Why you should go to a gong bath

What is a gong bath? During a gong bath you are surrounded and immersed in sounds from gongs, singing bowls, conch shell trumpets, shruti box, voice, crystal bowls, rattles rainstick and many other soothing complementary instruments.

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It’s best to bring a yoga / camping mat, blanket and pillow so that you can lie down and make yourself comfortable. You are then immersed in the sounds and vibrations from the gongs and the other sound healing instruments.  The gong is wonderful for creating harmony and balance in our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves.  The sounds interact with our subconscious, quietening our mind and leading us into an altered stand of consciousness.  Towards the end of the gong bath more rhythmic instruments are used to help you to get grounded before going home.

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There is no water or bath involved in a gong bath. The idea is that you let the sounds wash over you (you are bathed in sound) and by observing and focusing on these sounds, you become more present with the moment, and in turn your mind quietens.

Victoria Dawson Hoff wrote about her experience of a sound bath for Elle “It had been a stressful couple of weeks, and I imagined beforehand that I would struggle with pushing the negative thoughts out of my head.  Instead, I was amazed to find that my thoughts drifted to things that I hadn’t recalled in ages—good things. Random scenes from my childhood; the song lyrics I wrote when I was 18 and thought that I wanted to be a musician. I’ve read that memory recall is one of the first signs that meditation is “working” (for lack of a better word); it was obvious that my mind needed that break from the hustle of everyday life to reflect on these random but wonderful moments. After some time, these memories drifted away too, and I just observed the sounds.”

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The gong bath is a form of sound therapy that goes back thousands of years.  The sound of the gong helps the body and brain to relax by going into Delta and Theta brain wave states.  Delta brain waves are experienced in a deep dreamless sleep and in very deep meditation.  Theta brain waves occur when we are dreaming: vivid imagery, intuition and information beyond normal consciousness awareness.  These brain waves are know to support relaxation, creativity and natural healing.

Our brain waves change according to what we are doing and feeling.  When we’re busy, thinking and alert our brain waves are Gamma and Beta.  As we all spend so much time on our phones and tablets we are always in a state of alert, we’re waiting for incoming messages from a variety of platforms.  It’s hard to shut off from the virtual world and be present in the here and now.

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We need to invest in time to relax and put the effort into making this happen.  A gong bath is an ideal opportunity to put your screen down for an hour, get into your body and brain in the present moment, relax and just be.

This type of relaxation can activate the vagus nerve.  The vagus nerve seems to be getting a lot of good press lately.  It is the longest nerve in the body: it starts in the brain and passes through the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart and lungs.  So the heart, guts and brain all communicate via this nerve, which is why we feel emotion in our stomach.  It plays a large part in the parasympathetic nervous system which is the ‘rest and digest’ system.   The sympathetic nervous system is our ‘fight or flight’ system, and puts us in states of alertness and anxiety.  When we are relaxing, our natural healing and repair systems work in conjunction with the parasympathetic nervous system. So, by activating the vagus nerve at a gong bath you can have a positive influence on your own immune system, health and wellbeing. Therefore, the role of the brain on the body can have a profound effect.

Gong baths are becoming more popular and mainstream. The Evening Standard recently featured a video of a gong bath including attendees experiences, which ranged from deep meditation to a great nights sleep. You can also read about gong baths in the Daily Mail and the gong in the Financial Times

From the Harp are now providing regular gong baths in Portsmouth and Southsea, why don’t you come along and try one?

Please check our Events Page page and From the Harp’s Facebook Page page for our gong bath events.  Booking is advisable.

Cancer and the art of relaxation with sound

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During my cancer diagnosis and treatment it became apparent how important relaxing was and that this was as important to recovery as sleep, exercise and good nutrition. I thought maybe people going through this scary and uncertain time would benefit from being able to take part in harp circles. Harp circles allow groups to play and create music together without having to express anything with words.  There is not much creativity or soothing sounds in cancer treatment so a harp circle would fill this gap nicely.   I also thought that sound could promote relaxation, and be a medium to put people in a relaxed and restful state.

As an occupational therapist I believe that activities such as sleeping and relaxing are occupations that we need to invest time and energy in.  If I don’t have a good night’s sleep my next day is not going to go as planned or probably be very productive.  I’ll probably talk myself out of doing any exercise as I’m ‘too tired’ or because ‘I need to conserve my energy’.  I will probably have a slump in the afternoon and struggle to focus on my tasks and be guided by my mind and body to take a nap.

As somebody who used to prioritise chores over relaxation I know how difficult it can be to devote time to essentially switching off and doing nothing.  There’s a pile of washing up, and ironing, there’s a really long shopping list waiting and don’t mention what needs doing in the garden……

Relaxation is so important to heal and repair, and allow the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and relax the body and give us some respite.  Nowadays we seem to be on constant alert, always ready to respond, we always have incoming ‘stuff’ to deal with.  The post, the landline, fax (anybody still have one of these?) mobile phone, email, text messages, and goodness knows how many apps we can receive messages or updates from.

