Sound healing sits somewhere on the logic cusp of New Age-y and actual science. Theoretically, the claim that sound waves could impact the ebbs and flows of energy within the body the same way they disrupt the surface tension of substances sort of makes sense. (Scientists don’ttotallyagree.) Plus, sound therapy has been used as a method of healing and meditation since ancient times. Surely there must be something to it?
For me, anxiety from obsessive Twitter checking has manifested itself in the form of an eye twitch aggressive enough to pop contact lenses out on the daily. While obviously a privileged dilemma, the distractions associated with elevated stress were enough to drive me to attempts at holistic healing, ordering an illuminated oil diffuser and sucking in steamy streams of ylang-ylang and lavender for hours each night. Meditative practices had been long touted by colleagues and friends, who claim it’s helped them through traffic jams and likewise emotionally straining dilemmas, but it wasn’t quite for me.
Sound therapy, however, literally sounded delightful.
The bowls hold the answer
Enter: Himalayan Singing Bowl Therapy,a multi-sensory experience now offered at the Spa at Mandarin Oriental Boston. A therapist places three to five bowls across and around the length of your body, striking them gently with a leather-wrapped ringing stick or mallet. The vibrations and encompassing sounds and echoes are said to release blockages within the body.They claim it can provide relief to chronic issues, ranging from inflammation and digestive disorders, to plain old anxiety and stress.
However skeptical, the idea of an hour at the spa has a Pavlovian calming effect on its own. My therapist, Ivna, recognized my hesitation, noting that she asks reason-obsessive clients to justfeelthe experience before they attempt to figure out how it works.Ivna demonstrates what happens when her mallet raps a bowl filled with water; vibrations move across the surface, giving the appearance of something gelatinous yet alive.Your body is about 70-percent water, she reasons, so the vibrations and sounds caused by the bowls resonate on a cellular level, releasing blockages and restoring balance. The bowls themselves are from Nepal, of varying sizes and made from seven traditional metals, including copper, brass, nickel, silver, mercury, zinc and gold — a symbolic representation of the seven chakras of the body.
The loudest massage you've ever had
The bowls are placed around and on the body, from head to toe, and in a dimly lit room Ivna becomes the front of the drumline, striking each in a soporific pattern, echoing from ear to ear. The effect is trance inducing and impossible to ignore. A wandering mind is quickly silenced by metallic hums, and you grow less aware of the gentle vibrations rippling through the surface of your body as Ivna glides the bowl from side to side. The experience lasts approximately 50 minutes (with the option to extend to 80) and Ivna, who also specializes in reiki, performed a reading before the end of my session.
She informed me of a blockage in my sacral chakra (read: GI tract), which caused her to concentrate some of her bowl work across my hips. This could be an issue with making gut decisions... or possibly undetected lactose intolerance. I told her it was likely both, feeling refreshed and surprisingly energized considering I had entered stage two sleep on her table moments before.
While the eye twitch is likely blue light-induced, and will only deplete once I forgo sleeping with Twitter under my pillow — so, never — the experience of forced meditation for a person who cannot independently meditate was addictively therapeutic. Knowing the mind and body can transcend into a state of mindlessness and weightless contentment with less effort than a runner's high is bliss in itself.
I've already begun plotting how I can work a monthly treatment into my budget; Ivna recommends coming back any time you feel unbalanced or run down, whether that be weekly or once every few months. The singing bowls aren't going to make the news cycle go away, or somehow rip one's Twitter account from their tiny little hands, but they are a positive reminder for the holistic skeptic that mindfulness is good and restorative. And wouldn't it give you peace of mind to give it a try?
Himalayan Singing Bowl Therapy is offered at the Spa at Mandarin Oriental Boston,776 Boylston St., and starts $138 for a 50-minute weekday treatment. For more information or to book a session, contact The Spa at (617) 535 8820 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.