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Q&A: A 'sound' investment? Using gongs and bowls to soothe stress

Q&A: A 'sound' investment? Using gongs and bowls to soothe stress

Friday 18 November 2022

Q&A: A 'sound' investment? Using gongs and bowls to soothe stress

Friday 18 November 2022


When the weight of the world becomes too much, many will decide to slip into a soothing bubble bath... But two local therapists are instead encouraging the stressed to soak themselves in... sound.

From releasing tensions and easing pains to releasing mood-boosting hormones, sound baths can provide a variety of wellbeing benefits, according to sound therapists Georgina Faulkner and Tom Nalichowski...

While both are fascinated by how sound frequencies can impact the body, both took very different journeys to get there.

While Royal College of Music-trained Georgina is a professional concert pianist, she was also passionate about the body, having gained qualifications in personal training and sports medicine. It was her desire to unite both passions that has more recently seen her begin delivering 'sound bath' classes.

Tom, meanwhile, started his therapy journey about 20 years ago when he visited India, where he came across gurus and learned yoga, pranayamas, Ayurveda, bhajans, mantras, as well as energy healing. He then discovered sound baths about five years later when he encountered crystal bowls.

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Pictured: Tom first discovered sound baths about 15 years ago.

He started researching what they were, how they were created and how they could serve others and discovered different instruments that could be used in sound baths like gongs and Tibetan bowls.

Recalling his first experience, Tom said: “I was blown away. I didn't know what was happening within me. When I first tried them, I couldn't stop playing on them or listening to them.

"The sound of them made me feel like I was in a completely different space, out of this world. They kept bringing in me feeling of joy, enthusiasm, motivation to act, I felt lots of energy. When I first time experienced gongs I had visions of thunders. My whole body was vibrating with the sound of gong like something was sweeping away things which doesn't serve me anymore. After that I felt extremely calm, joyful and in harmony.”

In 2018, Tom started working in the homeless shelter, which motivated him to introduce sound therapies in the island in his free time. He provides sound baths as well as 'sound massages'.

So... What exactly is a sound bath?

Georgina: A ‘Sound bath’ is a deeply-immersive, full-body listening experience that is deep nutrition for our nervous system. Each class is tailored to the time of day, but a typical sound session would start by explaining a little bit about the bowls. I use a septet of alchemy crystal bowls that have been chosen to ensure a magnificent soundscape of frequencies. Each bowl is supposed to correspond with the sharp notes of the endocrine system in the body (responsible for releasing hormones).

This is followed by exercises which are aimed at stimulating the lymphatic system, guided colourful bodyscan meditations and connective breathwork before receiving the sound meditation.

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Pictured: "Each bowl specifically corresponds with the sharp notes of the endocrine system in the body."

Everyone lies down on their yoga mat with any additional props for comfort (blanket, pillow, eyemask,…) and you are quite literally ‘bathed’ in gentle undulating waves of sound. You will begin to lose sense of the world around you as you are guided through a journey of pure sounds, overlapping tones, binaurals waves, different sound patterns and intervals to facilitate shifts and sensations in the body. The body is completely cleansed, rejuvenated and rebalanced after a session, which is typically 45 minutes to one hour long.

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Pictured: "Hitting the bowl produces beautiful, rich and multi-level sound, which undulates and delicately resonates."

Tom: It involves different kind of instruments for example gong, Tibetan, crystal bowls, handpan, wind chimes, tingshi, drum etc. The participants are washed by the special sound waves that can soothe emotions, bring blissful relaxation in the body, soothe the mind. They work similarly to the waves of water in the sea or lake, as they are swaying and lifting, they give a feeling of lightness and total relaxation.

Hitting the bowl produces beautiful, rich and multi-level sound, which undulates and delicately resonates. The pleasant sounds of bowls overlap and flow in waves throughout the room, creating a subtle rumbling effect. They rock and penetrate the bodies of everyone participating in this unusual sound session. We are immersed in beneficial sounds. The powerful sound waves extracted from the gong “sweep away” the stress, rush and haste that accumulated throughout the day.

What are the benefits of sound baths?

Georgina: Sound travels four times faster through water than air, and as we are made up of at least 75% water, as humans, we are incredibly susceptible to the therapy effects of sound. Just like a rock being dropped in the ocean, the ripple effect happens throughout our bodies and changes the geometric structure of our cells.

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Pictured: "As we are made up of at least 75% water, as humans, we are incredibly susceptible to the therapy effects of sound."

As we all respond to sound in our own way you may have a completely different experience to the person next to you, that is the beauty of your own sound journey, but research has suggested a sound bath may help with releasing mood-boosting hormones, improve headaches, alleviate stress and anxiety, improve mental clarity and even enhance creativity. 

Tom: The breathing deepens freely and spontaneously, physical tensions are released  (back pain, joint pain, etc), there is a feeling of relaxation and lightness in the body, thoughts and emotions calm down, excessive stress is released, well-being increases. There is also a sense of strength and inner joy, a harmonization of the body, mind and emotions, and the resistance to stress is increased.

There are as many feelings and sensations as there are people who experience these sounds. What's more, it can be different every time.

What has been the reaction from people so far?

Georgina: The reaction of participants attending their first sound bath have all been so beautifully unique.

A few experiences participants have had after their first sound bath have been: profound emotional release, unblocking of energy, being taken back to memories from childhood, feeling so heavily relaxed in their body similar to an acupuncture session, being full of energy, sleeping very deeply after the session, feeling refreshed and grounded, feeling energy shift through the body, unblocking of ears sensation, heat moving around the body and then cold sensations.

One participant also noted a reduction of aura migraine headaches.

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Pictured: "Participants love it, they keep coming back and invite friends and families."

Tom: Participants love it, they keep coming back and invite friends and families.

One of the participants, Lisa, said she felt like her heart was being cleansed. Noelene described the sound bath as a “a beautiful and relaxing experience”, adding “it was a beautiful journey through sound and vibration. I felt like I was in different dimension.”

Another, Carlos, said: “The whole experience was what I can only describe as other-worldly and ethereal. At one point I could hear the voices of all the souls of the universe in the ether, like a crowd engulfing the silence.”

What would you say to convince islanders to come for a sound bath?

Georgina: To anyone who is intrigued by a sound bath, I would just say come along and try it. Sound is a universal language that we can all relate to, existing in every society and culture with, and without words. Sometimes, the best explanation is in the experience.

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Pictured: "Sound is a universal language that we can all relate to."

Tom: I don't like to convince people to try anything. Although most of the participants at the sound baths have amazing experiences, I can't guarantee that to everyone. I just want to be the change I want to see in the world! What I want to see? Love, joy, harmony, unity in diversity!

For more information about sound baths, follow Sound Therapy Jersey and Georgina Sutton Pianist on Facebook.

This article first featured on Bailiwick Wellbeing, your free weekly guide to wellness in work and island life. Sign up now here.

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