Gongs have been around for thousands of years, and with the resonant tones and cosmic sounds they produce, they have been used as sacred healing tools and instruments for celebration and communication in different cultures across the world. Today, gong baths are a form of sound meditation which are growing in popularity as a healing technique. The “bath” refers to participants being bathed in the sound and vibration of the gongs. There is no water involved (so no, you do not need to wear your swimsuit. Unless, of course, you want to).
In addition to various percussion instruments, chimes, and crystal bowls that you may hear at a sound bath, there are many different kinds of gongs. I mainly use planet gongs which, according to the mathematical calculations of Hans Cousto, are tuned to the frequency of different planets. Planet gongs, therefore, are often played in accordance with specific astrological events, for example, the full moon or mercury retrograde. Different gongs have associations with different chakras or energy centres and can be played to shift energetic or emotional blockages. As each planet gong vibrates at its’ own frequency, they can be powerful tools in manifestation work too. If this is a bit too “woo” for you, please keep reading!
But what about the SCIENCE?
Okay, I am not a neuroscientist, but if science is your thing, there is ever-growing research into the field of sound and frequency and the healing benefits. Take a look at some of the following articles:
Effects of Singing Bowl Sound Meditation on Mood, Tension, and Well-being: An Observational Study
Eastern Integrative Medicine and Ancient Sound Healing Treatments for Stress: Recent Research Advances
The Benefits of Sound Healing
Research into sound healing has found the following benefits:
• lowers the pulse and blood pressure
• deepens the breathing
• reduces the oxygen requirements/decreases production of carbon dioxide
• increase in alpha and theta wave activity in the brain
• increase in blood sugar level
• decrease in cholesterol level
• salivary cortisol and norepinephrine decreases
• sweat gland activity decreases
• increase in brain activity
• mental freshness
• inward-focused attention
• increased perceptual thresholds for external stimuli
• increased associative thought
• feeling of serenity (Hess, 2009)
For further information on the benefits of sound baths, check out my teacher, Leo Cosendai.
What happens during a gong or sound bath?
There is no water involved in a gong bath. The word "bath" refers to the listener bathing in the sound and vibration of the gongs; the experience is like a sound massage and supports physical, emotional and mental healing and spiritual connection. Gong baths can support us to transform encumbered reactions and habits and help us to remain centred. All that you have to do is lie comfortably on your yoga mat, (preferably on your back with your feet towards the gongs), snuggle under your blanket relax and enjoy the gong bath.
It is worth noting that each person is different and will have a different experience during a sound bath; you make experience visuals such as a dream-like state or seeing colours; you may experience temporary physical sensations as you undergo physical healing, for example tingling or becoming more acutely aware of areas where you are experiencing pain; you may experience different emotions, for example, feeling blissful or tearful as you undergo deep emotional healing. All of this can depend on what you yourself are bringing to the session, physically and emotionally and mentally, but also depends on the specific gong being played as each gong has different qualities. Listening to the sounds of the gongs is generally a relaxing and meditative experience. However, it is possible that you may experience a dislike for a certain gong at a certain time. Usually, this means you have healing to do in a certain area of your life, which this gong can help you with.
Whilst for the majority of people, a gong bath is a deeply healing, relaxing and restorative experience, there are some cases in which a gong bath may not be for you. For example, if you suffer from tinnitus or any sound-related epilepsy; are in your first trimester of pregnancy; are currently or have been receiving medication for any form of psychological disorder within the last six months; have a pacemaker or any metal plates in your body.
Whether you consider yourself a spiritual person, a scientist, or a bit of a hippy, I believe that gongs have something to offer everyone. In my personal experience of playing the gongs and participating in gong baths, I have found a deep sense of coming home, of being held in the arms of the universe, unconditionally loved and supported. Over the years, I have witnessed emotional shifts and physical healing in my participants, people finding spiritual nourishment and self-acceptance. Ultimately, there is no better way to understand the gongs than to experience them for yourself!
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Ellie is a Sound Therapist, Social Worker and Mindfulness Teacher based in Kent. She is currently studying for her PhD in Social Work, looking at the benefits of teaching mindfulness to adopters.
Ellie has facilitated sound baths across Kent for almost eight years, under the name of Phoenix Gongs. Ellie works mostly with Planet Gongs, that are tuned to the frequency of different planets and promote health and well-being. Ellie also uses singing bowls, crystal bowls, drums, chimes and various percussion instruments to create her soundscapes, which have been described as deeply meditative, relaxing and healing.
Personally, Ellie is interested in Buddhist teachings and philosophies which motivate her to create spaces for community and inter-connection and to practice loving kindness and compassion.