For my birthday my family gifted me an introductory two weeks at a local wellness center. Unlimited classes were included so I made the rounds: guided meditation, sound baths, guided breathing, even an astrology class! You name it, I tried it! And it was terrific.
Before each class I let the teachers know about my hearing loss and they were always welcoming and willing to assist as asked. Even so, some experiences were easier to enjoy than others. My favorite was the sound bath.
What is a Sound Bath?
A sound bath is a deeply-immersive, full-body listening experience that can have therapeutic and restorative effects. The class usually begins with some guided breathing, but most of the experience is passive. You lie down in a comfortable position on a yoga mat or meditation cushion with your head on a small pillow. An eye mask is available so you can cover your eyes to avoid distractions. The practitioner uses different instruments like tuning forks, gongs, chimes, and crystal or Tibetan singing bowls to generate overlapping sounds and vibrations.
Many of you are probably thinking, “If I cover my eyes, how will I hear?” and yes, most of us use our eyes to speechread, but a sound bath is different. There is very little talking, and the speech that is present is not particularly important to the experience. It is all about the vibrations.
As I relaxed in the dark room, I felt the sound envelope me. Every instrument has its own set of frequencies—some high and others low. As each tone receded another took its place until there was a sea of overlapping vibrations from all areas of the sound spectrum. I felt the sound vibrating in my body. It was incredibly relaxing and soothing, but also energizing. I was hooked.
Tips for an Enjoyable Sound Bath Experience
The first sound bath can be a bit nerve wracking and with your eyes covered, you may feel vulnerable because you have given up your speechreading superpower. Here are some tips to help make your sound bath experience a success.
1. Arrive early
One of my favorite Hearing Hacks is to arrive early for everything! And a sound bath is no exception. Arriving early will give you time to speak with the teacher about your communication needs and to find the best seat in the room. Pick a spot right in front of the teacher to give you the best chance at hearing some of the spoken cues, but remember, the spoken word is not primary to the experience.
2. Use tech tools if you have them
If you have a remote microphone, ask the teacher to wear it. Captioning apps are less well suited to this experience.
3. Make the experience your own.
While most people enjoy reclining and closing their eyes for a sound bath experience, you can do it your own way. Keep your eyes open. Sit up instead. Simply alert the teacher ahead of time so they are not surprised. Nobody else is focused on you so feel free to do whatever it takes to make yourself feel confident and comfortable.
4. Ask for a tap on the shoulder
If you are worried that you won’t notice when the class ends, consider asking the teacher to give you a gentle tap when it is time to sit up so you don’t need to worry about missing an important verbal cue.
5. Make peace with imperfection
If the teacher is a talker, you will likely miss a lot of the spoken word, but who cares? Accept it and enjoy the portions that are accessible to you. The goal is relaxation.
Sound baths are not for everyone, but if you are looking for a new and interesting way to experience sound, consider giving one a try. I plan to add sound baths to my self-care routine whenever I can.
Readers, would you try a sound bath meditation?