I’m currently training as a sound therapist so I can offer people sound baths and gong baths.  People come along for about an hour bringing with them a mat, pillow and blanket so they can create a nest of comfort, lie down and ‘bathe’ in the sounds.  I play a relaxing score on gongs, and bowls, crystal bowls and some percussion.  During this time people are able to relax, the parasympathetic nervous system will be in a rested state so enable us to rest, relax and repair.  I’ve found the training very beneficial, it’s helped me to slow down,enjoy creating the sounds and be mindful while I do it and playing the gong, and the various bowls is a relaxing occupation.

So I plan to invite you soon to come along, and escape from your technology for an hour and invest some time and effort into the forgotten occupation of relaxation.

More about gongs and sound baths soon, in the meantime if you curious please check out this article in the Huffington Post about why every stressed out person should try a bit of gong.

 

 

Music really is powerful stuff

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Music is all around us and a part of daily life, whether we choose to listen to it or come across it playing in shops or restaurants that we visit. Prehistoric humans had music in their lives despite it not being essential for survival like hunting and shelter. Old bone flutes and many cave paintings of instruments from prehistoric times have been found around the world.

Occupational therapy is all about the art and science of living, what we do makes us who we are and music has a lot of meaning to us. We can self regulate by using music so if we need to do household chores we may put on something fast and upbeat, if we want to relax or go to sleep we may play something soothing and slow.

Music is also used to distract ourselves, for example when you are kept on hold on the phone or when waiting in a surgery there is often background music playing.

Music can also serve as company for us, at work, at home and in the car. It gives us an identity through our record collections and our spotify feed. It often helps to bring memories back or enables us to communicate emotions.

It is also an entertainment and is part of every celebration.  The presence of music in our lives shows how important it is and how different meaning is incorporated through music.

Learning to play an instrument strengthens the synapses between the brain cells which has a positive impact on our sensory and perceptual systems, cognition, gross and fine motor skills, co-ordination and learning memory.  All these benefits when we can be having fun, and enjoying ourselves when we are playing our instruments!

I am doing a sound therapy course and have had to buy more instruments to complete the course.  Purchasing instruments as been great therapy, before the sound therapy even starts!  As I sit typing I am surrounded by gongs, crystal bowls, a range of precision, the harps of course, nobody is ever far away from a harp in this house, and the old Joanna – cockney rhyming slang for piano.

As an occupational therapist I am approaching sound therapy from a therapeutic activity perspective.  As part of my course I have had to learn to play these new instruments and engage my senses with them.  Some of the sounds are ethereal.  Hearing them for the first time is an incredible experience, and not one that the mind or body first knows how to process as there is no previous experience of it to go on.  That’s my experience of it anyway, and what a fantastic experience, the older I get the harder it seems to be able to experience things for the first time.  I want to keep my feet firmly on the ground so that does limit my choices, no bungee jumping for me thank you.

I find playing the instruments is energising, and having them next to my desk is the perfect antidote for any mid morning or afternoon slump and serves me better than any coffee would.

Making music is powerful stuff, and energising activity, why isn’t if on prescription?

Relive the J Arthur Rank moment at a gong bath

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I am doing a sound therapy course and have had to buy more instruments to complete the course.  Purchasing instruments as been great therapy, before the sound therapy even starts!  As I sit typing I am surrounded by gongs, crystal bowls, a range of percussion, Himalayan bowls, the harps of course, nobody is ever far away from a harp in this house, and the old Joanna – cockney rhyming slang for piano.

As an occupational therapist I am approaching sound therapy from a therapeutic activity perspective.  I find playing the instruments is energising, and having them next to my desk is the perfect antidote for any mid morning or afternoon slump and serves me better than any coffee would.  I get up and bash a gong for a bit or caress a crystal bowl and hey presto I’m ready for work again.  Doing makes me feel good, am I a human doing, and not a human being?  No just an occupational therapist who knows the power of occupation, and the necessity to engage in activity that is meaningful to us.

As part of my course I have had to learn to play these new instruments and engage my senses with them.  Some of the sounds are ethereal.  Hearing them for the first time is an incredible experience, and not one that the mind or body first knows how to process as there is no previous experience of it to go on.  That’s my experience of it anyway, and what a fantastic experience, the older I get the harder it seems to be able to experience things for the first time.  I want to keep my feet firmly on the ground so that does limit my choices, no bungee jumping for me thank you.

Sound is energy that we can hear so it makes sense that producing the sound waves is energising.  We all have a personal response to sound, and may have associated certain memories with sound and have a different perception of what is music, what is sound and what is noise.  Birdsong isn’t technically music, but it is melodic and we like to hear it.  It is a sound of an early spring morning.

Most of us have only ever experienced a gong sound at the start of a J Arthur Rank Film if we’re old enough.  Now gongs are getting more popular and gong baths are popping up everywhere I thoroughly recommend one for a truly relaxing experience.  Relaxation is an underrated occupation that we need to invest more time in, so get yourself to a gong bath, leave your smart phone and tablet behind for a while and invest in yourself as recommended by Huffpost and catch one of mine in Southsea soon.

via Daily Prompt: Sound