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Health & Wellness

Class Review: Breathe Meditation’s Sound Bath Is a Trip

Staring into outer space—sort of—during a recent sound bath class at the Dallas wellness studio.
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Illustration by Andrea Chavez

On a recent weekday evening, I headed to Breathe Meditation and Wellness Studio for a sound bath. I was grumpy during the drive, watching the clock inch up to 8 p.m. But as I walked through the studio, my petulance disappeared. This place was weird—in all the best ways. 

Founded by Jenn Moulaison in February 2020, Breathe offers wellness treatments and meditation classes. Some are what you’d expect at a place like this: Reiki, yoga, massages. Others are witchier, like a tarot card-esque “intuitive reading” and a “Oracle Circle” meditation that promises to “awaken your spirit to the magic that surrounds you.” 

There’s a shower-like, glassed-door room that glowed the neon green of Disney villains. There’s a room that glows ultraviolet blue that houses a “magnesphere,” a reclined chair encircled by mechanical hoops. The receptionist told me the machine uses “Magnetic Resonance Therapy” to help your mental health. It apparently can even help with migraines. 

While the studio offers plenty of these new-agey treatments, I was there for a a good, old-fashioned sound bath. Communities from all over the world have used sound in spiritual settings for millennia. In recent years, modern practitioners have touted the wellness benefits of the ASMR-like sessions. Sound baths can help with relaxation, stress reduction, and sleep. Some sources even claim they lower physical tension and blood pressure.

In these sessions, an instructor plays various instruments and singing bowls—like bronze, metal, or crystal bowls—that ring like sirens when you tap them or run a mallet along their edges. The point is to manipulate the sounds’ frequencies and vibrations to help calm your mind, like how musicians play handbells to get a certain echo or sound at a holiday concert. Or when you stand below a bell tower at noon, and you can feel the shaking as the large bell above you gongs.

I’d first heard of sound baths a few years ago, as Los Angeles-based influencers professed their love for the singing bowls and their meditative powers. They posted videos of themselves zenned out on the back porches of their mansions, sitting cross legged, surrounded by thousands of dollars-worth of crystal bowls. As trends inevitably do, sound baths eventually made their way to Dallas. 

At the end of a candlelight yoga class at Dallas Yoga Center late last year, my instructor began playing a singing bowl. The sound was reminiscent of choir concerts, when a singer’s voice echoes around the auditorium. Although the sound was at times jarring, it was intriguing. It pulled me out of my own thoughts and I focused only on the noise. I began to see what appealed all those influencers. 

Sound baths have become more common as bookends during yoga classes. Breathe dedicates 30 minutes solely to the sound.

Five minutes before class, people lay on mats scattered around the room. Some were swaddled in fleece blankets. The instructor sat at the front, surrounded by the bowls, speaking in tones so low I couldn’t register his words.

A psychedelic mishmash of colors was projected onto the ceiling, which looked like NASA photos of nebulae, or the Northern Lights spinning in a circle of primary colors.

Once everyone filed in, the instructor explained how the meditation would work, using phrases like “sacred geometry” and “singing bowls.” His voice had the singsong lilt of a preacher giving a sermon from a pulpit, but his tone was that of a movie trailer narrator. He stressed that we needed to focus on our breath and to keep our mind awake. That this was not the class to fall asleep in. (And if someone started to snore, just tap them on the shoulder.)

Then, the instructor started playing the bowls in earnest and class began. He blew into a whistle. It sounded like an owl or bird. He hit the bowls in slow, repeated gongs, like a clock tower bell echoing across a town. There was a familiar discordant, circular noise, like the electric whirr of someone vacuuming from another floor. 

Like every other sound bath I experienced, the bowls’ vibrato echoed around the room in a loop. The hum grew so loud I could feel my eardrums rattle. My brain couldn’t even recognize the sound anymore and the vibrations just seeped through my body. Other sounds started so low and quiet that your mind registered it was happening before you technically heard it; they could have just as easily been a distant air conditioning unit or a plane flying over the building from Love Field.

The sounds weren’t always soothing. But they were powerful, like waves. I found myself thinking about movie scores, and how composers used the sounds to evoke emotions.

Others, however, did fully relax. I heard deep breathing. And, alas, one person did start snoring. Later, when the instructor was softly debriefing us, I thought I could hear him stifling laughter as the participant kept snoring. 

Finally, the 30 minutes were up. Most of us lay there for a minute, processing, before getting up and emerging back out into the real world. What just happened to me? I thought. As I drove home, I felt somewhat calmer. I wanted to try the class again, just maybe earlier in the evening. 

Author

Catherine Wendlandt

Catherine Wendlandt

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Catherine Wendlandt is the online associate editor for D Magazine’s Living and Home and Garden blogs, where she covers all…

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