Wellness - in all of its forms - has very much taken over the zeitgeist in the past decade, and with it, modalities that were once tucked away for those in the know are becoming popularised. Sound healing is one of these modalities, and most commonly, the sound shower. Celebrities have talked about them in Q&A videos, private parties have been arranged around them, and more and more, the sound bath, or sound shower, is leaving many of us wondering what we're missing out on. Having grown up in Byron Bay, sound baths were something I have grown up around, and with them an OG sound bath master and musician, Avishai Barnatan, who has been using music and sound to facilitate healing for the better portion of three decades. Below, we caught up with Barnatan to chat about sound baths and sound healing, to gain better insight into the practice.
Firstly, what is a sound bath?
A sound bath is a session where participants gather and are invited to lie down, and then depending on the facilitator, it combines different sounding instruments - the most popular are gongs, Tibetan bowls or crystal bowls, I use wind instruments, different flutes, and my voice - with the idea or the intention to create a field of vibration with the instruments which has a very profound impact on the brain, on the nervous system, on our emotions, and on our physiology.
Essentially, the idea is that during a sound bath, we help to restore or to induce relaxation. Because the way human beings are wired, in our state of being awake, we have all kinds of hormones that keep us active, awake, alert, and then we have the parasympathetic nervous system, and its role is to shut down those waking systems and help us rest and restore. To lead a healthy life, we need to have rest and sleep, and what happens a lot in our modern lives is because we are quite strongly subjected to electricity, WiFi, internet, information, there's a lot of scientific research showing that, it's very hard for people to get healthy amounts of sleep and rest these days, and we build stress in the body.
So you can say that sound bath is a modality that is very effective in helping reduce stress in all its forms.
How is a sound bath performed?
Each practitioner uses different instruments and uses them in different ways. Some people will use also recorded sounds. Some practitioners will invite people to be sitting up, rather than lying down. Some people invite their participants to move, some people talk through a sound bath, like a guided meditation, so everybody does it in a different way.
What's your way?
My way normally is, that I do a short introduction, so I give people a little bit of a background and talk about what sound is, how it works, why it works. And then I’ll invite people to lie down and guide them through very simple relaxation, just connecting them to, to their breath, encouraging them just to embrace the sounds that are going to be shared. And then once I start the sounds, I don't talk. I also move around space, so I give individual attention to each participant as well as the group.
Are sound baths mostly group sessions?
Mostly, yes. People will come to the sessions, they don't know each other, they just come for the individual experience. You’re in a room with other people, but essentially you are going through the experience by yourself. Because the sound travels in the space and every person gets what they need from it. Everybody experiences sound in a different way. So they gain what they want from it. For some people it's more visual, and for other people it’s more in the body. They feel the vibrations, sometimes old injuries and different pains. It can be a quite profound for people, some people come to me after a session completely surprised by what happened to them.
Why do people generally come? Are they often looking to heal certain things?
Like I said, everyone has an individual experience and they don’t often expect what it might bring up. Somebody that once came said that for years they was struggling with pain and had seen different doctors and had MRI’s and no one got to the bottom of it. They came in for one session all their pain was gone. People with anxiety have also found it really restorative, and so on. I think that the minimum, is that people walk out just feeling relaxed. It's not like everybody has a huge experience. For the most part, it's very meditative and soothing and relaxing.
Is there anything that people need to do in preparation?
Not really. It's super simple and non-confrontational. For some people is still quite foreign and new and can be can feel a little bit uncomfortable, but the way I try and approach and share it is like, dropping all the woo-woo stuff. It's all based on science. It's not a hippie modality from Byron Bay. It's really grounded in science.
How does it sound?
Essentially, it's just the sound of the instruments. Most of the instruments used - that I use - are very resonant. It's a combination of different sounds, but they are organised into a journey. As the journey progresses, more sounds come together, and there's different layering and sequences.
If you'd like to sample the experience of a sound bath, you can purchase Barnatan's Soundshower Album, here.