The Joyful Use Of Singing Bowls In Meditation Or Yoga Practice

Explore the history of using singing bowls in meditation as well as research results pointing to the benefits of sound baths. Discover how the sound of singing bowls can influence your body and mind and calm your mind with popular audio singing bowl pieces.
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog
singing bowls meditation
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog

Singing bowls, or sound baths, in which one is immersed in the sound of bowls and gongs, provide relaxation and have been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. The sounds of a singing bowl offer respite from the everyday churning of the mind, and so does meditation and yoga. Thus it’s not surprising that these practices are frequently co-mingled. Explore the benefits of using singing bowls in meditation practice.

Immerse with the sound of singing bowls while, before or after reading this article by listening to these popular tracks from our free library:

  1. Nepal Patrick Lynen 30:26
  2. Heart Chakra Tibetan Singing Bowls Sonic Yogi 19:16
  3. Crystal Singing Bowls with Campfire Kathleen Mackay 30:43
  4. Relaxing Sound Bath of Crystal Singing Bowls Desh 117:48
  5. A Sound Meditation with Quartz Crystal Bowls Aileen 17:20
  6. 33 Bowls Tibetan Singing Bowls: Rain 33bowls 45:20
  7. Live Soundbath: 12 Tibetan Singing Bowls Johnny Scifo 11:08
  8. Universe One Michael and Jahna Perricone 30:00
  9. Choir of Fourteen Singing Bowls: Sound Bath Johnny Scifo 20:12
  10. Sound Meditation: Himalayan Singing Bowls WelcomeEarth 16:47

The History Of Making The Bowl Sing

Despite marketing claims to the contrary, the use of bowls, or standing bells as “singing” instruments, by running a mallet around the bowl’s outer rim and edges, is a decidedly Western practice.

While the standing bell dates back thousands of years to the geographical regions of China and Mongolia, it was historically used as a gong, by striking the bowl with a wooden or felted mallet. Some Tibetan Buddhist monasteries used the bowls in this way to mark time or the end of a meditation.

The method of making the bowls “sing” by gliding a mallet around the bowl’s upper rim is relatively new. While musicians have been playing the rim of crystal glasses, or the glass harp, since the 14th century, historians point to New Age music recordings from the 1970s as the point in time when the popularity of singing bowls began to sharply rise.

Today, sound bowls come in all shapes, materials and sizes to provide a range of tones and frequencies. There are crystal bowls and metal alloy bowls, the latter of which are often marketed as Himalayan bowls, or Tibetan singing bowls. While these metal alloy bowls are sold at souvenir shops in Nepal, India and Tibet today, this phenomenon is more in response to Western demand, than out of historical context.

Regardless of the truth behind the marketing, singing bowls and sound baths do offer health and happiness. Anyone who’s enjoyed relaxing back and listening to music will agree it has its benefits, but why, and how?

The Origins Of Sound And All Things

Yoga and meditation practices have always had a relationship to sound, most historically in the form of mantra or chanting. As the vibration from which all form arises, sound is at the very core of our being and can be an effective instrument in healing and calming the mind.

Vibration, or sound, as the source and foundation of all reality, is an idea that spans the world’s authentic traditions. In the Bible, John 1:1 tells us that

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The Hindu Vedas and Upanishads teach that the universe is a creation of Shabda Brahman, or Nada Brahman, emanating from the sound of the creator. Islam’s creation myth involves a book and a pen.

Even western physicists suppose that vibration is the foundation of form. According to string theorists, the quark, among the smallest particles known to man and one of the core building blocks of all form, vibrates perpetually on a “string.” The forms of nature arise as would musical notes from the vibration of these strings.

When we chant or say a mantra in yoga or meditation practice, we’re using sound to make vibrations that influence the form of our bodies, and in particular the energies of the subtle body, the unseen network of chakras and channels through which the deepest energies of consciousness move. Mantra’s qualities of protection work on us in a physical way, imperceptible to most.

There are other forms of sound besides singing bowls for your meditation ritual. Explore our large collections of mantra meditation as well as chanting meditation practices.

Sound at the highest vibrations can no longer be heard by the ears but is felt with the body, even if we’re not consciously aware. The tiniest particles of reality move at frequencies so high, the movement cannot be seen, but it’s there. Interestingly, the universe’s highest vibrations appear to us as quiet, solid, and still.

The Benefits Of Using Singing Bowls In Meditation & Yoga Practice

Many of today’s common illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, or inflammation-related disease, have been linked to stress. Anything we can do to reduce stress in our lives has a potential positive outcome for not just our mental wellbeing, but our physical health.

Read more: Explore how constantly being too busy can negatively effect our bodies and minds, relationships and lifestyles.

Meditation, yoga, and listening to music, all contribute to a greater sense of ease and reduced stress. The practice of listening to singing bowls, in particular, has been found to reduce blood pressure, reduce a patient’s perception of pain, and cause less self-reported tension, anger, fatigue and depression.

The following are findings from just a small sample of scientific studies involving sound bowls…

  • 2008, The Journal of Complementary Medicine Research reports singing bowls reduce the perception of pain.
  • 2014, The American Journal of Health Promotion reports singing bowls lower blood pressure.
  • 2017, The Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine reports sound meditation participants experience significantly less tension, anger, fatigue, and depressed moods.
  • 2016, The Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine remarks that participants generally express feelings of inner peace and deep relaxation following sound meditations.

Each of the above studies points to the benefits of singing bowls and sound baths. Scientists are continuing to learn exactly how this mechanism works.

The Influence Of Sound On Our Bodies And Minds

One theory supposes sound bowls calm the mind by entraining the brain’s electrical impulses to mimic those we find in states of meditation, deep concentration, or relaxation. Can sound vibrations “re-tune” the vibrations of our minds?

The idea that music can influence brain waves began with Alfred A. Tomatis, a 20th-century French otolaryngologist, and was later made popular by Don Campbell’s 1997 book, the Mozart Effect, which focused on music’s power to make us smarter and better able to concentrate.

  • 0.1-4 Hertz Delta patterns are found during deep sleep, coma or while under anesthesia
  • 4-8 Hertz Theta patterns occur during REM sleep, creativity, and meditation
  • 8-13 Hertz Alpha patterns appear during moments of alertness, attention, or movement
  • 13 Hertz or greater Beta patterns occur when we’re awake with increased alertness, or involved in cognitive processes

Some hypothesize that listening to singing bowls guides the mind toward theta brain wave activity, specifically, the frontal midline theta that’s observed when we’re in deep concentration or meditation.

Studies support the theory that music, especially that which is “personally liked by the subjects,” indeed alters the brain’s bio-electrical oscillations, although this effect is most apparent in the range of alpha and beta frequencies. While sound bowls help us relax and feel good, more work needs to be done to demonstrate they specifically target the same regions of the mind that meditation does.

Conversely, among the small group of those who have an aversion to the sound made by singing bowls, the experience of a sound bath increases their self-reported anxiety and depression. This points to the possibility that the sound bowls have no innate powers of relaxation in and of themselves, but if you enjoy them, they’ll be of benefit to you.

The Beneficial Joy Of Of Singing Bowl Meditation

While it’s possible that sound increases alpha and beta wave activity and reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, it may simply be that participants enter a state of quietude by being distracted from their every day unpleasant feelings.

Anyone who’s had their mood lifted by a song on the radio innately knows that music indeed has the power to change how we think and feel. The unique sound quality of singing bowls draws us in because it’s different and new.

Therapists and scientists point to the benefits of stress-reduction and relaxation techniques that do not require the effort and discipline that learning meditation entails. In fact, participants are often welcome to fall asleep during sound bath practices, which in itself is beneficial for those of us who live hurried and stressful lives.

Read more: Learn how to actively trigger your body’s relaxation response to regulate your stress levels.

Regardless of the underlying mechanisms of how it all works, there’s no doubt that for those who perceive singing bowl sounds as relaxing, spending time in stillness listening to the bowls is a joyful activity with the power to bring us to a deep state of relaxation. This alone makes a sound bath worthy of our time.

Do you want to add singing bowls to your meditation routine? Explore our large free collection of sound meditation that deepen your practice and clear your mind through music and sound.

Meditation. Free.