The History of Sound Baths: from Ancient Rituals to Modern Healing

Humans have always used sound to heal the emotional, spiritual, and physical bodies. Indigenous cultures from around the earth have used drumming, singing, and music to heal and inspire. Judeo-Christian scripture documents how music was used to heal grief. In modern times, you can find sound baths and tools for sound healing in every major city, just look up Conscious City Guide or subscribe to our newsletter for a curated guide of Sound Baths and conscious events.

Cymatics: the shape of 1760 Hz, as captured by By Hladnison CC BY-SA 4.0

If you are currently considering going to a sound bath and asking “What Is A Sound Bath” you may also be curious to know about its history. In the West, sound healing could be traced to Pythagoras (yes, the triangle guy). He was focused on harmonics of everything, from math to music, and is said to have “healed psychic and bodily sufferings with rhythm, songs, and incantations.” He believed the right kind of music brought the soul in harmony, clarified the mind, and healed the physical body.

But after the Greeks, this field of study was relegated to the fringes for the next couple millennia. There were mystics such as Robert Fludd who wrote about the power of “mundane music” to bring a body into alignment and health, but science and philosophy didn’t give these theories much attention.

Then, in the 20th century, a new field of sound science emerged called cymatics. Introduced and studied by Swiss scientist Hans Jenny, cymatics looked at the structures of sound. The shapes of certain sounds gave rise to a new theory on how vibration shapes everything in our world.

Cymatics inspired Dr. Peter Guy Manners to study frequencies associated with healthy organs and tissues in the human body in the 1960s, launching the modern school of Sound Healing. But the popularity of sound healing didn’t ramp up until the 2000s.

READ MORE: The science behind sound baths: how they work and their effects on the body

While gongs are thousands of years old and “Tibetan” singing bowls may or may not be, crystal singing bowls only emerged in the 1990s as a byproduct of the computer industry. Since then, practitioners, and instrument makers have developed and refined the art of sound bowls and therapeutic gong baths into medicine. 

Now, you can find an abundance of sound baths. If you’ve been to a retreat, you’ve probably experienced one. If not, we have an abundance of sound healing events to try.

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