My first sound bath experience went like this: I lay flat on my back for an hour, as I let the resonant sounds of gongs wash over me. To my surprise, I shed a tear that night, heavy with emotion. But in the ensuing days, this weight was lifted – I felt lighter, as if a live serenade had lifted the tension straight out of my body. As the years went on, each session was a completely different experience, but the result was the same: I felt unblocked from whatever was bothering me at the time, like I was better able to handle every task or worry thrown my way. Was this some kind of cosmic transmission?
A popular form of sound meditation, a “sound bath” uses Tibetan singing bowls, crystal singing bowls, gongs, chimes and bells to guide you through a meditative state. It has witnessed a rise in interest in Singapore today, thanks to its purported benefits in soothing stress and tension – common ailments of modern living, only exacerbated by the events of 2020.
As it turns out, turning to sound for healing is nothing new. Sound is a universal language, it transcends culture, time, space and language. “Since ancient times, sound was used as a tool to bring us from a place of imbalance to balance, internally. Physically and emotionally. In every culture,” says Christina Michele Rios, an Intuitive Guide and Sound Meditation Ceremonialist practising in Singapore.
Just picture everything from the Ancient Egyptian’s sound rituals in the pyramids, to Javanese gong customs. It is this very universality that makes it so powerful. “We resonate with sound... If you examine our cellular makeup under a microscope – every single particle of our physical body is vibrating at varying frequencies. Sound restores our vibration to a state of harmony.”
And there is research to back it up. A recent study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine found that hour-long sound meditations help to reduce tension, anger, anxiety, and increase spiritual well-being amongst adults.
But how does it actually work? “Sound Meditation works through entrainment – a process by which our brainwaves synchronise with the sound wave patterns emanating from the instrument being played. Simply put, it drops us into deeper, slower brainwave patterns – providing a vehicle for us to access our deeper brainwave states, promoting deep meditation and eliciting the body’s natural healing capacity,” says Christina.
Because we are so much exposed to negative entrainment in our day to day (sounds from the news, media, and traffic), Sound Meditation fosters positive entrainment instead. And it literally changes our brain’s physical structure as a result of practising it. “The practise rewires the brain, boosting mind and body health. It reduces stress, blood pressure and inflammation. And it improves attention, fosters empathy and emotional resilience, and promotes genes associated with DNA stability.”
And in the same way a piece of music can affect people differently, the various sounds incorporated in a sound bath may have a different impact on each individual.
With our digital and information overload, Sound Meditation may just be the antidote to our over-stimulated mind states. At a time when we are unable to travel, Sound Meditation, lets us travel inward. Says Christina: “It carves out time and space for our inner work. Once we release what feels heavy and misaligned, we are able to reveal what lies beneath – which is ultimately a deep sense of balance, self-love and self-acceptance.”
Here's how to practise elements of Sound Meditation in your home, according to Christina:
The easiest and natural form of sound meditation: Simply meditating in nature to the sounds of birds
Instructions: Put away your phone. Take off your socks and shoes. Sit cross-legged on the ground in easy pose. Draw the shoulders back ever so slightly, and allow them to fall away from the ears. Allow your palms to lie gently atop each knee, facing up towards the sky. Flutter your eyelids closed. Feel the root of your spine connect with the earth beneath you. Scan from your head to your toes, observing any tension present in the body. Be a neutral observer without labels or judgement. Tune into the sounds of nature around you, observe how they impact your inner state.
Being in nature, tuning into the sounds, connecting with the earth realigns us and creates equilibrium in seconds. It re-entrains our brainwaves to a slower, more harmonic and meditative frequency of 432 Hz – the frequency of nature.
Instructions: Sit cross legged or lie down. Breathe deeply and slowly. Soften your body from head to toe, allow it to melt into the surface beneath you. Feel your body connecting with the surface you are laying on. Inhale to the crown, exhale to the soles of the feet. Shift your awareness to the sounds. Begin to observe the sound as a vibratory sensation. Noticing where in the body you feel it. Become aware of how you interact with the soundscape in a vibratory way. Lean into it. Merge with the sound until you become one with it. Surrender to the sound, allowing it to take you on a journey within
Christina Michele Rios is an Intuitive Guide and Sound Meditation Ceremonialist. Her philosophy is rooted in ancient indigenous rituals and the science of how they work. She facilitates deep-dive workshops and Private Ceremonies. Find her at www.christinamrios.com or on Instagram at @christinamrios.
Wendy Lum is certified in Gong, Crystal Bowls Sound Healing and uses the harmonic Therapy Harp, a first in Singapore. She is currently offering private and regular sound bath sessions at Jyan Yoga at www.jyanyoga.com and on Instagram at @wenyogaheal