Susannah Taylor: Soothe yourself with sound
Susannah enjoys one of Cristina’s restorative sound-bath sessions
Last month, Holly Willoughby launched her new website wyldemoon.co.uk, which has a distinctly spiritual angle. Among the things she is passionate about – the moon, kinesiology, crystals – are sound baths.
If you think a sound bath means listening to the radio while in the tub (a therapeutic experience, granted) then you’re in for a surprise. Also known as sound healing, it’s a meditative and restorative experience that has been practised for thousands of years. Normally taken as a class (although it can also be experienced individually), you sit or lie down while being ‘bathed’ in sound waves, which are said to have a profoundly therapeutic effect on mind and body.
I have been to a few sound baths in recent years and they never fail to blow my mind. The first time, I lay there thinking, ‘This sounds like the soundtrack to Star Wars’, but didn’t remember much else until I came round at the end. Central to a sound bath are either singing bowls or gongs, or both. A singing bowl is a large cylindrical vessel made of metal or pure quartz (the latter is deemed far superior but is very expensive) that comes in different sizes and shapes to produce varying notes. When a mallet is spun around the edge it creates a humming, whirring, wooing tone that fills your mind and body.
Then there are the gongs – huge metal orb instruments, which, when struck, create a deep, rich, exotic sound that feels like it’s reverberating through your entire body. With various crescendos and rhythms throughout a session, sometimes practitioners use rattles and drums to add to the sensation. I find the experience surreal – sometimes I see colours or feel my hands tingling without explanation.
So why do it? Cristina Chandika Ma, who runs sound-bath classes at Daylesford Spa in the Cotswolds, says that despite the ‘woo-woo’ connotations, there is science behind sound bathing. ‘Einstein explained that everything in life is vibration,’ she tells me, ‘which means that we are made up of energy vibration and frequency.’ Cristina says that when this energy is out of whack, we can experience illness, changes in mood or localised problems within the body.
‘The sound of the singing bowls is so pure that its vibration travels through the bone and the blood,’ says Cristina. ‘Each gong has a different frequency and, when combined, their sound helps to balance and stabilise our energy.’ Regular gong goers swear it benefits everything from sleep quality to pain relief, plus reduces anxiety and eases depression.
Ayurvedic expert Jasmine Hemsley practises sound-healing sessions, which became popular online in lockdown. She says, ‘By immersing yourself in these sounds, you have something for the mind to focus on away from work and daily stresses, so you can access your inner peace.’ Download Jasmine’s five-, ten-and 20-minute sessions online at jasminehemsley.com/sound-baths, from £2.99.
The day after a sound-healing session I always feel clearer, brighter and free from stress. There may be few studies into the effects of sound baths but I believe that there’s more to life than the things you can see – like music. At the very least, it’s a distraction from your worries for an hour.
Turn on, tune in, bliss out
Walk With Me in Sound is a must-listen for anyone wishing to reduce the amount of stress they feel. This hour-long meditative audio experience features the teachings of renowned spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Combining monastic chants, mindfulness bells, nature sounds and narration from Benedict Cumberbatch, it’s a rare journey into the heart of the world of Buddhism. Available on Google Play and Apple Books at £9 (prices may vary with retailers) or on Audible.
The next step in Trainers
Veja, a brand known for its innovative and eco-friendly credentials, has created the ultimate walking trainer, the Dekkan, by incorporating a tough Vibram sole (often found on technical terrain-walking shoes and boots). I can vouch that they are comfy, hard-wearing and great for dog walks when a welly isn’t required. £130, from vejastore.com.