony, and to continuously stimulate different brainwave states in the brain. You’ll be guided through a meditative musical practice and invited to soak up the vibrations stimulating your brain and body.
A session will last between 45 minutes and over two hours, and by the end of your time on the mat, you should feel so immersed and absorbed you’ll almost feel lost in a world of altered consciousness. The instructor or facilitator will then gently lead you out of the meditation and back into the real world.
Want to try a Gong Bath? Here’s how to find one near you:
You could easily try to find online events happening live on Zoom or Instagram, or even replays of communal sessions on YouTube, but if you’d like to feel the full benefits of a Gong Bath you might want to experiment with in-person sessions.
These generally happen at yoga studios, meditation centers and holistic centers, which you can search for in your area.
There are also many digital options available on apps such as Gong Bath, Water & Gong, and Third Ear. You could also try looking for sound healing playlists on platforms like Spotify or Apple Music ––it might not feel exactly like it would in a spa or group healing setting, but it’s a great place to start!