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Singing bowls are bowls used to promote relaxation. They produce sounds and vibrations when hit or circled with a mallet.

Those sounds and vibrations are supposed to help you relax. Some people say they can also help:

Sound therapy in general is an ancient practice. Singing bowls have been used in Tibet and neighboring areas for religious and spiritual ceremonies, as well as meditation.

Traditional singing bowls are made out of metal alloys, but some singing bowls can be made out of crystal.

There’s not much research on the effectiveness — or the dangers — of singing bowl therapy. But a small amount of evidence suggests that it can help you relax.

Because there’s so little research, it’s hard to say whether Tibetan singing bowls pose any risks; however, they may cause minor side effects in some people.

There’s not much research on the potential side effects or risks of using singing bowls. Yet most types of alternative therapy and sound therapies do pose some potential risks.

For example, there’s some thought that vibrations created by the bowls can cause movement of certain metal components within a person’s body, such as metal plates. But there is no conclusive evidence suggesting whether they do or not.

Other potential side effects include:

Placebo effect

If you’re using Tibetan singing bowls to simply try to relax, the placebo effect won’t be dangerous. In fact, it can even be helpful. If you expect to relax, then the placebo effect of the therapy could actually lead to relaxation.

But if you’re using singing bowls for potential benefits like lowering blood pressure, alleviating depression, or improving your respiratory rate, the placebo effect may make you feel the treatment is effective when it isn’t really making a difference.

Lack of effective treatment for health problems

This is similar to a placebo effect. If you’re using Tibetan singing bowls as a therapy for physical health problems or mental health issues beyond stress, it’s important to use them as a complementary therapy, rather than as your only therapy.

You shouldn’t delay other treatment or therapy in order to use Tibetan singing bowls as a treatment. If you have a diagnosed condition, talk with your doctor about any treatment you’d like to try, including signing bowls.

Headache

Like with most objects that create sound, Tibetan singing bowls can cause headaches if:

  • You’re too close to them.
  • You use them too often.
  • You’re prone to headaches.

There’s not much evidence that singing bowl therapy is particularly dangerous for certain groups of people.

However, there are some people who should avoid using singing bowls. Here are some general cautions:

  • People who are allergic to certain types of metal should avoid putting the bowls on their bodies, since singing bowls are usually made of metal.
  • Pregnant women should avoid singing bowls — even though the vibrations from the bowls are weak, they may have negative effects, especially if they’re placed on the body.
  • People with epilepsy should also avoid this form of therapy because in rare cases, the music and vibrations can both cause seizures.

It’s unclear how exactly singing bowls are supposed to work. However, there are theories as to why it might have positive health and well-being effects.

These theories include:

  • The sound from the singing bowls can actually change your brain waves to types of waves that make you feel relaxed.
  • The sound waves from the bowl act on the energy field of your body and cause you to relax.
  • It’s not the sound from the singing bowls but the vibrations that lead to its effects.

There’s also some evidence that music therapy more generally can reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When your levels of cortisol are lowered, you feel more relaxed.

Listening to music may also help boost your immune system by increasing production of certain immune cells.

During singing bowl therapy, you’ll be lying down on the floor, with the bowls in one of several configurations. They may be placed:

  • on different points on your body
  • around your body
  • around the room (if there are multiple people doing the therapy), with at least one bowl near your head

The practitioner will then use mallets to strike or circle the bowls in a particular sequence, creating sound and vibrations.

Singing bowls may be used with or without guided meditation.

There isn’t a lot of evidence that Tibetan singing bowls are dangerous. For most people, they likely won’t cause any negative effects.

There’s also not a lot of evidence on their effectiveness, especially to treat specific conditions.

However, there is some evidence that singing bowl therapy may be able to help you relax, especially if you use them with guided meditation.