"I tried sound healing for anxiety - here's my honest review of going under the gong"

·8-min read
a woman holding a tibetan singing bowl in sound therapy
"I tried a sound bath for my anxiety"Stevica Mrdja - Getty Images

I’ve always been intrigued by how our chaotic world impacts on our wellbeing. With deadlines on the horizon, a relentless to-do list and working in London, a city that never sleeps, it’s not surprising I find it hard to switch off sometimes. With so much going on, anxious thoughts and high levels of stress sometimes seem quite impossible to control – so, naturally when I heard about sound baths, a form of 'sound healing' I was curious about giving one a try.

I headed to London's 180 Health Club for a private 60 minute sound bath experience with the co-founders of Kinda Studios, Katherine Templar Lewis and Robyn Landau; the pair focus on creative neuroscience and science-based experiences that target how sound has an effect the brain, the body, and the mechanisms of vibrations.

Here's my honest review of trying a sound bath for anxiety and stress...

What is a sound bath?

We already know that sound can boost our mood, help us relax and bring us into a positive state; think of birds chirping or rain on a roof – just think about your favourite song and how it can immediately be a mood-booster – and sound has been a healing tool for centuries, with chanting, singing, drumming and music being used to tap into emotions. Rising in popularity since lockdown, sound healing (notably in the form of sounds baths) is another iteration of this, and is steadily becoming more mainstream and accessible.

So, what is a sound bath? Well, essentially it's a meditation practice that uses gongs, Tibetan singing bowls and crystal bowls to create a variety of unique sounds and vibrations. But it’s not a music lessons (or a bath, FYI).

The sound waves created during the sessions are supposed to rebalance the racing mind and help relax and rejuvenate the body, pulling you into a deep meditative state of being. As long as you focus on the sounds and vibrations surrounding the room, it's said to be a pretty good negative thought blocker. It allows us to focus inwardly whilst remaining aware of what's happening around us.

adult woman holding carribean calcite above singing crystal bowls
Monika Batic - Getty Images

What happens in a sound healing session?

In most sound bath sessions, you’ll find yourself in a comfortable lying down position on a yoga mat tucked up under a blanket, while a practitioner guides you through breathing work. You’ll then “bathe” in the various sounds that vibrate around the room and *spoiler alert* your body. It’s a time and space to allow yourself to focus on the unique frequencies, allowing the week's stress, anxiety and tension melt away.

Ever heard of the five different brain waves? No? Me neither – until my sound bath experience, but in a nutshell, the theory goes that during a sound bath the specific rhythms and frequencies can shift your brainwaves from the ‘beta’ state (normal consciousness) to the ‘theta’ state (deeply relaxed) and even the ‘delta’ state (dreamless sleep). There also ‘gamma’ (insight and expanded consciousness) and ‘alpha’ (rest and relaxation) frequencies too.

What do you wear to a sound bath?

Despite the name, a sound bath is water-free so you’ll want to put your swimsuit away. You’ll most likely be lying down, so the best option is to wear loose clothing or soft yoga leggings, for example. You might also want to bring along a jumper and socks too, as you will want to stay fairly warm while lying in a sleep-like slumber.

What are the health benefits of sound healing?

Sound baths are said to reduce anxiety, stress and even heal physical pain. But the main thing I really hoped to achieve from my session was to find an ‘inner connection’ that so many of us neglect, or care to think about. When I spoke to Katherine and Robyn about this, it was clear how passionate they were about finding this connection with yourself and the world around you – and they both agreed that sound can be a powerful tool to getting there.

Improved sleep

Soothing sounds are said to help us fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, and since sound therapy reduces stress, it can also (in theory) help you wake up feeling refreshed – something we all strive for.

Reduced stress and anxiety

One of the main benefits that sound bath fans rave about is that it can put you into a relaxing state, where your body releases endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and norepinephrine. These feel-good chemicals make us happy and help move us out of the fight or flight stress response. Anxiety puts us in a high arousal state, whereas sound healing is said to counteract that. The special sounds are said to also reduce blood pressure and heart rate, promoting a deep state of relaxation.

Reduced physical pain

Some say sound vibrations can have a significant impact on our physical health too. How? Anything that helps you enter a more relaxed state can potentially help to reduce inflammation in the body and boost your body’s healing response.

My honest review of a sound bath...

As I entered the 180 Health Club studio, a relaxing glow of pink and calming music washed over me. I was invited to sit on a yoga mat in the middle of the candlelit room, where Katherine and Robyn explained the science-y part of how sound waves and frequencies can impact every cell in our body – it was quite the school day.

As my eyes scanned the moving illusions that lit up the walls surrounding me, I did feel an instant calmness and fluidity that was preparing me for what was to come, along with the pillows and blankets that gave it a cosy feel. Although I still felt sceptical at this point, I promised myself to keep an open mind but it was only when I put my blindfold on, covered myself in a blanket and lay still that I felt how rigid and tense my body was. I'd gone from walking through the noise of central London to a complete stillness. It was a shock to the system.

As I was guided through a meditation practice using breath work and visualisation, the melodic sounds (created in collaboration with Cherub Sanson and Kate Fleur Young) began to start up, echoing around the room. Of course I'd heard chimes and gongs before, but there was something about hearing them together within this setting that made them feel intense – kinda magical even.

During the first half of the session, I found it difficult to really let go and receive at moments. It was almost like I was trying really hard to feel something *big* straight away, to which I say... if you're planning a sound bath yourself, leave that pressure at the door.

Feeling the highs and lows of the sounds, from whispers and hums to deeper chimes, I began to feel different sensations up and down my body. I felt an intense vibration in my chest and back when the gongs were hit which really took me by surprise – a feeling as if the music was travelling straight through me. At one point, an instrument was being played close to my body, which, oddly, I felt in my hands and feet of all places. I was fascinated by my body’s reactions throughout and began to surrender more to the process.

Eventually I no longer felt stiff. I wasn’t thinking about the work that awaited me tomorrow or the bill that was due next week and every few minutes I would eb and flow into a calm state, feeling the odd tingle down my spine when the chimes in particular were used.

I’ve heard about people who have been brought to tears from sound bath experiences, but personally, I didn't experience that or even come close. I did, however, drift off into a deep state of calmness which felt incredible – something I've never been able to achieve alone at home. At one point, I'm sure I fell asleep – or, as the experts would call it, into the ‘delta’ state.

I didn’t sign up for a sound bath expecting it to change my life. Instead I came away viewing sound very differently and how we connect with it. I believe there’s a huge potential for me to experience something more next time, but the sensations I felt during my first session felt incredibly powerful and felt like a positive step in my self care journey. If you feel anxious, don’t ignore it. Instead, take steps to prioritise your peace of mind and if you're open to it, maybe play around with sound in the process.

Katherine Templar Lewis and Robyn Landau are co founders of Kinda – a creative neuroscience studio, offering science-based experiences that foster connection. You can sign up to their newsletter at Kinda Studios to hear about future sessions, or enquire about a personalised session or events.

ITV-backed cult brand woo marketplace, which offers feel-good products and services, including live therapeutic experiences, such as sound healing, hypnosis and private breathwork, worked in collaboration with Kinda to create Higher Frequencies. It's a sound healing session like no other, available free of charge on woo’s website.

For information, support and advice about mental health and where to get support, visit Mind’s website at www.mind.org.uk or call Mind’s Infoline on 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 6.00pm).

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