There is no denying that music alters moods. But what about the sound of gongs? A former New York oncologist began using sound therapies to help his cancer patients overcome pain and became a gong bath devotee.
Gongs emit one of the most sonorous sounds of any musical instrument. Their transformational and therapeutic sound is the basis of gong baths, where participants are “bathed” is the gongs’ sound waves, cleansing the subconscious mind to bring about healing. And no, there is no water involved.
Sound therapy has been known to improve symptoms associated with stress, migraines, depression and lack of concentration and focus. Gong baths are quickly gaining a following in Hong Kong. Following a day’s work in that bustling city, Hong Kongers are now turning to gong baths for achieving a state of relaxation.
Gong baths use the vibrations of sound and frequency emitted from gongs to help reduce anxiety, stress and release repressed emotions. The theory is that the sound emanating from the gong will infiltrate your outer consciousness and penetrate your core, disconnecting you from the superficial world and all the cacophony associated with it. Unlike therapy, which requires talking about your problems, a gong bath offers the opposite experience. It uses no words, and requires no effort on the participants. It is particularly helpful for those who find forming and articulating words difficult. Your body surrenders to sound, helping to clear any “blockage” and may help you find the words you’re looking for.
Participants rest on yoga mats with blankets and eye masks. Some gong bath studios will start with a few simple exercises as warm up for body and mind. Then the sound meditation begins with the vibrations of the gongs. Gong “healers” work in different ways. Some work with one instrument, some use several. The gongs are played softly at first, increasing in volume as the session goes on. The playing technique and rhythm are changed frequently
Different types of gongs are used. One type is the Tibetan Singing Bowls, which have been used for centuries in healing and meditation, and produce a sound similar to a bell when struck with a mallet. The bowls are “sung” when the mallet is consistently in contact with the edges of the bowl. Another type used is the Planet Gong. These range from 20”-38” in diameter, and are suspended from stands or frames and tuned to frequencies that conform to the natural harmony based on the rotation of Earth, moon and sun, according to the calculations of Hans Cousto, a renowned Swiss mathematician and musicologist. A third type, and the most familiar gong used in meditation and sound healing, is the symphonic gong. The symphonic gong is not tuned and has a slightly raised surface. When “gonged,” emits a rich and complex, harmonic overtone. Symphonic gongs range from 20”-80” in diameter! Also used are different types of mallets for creating different sound effects.
As the session progresses, the volume of the gongs increases and the pace quickens. The sound from the gongs promote mind-body connection, which result in an “internal dialog” that helps your nervous system release fears and / or emotional “impediments,” resulting in a relaxed state and self-healing.
A typical session runs between 45 minutes to an hour. And as if the prolonged sound of gongs silencing your mental chatter isn’t enough to get you to give it a try, most sessions are followed by refreshments of tea and chocolate or brownies. Why chocolate? Because chocolate is supposed to help in release of endorphins, inducing a relaxed and happy state of mind.
While there may be a paucity of scientific research on gong baths, anything that provide release from the constant distractions of a harried life and that also may improve mental clarity, better sleep and increased energy, why not?