Dana Smith learned about singing bowls early on in her yoga practice. Teachers would hit the bowl once to come out of Savasana (Corpe Pose)—a sound that never resonated very deeply with Smith. Then, during one class, a teacher spent a few minutes using singing bowls during a closing meditation. Something changed for Smith. She went deeper into the meditative space than she had ever before. “I was like ‘Wow, it’s got to be something with the bowls,” she says. Smith, who is the the CEO and founder of Spiritual Essence Yoga, immediately started using singing bowls in her own classes as a yoga teacher.
Smith isn’t the only yogi who experiences this particular effect with singing bowls. Singing bowls can be a great way to deepen your practice and inspire a calmer state of mind and body. With historic roots in the Himalayan region, singing bowls were traditionally used as sound bells for meditations and traditional ceremonies. Traditional singing bowls are made from different types of metal alloys blended together to create a cohesive bell.
Today, singing bowls are commonly used in sound healing practices, meditation sessions, and yoga classes to help participants quiet their minds. In a typical sound-based practice, a teacher will strike the bowl with a mallet before moving the mallet in a circular motion around the bowl. This movement emits sounds and vibrations that can soothe the body. While there is a need for more scientific research in this area, observational studies found the use of singing bowls can decrease tension, anger and fatigue.
If you head to a sound healing session or a meditation or yoga practice that uses singing bowls, expect to move deeper into your practice. Smith says the most common thing she hears from students after they experience singing bowls is how relaxed they feel. “There’s something with the sound with the brainwaves that allows them to relax,” she says. “On a rare occasion, we’ll hear some students say that their body actually rocks to the sound, so it’s like this pendulum effect.” gina Breedlove, a medicine woman, says some of her clients also feel a wave of emotion after experiencing the singing bowls. They feel more grounded—and more relaxed in their body.
What actually happens during a singing bowl session depends on the teacher and venue. If you’re in a one-on-one session, the teacher may move the bowls to different areas around—or on—your body, with the various locations spurring a sensations throughout your physical and emotional body. If you’re in a yoga class, the teacher may play the bowls for a short time to open or close the practice in order to deepen the participants’ level of relaxation and ease. Like most musical instruments, the way singing bowls are played will vary from teacher to teacher.
In a 2017 observational study conducted on the effects of singing bowls, researchers found some of the benefits to be:
See also: A Meditation To Deepen Your Connection With Your Body—And Your Self
While singing bowls can be beneficial, there are a few things to look out for before integrating them into your practice. Singing bowls cause sound vibrations around your body—which may not be recommended for people with certain conditions. Smith says it’s important to take precautions if you have a metal implant or a joint replacement. The practice is also not recommended for pregnant women without a doctor’s approval. Smith says someone with sound-induced epilepsy should probably steer clear of singing bowls, as not to trigger a response. The short of it? Always speak to a medical professional before integrating singing bowls (or any new healing techniques) into your practice.
Before purchasing a singing bowl, it’s important to consider what purpose you are hoping it will serve in your practice. Different types of signing bowls emit different tones—causing different sounds and vibrations around your body. Additionally, you’ll also want to plan on purchasing a mallet to use with the bowl.
Smith advises purchasing a smaller machine-made bowl to start. She says hand-hammered bowls are great investments, but she doesn’t recommend that beginners make the jump until they’ve worked with the smaller (and more affordable) bowls. As for size, Smith say you can’t go wrong starting with a five- to six-inch bowl. Not only are these bowls more cost-effective, but they emit a nice, high sound, are portable, and easy to practice on.
Craft-based websites like Etsy have tons of options for handmade singing bowls. Smith says she personally purchases her bowls from a Nepalese-based seller on Etsy because they’re fair trade. On Etsy, many sellers of singing bowls will post sound recordings of them using their bowls, so you can get a sense of how your body responds to a specific bowl prior to purchasing. You can also opt to head to a local market or peruse online retailers geared toward yogis, like Yoga Outlet. Breedlove says she purchased her crystal bowl from a local crystal market in her home state of Georgia.
Two of the most popular types of singing bowls in the United States are crystal bowls and metal bowls—and they each have a specific purpose. Metal bowls are commonly used with students who haven’t felt grounded, says Smith. She says she uses crystal bowls in sound healing sessions to bring someone’s energy higher. So, how do you tell if your energy needs to be heightened?
Smith says a practice with a crystal bowl is for someone who is already feeling grounded, but needs additional energy. “We wouldn’t do that with someone with anxiety right away because anxiety is high energy,” she says. “I use the metal bowls to ground things down, and then the crystal bowls to pick up the energy a little bit from that balanced place.”
Different bowls are also tailored to different keys—which are linked to each of the seven chakras—so it’s important to consider what exactly you’re hoping to gain from using singing bowls. For example, Smith says the root chakra resonates with the key of C, so if you wanted to balance your root chakra, you would want to find a bowl crafted in the key of C.
See also: A Beginner’s Guide to the Chakras
If you’re looking to start practicing with singing bowls yourself, Breedlove recommends connecting with an experienced teacher to learn proper techniques—especially before you test your skills on anyone else. She compares knowing how to use singing bowls to learning a new language. “I just say learn the language, this new language that you’re speaking and before you bring it to another person’s body, understand what it is you’re doing,” she says.
Smith recommends ensuring that you make singing bowls a regular part of your practice. “Don’t buy the bowls for them to just sit and collect dust,” she says. Make sure you’re setting aside time to practice with them a few times a week. As with everything else in the world, consistency is key.
To start using your singing bowl, Smith recommends anchoring it to another part of your practice, like a daily morning meditation session. Additionally, before you begin, you need to be grounded—and in the right headspace—to receive the vibrations. Learning how to use a singing bowl takes practice, but you can start by striking it on the inner or outer rim. Once you start experimenting with the different sound points on the bowl, you’ll begin to learn which sounds you and your body are most receptive to.
See also: This Soulful Chant Will Help You Connect With Your Higher Power—And The Universe
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