When it comes to self-care routines, baths often top the list. Submerging in a warm, steamy tub is a popular way to unwind after a long day.
Gong baths hold similar potential — no water needed. Using sound, they offer stress-relieving benefits akin to those of a regular bath.
Read on to learn more about what gong baths are, their benefits, and how to find one.
Gong baths are a type of inactive meditation, where you “bathe” in the healing vibrations of sound.
Using sound as a form of healing dates back to ancient cultures. Records of using gongs have surfaced from as early as ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman times.
“Gongs have been used as shamanic healing tools, celebratory instruments, and a method of communication for thousands of years. Evidence suggests that gong making was known as early as 4,000 B.C. and ancient alchemy sources put the gong as far back as 16,000 B.C.,” says sound healing practitioner Britta Hochkeppel.
A gong bath, or gong meditation, is a form of sound healing designed to offer:
- emotional release
- pain relief
Gong bath sessions take place either individually or in a group and generally last between 45 minutes and 2 hours.
During a gong bath, participants typically lie down and get comfortable with blankets and pillows. A facilitator then hits the gong, a disc-shaped percussion instrument, using a mallet.
Participants are invited to passively soak up the benefits of the sound.
“It’s referred to as a ‘bath’ due to participants being immersed in the vibrations of these instruments during a session,” says Hochkeppel.
Sessions can take place in person with live music, over video, or by listening to recordings of gong sound.
“In this state, your brain has time to download what’s been happening in your day. [It] allows you to process thoughts and emotions,” says sound therapist Farzana Ali. “The result is that you’ll feel calmer, happier, and less anxious after a session.”
Sound baths may help with:
In a 2015 study specifically conducted on gong baths, participants reported that they found the sound vibrations healing or relaxing.
According to Ali, gongs can also be used to stimulate an altered state of consciousness, or ASC. This form of deep relaxation can feel similar to a trance-like state.
“Some find being in ASC can boost creativity, feelings of wellness, or even just processing of trauma,” Ali says.
According to Hochkeppel, gong baths may also be useful in resolving emotional and physical dissonance.
“Gong baths offer a psycho-acoustic gateway to heightened states of awareness and consciousness. It’s an amazing healing tool because the frequencies surpass the intellectual part of the brain and travel to the core of the cellular system where the healing qualities are fully absorbed,” says Hochkeppel.
The phrases “gong bath” and “sound bath” can be used interchangeably. The key difference between these two types of sound healing experience is the type of sound and the instrument.
“Both a gong bath and a sound bath use sound to induce a state of calm and deep relaxation, but a sound bath may use crystal singing bowls, Himalayan singing bowls, and other instruments,” says Ali.
By contrast, only gongs are used during gong baths.
Taking part in gong baths is generally considered safe for most people, regardless of age or fitness level.
However, they may not be recommended during pregnancy or for individuals diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures, or some mental health conditions. This experience may cause discomfort in people with hearing aids or hearing impairment.
Check in with your health practitioner to make sure gong baths are a safe option for you.
People who are pregnant, experience epilepsy or seizures, or have a diagnosed mental health condition should check with their primary care provider before taking part in gong baths. Gong baths may cause discomfort in people with hearing aids or hearing impairment.
When held in person, gong baths usually take place at:
- yoga studios
- meditation centers
- health spas
There are also live events on video platforms like Zoom. You can often find practitioners offering these types of services on Instagram as well.
If you want to practice at home, there are a number of apps offering gong baths.
It’s simple to create a soothing, relaxing gong bath at home.
Set the mood
First, set up a calming space and relaxing atmosphere. Choose a room where you won’t be disturbed and close the windows and doors.
Create a dark or low-lit environment by shutting curtains, turning down the lights, or lighting candles. Consider burning some relaxing incense or turning on an essential oil diffuser.
You might like to lie on a yoga mat on the floor or on your bed or sofa. Try placing a cushion under your head for comfort or under your knees for lower back support.
An eye pillow can create added darkness and help increase your sense of relaxation. If you don’t have one, consider placing a scarf over your eyes.
Choose comfortable clothing like leggings, loungewear, or even pajamas. Make sure you’re warm and cozy by wearing socks or a soft sweatshirt.
Select the recording or live gong session you wish to tune into and set up your headphones or speakers so you can listen to the sound.
Calm the mind
Once you have your setup, lie down under a blanket and close your eyes. Starting with a breathing exercise may calm your mind, ground your body, and help you receive optimum benefits.
Afterward, let go of the controlled breath and simply relax into the sound.
Take your time
When the sound comes to an end, start to move your hands and feet very slowly. Take time to stretch in whatever way feels good to you.
When you feel ready to do so, roll onto your right side for a few moments and rest in a fetal position before sitting up.
Drink a glass of water and approach the next part of your day with slowness and ease. If you’re completing a sound bath before bed, you can head off to sleep straight away.
Whether you’re at home or at an event, alone or part of a group, a gong bath is an excellent way to relax, recharge, and reset.
You can incorporate gong baths into your weekly or monthly self-care routine.
Elizabeth Bennett is a British journalist covering beauty, health, and wellness. Her work has appeared in ELLE, Refinery 29, Marie Claire, and Women’s Health. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn.