I tried: Taking a sound bath
It’s 2:15 pm on a Tuesday afternoon during a global pandemic and I’m sprawled out on my yoga mat in the middle of my living room, burning sage and drinking flower essence in an attempt to clear out negative energy and achieve inner balance in my life. This is much easier said than done.
I’ve been working from home since the shutdown orders went into effect in mid-March. And since then, I’ve been resistant in shifting my real life to a virtual one. To me, participating in life virtually (whether it’s doctor’s appointments, happy hours, meetings, therapy sessions or dates) seemed like a sad admission of defeat. Believe it or not, it’s month five of the pandemic and I’m still having a hard time accepting it.
But lately, my staunch anti-virtual attitude has weakened a bit. Maybe because it’s month five of the pandemic and I need to accept it. This is the “new normal” (for now, I plead) and I better get on board.
So when the invitation to participate in an hour-long virtual sound bath with holistic wellness center Saffron & Sage came about, I jumped at the chance. The idea of interacting with new people and getting out of my comfort zone appealed to me, and I guess I’m somewhat starved for human interaction.
A sound bath is meditation practice that purports to even out frequencies and clear your mind of bad energy through vibrations and sounds. The idea is to focus your mind on the shifting vibrations in order to take you out of your normal headspace and into a deeper meditation. The sound bath instructor uses sound bowls, sometimes called singing bowls, and a mallet or gong to produce the vibrations. While a sound bath can be done anywhere (I once went to a private sound bath birthday party), they’re most often performed at yoga or wellness studios.
I’ve done a few sound baths IRL and while they might seem a little kooky to some, I have genuinely enjoyed them and felt the benefits. My hyperactive brain means I struggle with meditation, so it’s something I’m always working on. Anything that can get me to zone out, even for a short time, has my interest.
Plus, the general pandemic-induced anxieties, in addition to the daily news cycle, coupled with some very poorly timed personal issues, means I’m anxious and stressed out to the max and could use some relief. Trust me, after scrolling through the Facebook comments on anything Covid-19 related or watching the news, I could use a sound bath, a glass of wine, a joint and whatever else that can make me forget what I just saw.
Saffron & Sage’s virtual sound bath promised to improve focus, reduce stress and anxiety, boost my mood and enhance self connection, to name a few of the benefits. In advance of the class, the studio sent over a goody bag of sorts, with a vial of flower essence called Awaken and a bundle of California white sage. I had these items ready for my class, in addition to my yoga mat and my AirPods. The studio encouraged headphones or ear buds of some sort, so the vibrations could be better felt.
This class was led by Jessie Svec, a meditation, yoga and breathwork practitioner at Saffron & Sage. She began by going over the history and the benefits of sound baths. We were encouraged to burn sage and “smudge” our spaces. To smudge with sage means to burn sage and let the smoke linger in places that need to be cleansed. This can be a room, section of the house or even an object. Sage is used to clear out negative energy and it also just smells nice. We were also encouraged to add a few drops of the flower essence to our water or just under our tongues. The flower essence was purported to “bring stillness to the mind to become more present, focused and aware.”
Jessie began by having the participants (myself, plus four others) lie on our backs and put one hand on our heart and the other on our belly. We were encouraged to breathe deeply and feel our stomachs rise and fall. Every step of the way, we’re reminded to be aware of our breathing and our feelings and to pay attention to where we feel the vibrations.
The truth is, a virtual sound bath is not the same as a sound bath in real life. In real life, you feel like you are being bathed in sound (hence the name). Your body hums and vibrates in unison with the bowls and at times, you truly feel like you are out of your body.
Personally, I feel like this is only possible in real life. Virtually, the effect is not quite the same.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits to virtual sound baths. I found myself easily able to tune out the outside world (which is difficult, since my apartment sits directly on a very busy street in North Park) and the vibrations were slightly less intense, which I appreciated. I’m prone to headaches and sometimes, in real life, the vibrations can aggravate them. This time, I was happy, relaxed and headache-free.
After the class, I felt less anxious, relaxed and my apartment smelled great from all the burning sage. Any time you get the chance to take an hour out of your day and relax, focus on your breathe and escape the turbulence of the world today, you should take the opportunity. And while I miss the real-life experience of a sound bath, I know that for the time being, virtual is the most responsible way to go.
For more information or to book your own sound bath ($175 for 60 minutes) with Saffron & Sage, visit saffronsageliving.com.
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