LOVING OURSELVES THROUGH SOUND: Three wellness practitioners on sound baths

Priscilla Ward

Sound, from an Outlook chime signaling an email to the howling of the wind indicating the cold, elicits various feelings. In the same vein, sound baths can cue up a relaxed, focused, and calming state. 

A recent study found that sound baths quell stress, fatigue, and symptoms of depression. It works wonders with waves of soothing, echoing sound from traditional wind and percussion instruments. These vibrations traditionally come from crystal bowls, gemstone bowls, cymbals, and gongs. 

Over the last few years, three D.C.-area wellness practitioners have expanded on the definition of a sound bath. They share with The Bridge how they started using sound in their wellness practice, and helped their community tap into this therapeutic modality. 

Mary Mbaba, Founder of Vinyl & Vinyasa

Mary Mbaba

How do you define a sound bath? 
A sound bath is just really the incorporation of sound in our environment. I take the very stringent definition of sound baths and make it larger, whether it’s notes that you hear or another instrument playing outside of sound bowls. 

How did you first get introduced to the idea of using sound as a part of your wellness practice?

I am the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, so I grew up hearing sound and rhythm, beats, and drums. Then of course, back in the 70s and 80s, the sonograph was really popular [along with] vinyl music. I grew up with a lot of that in my household. It is literally in my genes. I’ve been accustomed to playing off of the notion that sound is a medium for joy and celebration, and then when it comes down to it, even community, and individual healing. 

How did you come up with the concept of Vinyl & Vinyasa? 
The Nintendo Wii was actually my first introduction to yoga. Several years later, I started to pay attention to how vinyl was booming, so I just thought about a very clever way to bring about both of those worlds. 

Jessica Gray, Founder of Ascent Mind + Body Co.

What first got you interested in sound baths? 
Honestly, my whole life I’ve been connected to music whether singing, dancing, or playing an instrument, so it made sense that I would be drawn to sound baths and sound therapy. 

I started my meditation classes about 10 years ago. About five years ago, I went to a yoga class and they had sound bowls. I remember being in this state where I wasn’t asleep, but I wasn’t completely awake either. I just felt really refreshed and so much lighter. I kept seeking out other classes like that. I wanted to create and share that experience with other people, so a couple years ago I took a sound bath training and I’ve been giving sound bath sessions ever since. 

For someone who is intimidated, what can they expect during a sound bath session? 
So I explain sound baths as a full-body hearing experience. You are feeling the sounds on an energetic level. You want to get as comfortable as you can in a position where you won’t have to shift or readjust yourself, then you allow the guide to walk you through a session. There are no beginner or advanced classes, you just show up as you are. 

Dante Baker, holistic spirit, mind, and body practitioner

What first got you interested in sound baths?
I turned to using sound as a way to help people focus and meditate after I went to Peru in 2012 on a 10-day retreat.
I was really clear, like my body was really clear. I was able to hear the sounds of nature very clearly. I just felt the power and the vibration and it really came through the inspiration of nature and that experience, so I came back and I knew other people who used crystal bowls from my past and back in my childhood, and so it just resonated with me, and I was pretty much just able to connect the dots of how sound and vibration is just very powerful.

What do you hope people understand about the use of sound in wellness practice?
Sound is one tool that anyone can use to help them get into a meditative state. It’s like binaural beats. It goes back and forth through your ears, and it helps a person bring their brain waves down to like 10 hertz or lower, and so your brain can begin to train itself to that frequency.

There are an infinite amount of frequencies, but it’s so cool that the human brain has a very similar frequency to the earth. We have tools such as bowls and other sounds that help with focus and connecting with themselves.

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