I’m not a “yoga guy” at all. Or a “meditation guy." Or even a “gets any sort of regular exercise guy." But because I’m, like, open to whatever (and my editor asked me to), I hit the brand-spankin’ new SoSpa at the Sofitel Hotel in Beverly Hills and dove head-first into a sound bath.
For the 0.0000001% of you that don’t already know what a sound bath is, allow me to explain. There’s no water involved. Instead, participants lie on their backs while a healer plays a combination of gongs and other tuned percussion. Inspired by Eastern medicine, the experience is allegedly so relaxing that the sound washing over you feels just like a bath. Sound baths are supposed to calm, soothe, and release any negative energy that might be floating around in your nervous wreck of a body. It’s definitely a next-level spa treatment, and by that I mean it’s for people who have money to burn and want to hear some gongs for a while.
So I tested it out. And it was weird.
Five gongs, five singing bowls: not a basic spa treatment
As I entered SoSpa (first in the US so far), I was greeted with a “bonsoir” from the staff and an ice cold water while we waited for the other guests to arrive. The entire placed smelled like eucalyptus, which is maybe the most relaxing smell. (Truth: I’m now trying to get as much eucalyptus in this life as I can.)
We were then led to a dimly lit private room with some trancey, serene music flitting through the air. After we grabbed our seats, our, uh, sound healer, Jamie Ford, began to walk us through the process. Jamie has been teaching and performing sound baths for over 10 years, and had brought her own personal gong and singing glass bowl collection into the hotel for us. Her partner Robert is a breathing instructor. “There are some nutso jobs in this world,” was my first thought about that -- before I remembered that, since I’m reporting this for the internet, to some people reading this, I probably have one of those nutso jobs.
It starts with (very difficult) breathing exercises
After we laid out our yoga mats (this is also when it became instantly clear that I was the only one in the room who had never once operated a yoga mat), we grabbed some goodies: a pair of magnets and some copper and zinc rods. Then we laid down, and, well, rubbed the magnets on our faces.
Yep. We did.
For about two or three minutes we were instructed to rub the magnets across our temples and relax. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to relax while rubbing magnets on your face, but those two things don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. Once we were fully magnetized, we were told to grab the rods. Copper rod in the right hand, zinc rod in the left. Apparently, these help energy flow through you while you breathe and can bring out areas of less energy in your body, even emotion. Once we grabbed them, Robert asked if any of us had the ones with a sticker that said “S2," because apparently there was one pair with “supercharged” energy.
That’d be me.
We then popped on some eye-masks and began our breathing workshop. “That sounds easy!” you say. “I breathe all the time!” you say. “I’m a breathing master!” you say. Well, cool it. Jeez. “The Breath,” as they called it, was actually pretty difficult. These were some complicated breath patterns.
And here’s where everything gets interesting.
After about 15 of the around 25 minute breathing workshop, I started to feel very odd. Maybe it was the unusual breathing patterns or maybe it was the supercharged magic space-rods I was holding, but I started to feel like my entire head was vibrating. Very slightly. Like, I could feel my whole face very clearly -- and then, suddenly, I felt the same thing in my hands. I’ve never asked James T. Kirk what it’s like to be beamed up into a spaceship, but I imagine his answer would sound vaguely similar.
Once you've figured out that breathing thing, the actual sound bath starts
The transition between the breathing workshop and the sound bath was pretty seamless. I heard Jamie playing the singing bowls, and then soon, she was playing the gongs. Now, it’s important to clarify that these gongs are probably not like the gongs you’re thinking of. You’re probably thinking of the type of gong that a monk bangs right before the kung fu master takes down the the wimpy little challenger. These gongs are very different. They’re not tuned to notes like the singing bowls or most other percussion.
Guys, THESE GONGS ARE TUNED TO THE PLANETS. WHATEVER THAT MEANS.
So we lay there for a while, listening to the incredible room-enveloping sounds of the gongs and bowls, clutching our magic rods tightly, wondering what in the world was to become of us as the sounds got louder and more intense.
Sound baths are supposed to calm, soothe, and release any negative energy that might be floating around in your nervous wreck of a body.
As the bath went on, my weird head and hand vibrations only got stronger. Soon the whole room was filled with all kinds of crazy sound washing over us like... well, a bath. It was almost like being underwater. Everything felt very serene and very peaceful, even kind of pressurized.
And then more weird stuff happened: when we were told that the energy of the rods could bring out emotions in us, I instantly wrote that off. ‘Cause, ya know, that sounds crazy. But about 10 minutes into the relaxation of the sound bath, I found my breathing get kind of heavy and then, in no uncertain terms, I felt kind of nervous and scared.
That lasted for maybe one whole minute, and then the vibrations left my head and hands and everything started to dissipate. Was this all just emotion that was building up in me from my life, and the sound bath released it? Did I PHYSICALLY feel those emotions leaving my body?
I don’t know, man. I don’t know. But I let go and let it wash over me, and the next 30-ish minutes of the sound bath were pure relaxation. I almost fell asleep at one point (in a good way). By the end, the sounds were so sweeping and all-over-the-place that I couldn’t tell anything from the other.
For all its weirdness, the sound bath might just work
When they turned the lights on, it was hard to get up for a minute. In fact, I didn’t really want to. I could have listened to the sound for maybe six more hours. I still felt lightheaded, but -- and I really can’t deny it -- I felt better. Before I walked into this thing, I would have put money on saying that it was a whole lot of energy mumbo-jumbo. But after my weird lightheadedness and emotional experience, I have to say, maybe, just maybe, this shit is legit.
Sound baths will soon be available regularly at SoSpa (8555 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048), so call ‘em up and try one one out. For real... and definitely grab the “S2” rods.
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This Los Angeles spa includes a little bit of French influence into their spa treatments. We are big fans of their sound bath experience, but you can also sign up for massages, facials, and waxing here. The atmosphere is sophisticated and relaxing, so this is the perfect place to go if you need to destress.