Sound Baths Will Level Up Your Meditation Experience—Learn What to Expect

Woman sitting cross-legged meditating near incense smoke

Julia Volk/Stocksy

Our world is busy, so it makes sense that it's increasingly popular to intentionally seek out ways to relax. Activities like meditation and mindfulness may help you feel more calm and centered, but it's also possible to plateau. Whether you want something that can help you get even deeper into your meditations or you're interested in a relaxing activity involving other people where you can be fully passive, a sound bath can take your experience to the next level. If you've heard the buzz, you've probably wanted to find out more about sound baths—are they effective? What do you wear? And what exactly do they sound like? Ahead, learn everything you need to know before attending your first sound bath, complete with tips from a psychiatrist and a sound bath practitioner.

Meet the Expert

What Is a Sound Bath?

A sound bath is an in-person experience that usually takes place at a yoga or wellness studio. "A sound bath is basically a method of producing sounds all around a person, with the goal of helping them relax," explains board-certified psychiatrist Jacques Jospitre, Jr, MD. "Different frequencies of sound are known to be calming, and creating these sounds around a person can help them feel more serene." Sound bath practitioner Phyllicia Victoria Bonnano tells us that "a sound bath is a variation of meditation that includes the use of instruments or other sound-making objects to help create a calm, relaxing environment." She adds, "When I offer sound baths, I use a few different instruments, including crystal singing bowls, chimes, and drums."

While sound baths are trending up and may sound unfamiliar to some, the practice is far from recently discovered. "This kind of therapy has a long history," Jospitre tells us. "In Chinese medicine, tuning forks are used to create frequency changes on different acupuncture points to help create harmony of the qi (energy) in the body."

Benefits of Sound Baths

The point of a sound bath is to use various sounds that will bring you to a calmer, more relaxed state of being. "We all know that sounds can significantly impact our emotional state," Jospitre tells us. "Our favorite music can make us happy, while other tunes can give us 'the blues.' Similarly, sounds in our environment can also make us feel a certain way. Sometimes we don't even realize it." Sound baths can have a wide range of mental and physical benefits, with a few of the most likely being as follows:

  • Inducing a calm state of mind
  • Physical and mental relaxation
  • Stress relief

If other forms of meditation haven't been as effective as you'd like, you may want to give a sound bath a try. "Sound baths are super relaxing and are a great tool to use to relieve us from the stress of our everyday lives," Bonanno explains. "A lot of people have trouble staying still to meditate, but when there is sound [involved], it allows it to be a bit easier to drift into that peaceful state of being."

Science is still studying the effects of sound on our mental and physical health, but so far, results are promising. "New research indicates that various frequencies of sound can affect the whole body, including the nervous system, the musculoskeletal system, and even the blood vessels," Jospitre says. "Studies are looking at the effects on bone formation, mood, and musculoskeletal health." Bonanno adds, "Sound is universal, and we all feel it."

How to Prepare for a Sound Bath

Preparing for a sound bath is easy—you usually don't need to do much. Still, our experts have a few tips to ensure the smoothest (and most relaxing) experience possible.

  • Book your session: If you want to attend a sound bath that requires reserving a spot, be sure to do that ahead of time. This way, you won't show up to a session to find that it's full or can't accommodate you that day.
  • Dress comfortably: When you're getting ready to go, know that comfort is key, and you may want to consider layers to adjust to changing temperatures. "Come as you are—actually, the comfier [you're] dressed, the better," Bonanno instructs. "Sometimes when we meditate, the body heat may rise or fall, so it is a good idea to bring a light blanket to cover yourself."
  • Bring what you need to stay comfortable: You may want to bring a pillow to rest your head on. If your studio doesn't provide mats, you'll also want to bring a yoga mat or thick blanket.

What to Expect During a Sound Bath

Above all else, expect to hear new and different sounds than you've heard before when you attend a sound bath session. Not everyone is familiar with the tools used, such as crystal singing bowls, so know that some of it may surprise you (though it's also meant to relax you). "There is no wrong or right way to experience it," Bonanno tells us. "You can expect to be offered to find a quiet space and a comfortable position, either seated or lying down. I love starting a sound bath with a guided meditation to set the intention and guide the thoughts a bit. With the use of visualizations and the soft sounds of the instruments and my voice, one is guided into a relaxed state of being."

Sound baths have a different effect on everyone, so you may fall asleep or feel unexpected emotions. "During this time, a lot of emotions may come up from trauma, pain, happiness—just all of it, and whatever is needed to be released is let go as the vibrations of the sound flow through the body," Bonanno tells us. She says that everyone is welcome at a sound bath, and no physical participation is required—it's a passive activity.

Potential Side Effects

Because sound baths are a pretty innocuous activity, there aren't any big risks involved. The worst thing that could possibly happen is that you don't enjoy the sounds you hear. "Sound baths come in many different forms, and every practitioner has their own style and touch that they offer," Bonanno says. "Because of this, sometimes one may find specific sounds do not resonate with them." She says this can occur either because the sound(s) have an effect on a space in your body that's storing unresolved emotions, or it simply may not be a fit. If this happens to you, you can attend a different sound bath if you're still interested in the concept, or try an alternative form of meditation to see if it works better.

The Cost 

Sound baths vary by studio and practitioner, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $30-50 for one session, on average. Private sound baths conducted just for you will be priced higher, at a rate more in line with a private healing or fitness session.

The Final Takeaway

For anyone seeking a new way to relax, attending a sound bath may be worth a try. They're inexpensive, require no prep work, and are an easy, passive activity. "We still have a lot to learn about the effects of sound baths and sound therapy from a scientific perspective," Jospitre says. "Every person is different and responds to different treatments. The best thing to do is to see how it feels—if you begin to feel calmer, then that's a good sign that sound baths might be right for you." Bonanno says you can expect a sound bath to leave you "refreshed, relaxed, and at peace in the mind and body."

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