Sound baths are fast becoming road trip must-do’s, and a growing part of modern-day spiritual and self-care practices… hear for yourself in our Soho wellness pop-up on 12/12!
This post comes to you from contributor Natalie Shukur.
In our experience, sound baths are a relaxing, restorative practice and, when shared with a group of likeminded souls in the right setting, can be a powerful tool for self-inquiry, grounding, stress management, and an antidote to all kinds of modern maladies. If you’re a person who “can’t switch off” or feel called to push the reset button on life, sound baths just might be the ticket. But the experience differs from person to person, moment to moment. I have come out of some sessions feeling sedate and introspective, and others buzzing and inspired. It’s much more than a form of guided meditation or a nice soundtrack — the vibration and tone of the instruments used can be profoundly effective on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. Stay open to the experience and it will take you where you need to go.
So what exactly is a sound bath and how does it differ from other forms of sound healing? We consulted Brooklyn-based Nate Thomas Martinez of NTM Sound, a musician-turned-qualified sound therapist who is leading the charge in New York City and beyond. Administered to attendees via cushions, mats and bolsters, his sound baths run for around 90 minutes. And if you’re not able to make it to a session, Martinez has just released Awave, a series of guided sound meditations, available online. Here we ask him for a crash course in the practice and find out how a sound healer deepens wellbeing.
How and why were you drawn to sound healing?
It was in a very indirect way. I wasn’t really seeking it but had been studying shamanism and intuitive healing while balancing my regular life as a professional musician. One day I stumbled across a certification program at the Open Center in NYC and thought, I need to do this. I had no idea about the field but it ended up being a perfect compliment to my existing musical path, and the new path I was forging in my own self-exploration and responding to a deep desire to help others. The way this all unfolded reinforced to me that as much as we think we know where our path is leading, it’s not always as it seems.
Are there many different types within the sound healing modality? How can a newbie seek out a good entry point?
I think each practitioner is utilizing sound in the way they know and have learned, and because of this there are many ways you can experience it. It is not a regulated field and because sound affects us so uniquely on an individual level, I’m not sure it can be. One important thing to note is that sound therapy is not just crystal bowls, and just because someone has them does not mean they know how to use them. Ask your friends and community for recommendations if you want to seek this out. It’s also good to verify that the facilitator is certified.
Who can benefit from sound healing?
Everybody, really. I can’t think of a single person who isn’t overwhelmed with modern life in some way. We are overloaded with so much information and technology. Sound therapy can be a tool to achieve a relaxed state, as a way to balance our daily life stresses and responsibilities. And it can provide an environment to shift consciousness and your perspective on things.
You work in both group and private settings—what does each experience offer?
Working with public groups gives me an opportunity to offer this experience to many more people; plus it’s more economical for the individual. Each participant gets to have their own experience. When working with private groups there’s almost always a specific intention, and with individual sessions I offer two types of sessions: private sound baths and sound therapy treatments. The sound therapy treatment is where I get to learn about their story through conversation and by using my intuitive skills. We get to address specific issues or just explore an intention. These individual sessions are energetic work in their nature, and I draw on a few modalities, but sound is still a central part of it.
Any advice to a first-timer experiencing a sound bath?
It’s best to not view this experience as a concert or performance, because if you do you could easily become too invested in analyzing the sounds or wonder where it will go or lead you—that’s music in its structured form, and this is the clear difference between the two. Try to open up your auditory sense to all the sounds you hear throughout the sound bath. This includes sounds being emitted from the instruments, and equally important are the environmental sounds. It’s an important point, and something I think facilitators can easily forget to mention. Each and every sound is part of your experience.
What instruments, tools and crystals do you work with in your practice?
For sound baths I have a variety of instruments I use including Himayalan bowls, quartz bowls, a frame drum and a shruti box that I use with overtone singing. And for sound therapy treatments I incorporate Biosonic tuning forks and can include any number of the other instruments.
What is the most beneficial way for people to incorporate sound healing into their wellness routine?
Listening is so important, and taking moments to explore how your environment sounds can be both rewarding and relaxing. Vocal toning is also really powerful; it’s utilizing your voice—not to sing—but as a vibrational instrument. Expression is crucial, and most of us don’t express enough with our voice.
What do you do to take care of yourself? Do you have any rituals or favorite healing modalities/nutrition practices you gravitate towards?
I make sure to get quality sleep, meditate often, and overtone sing everyday. I get acupuncture quite regularly and I eat intuitively. Great produce is important, and if I eat meat or fish it’s of the highest quality. And I’m a sucker for chocolate and matcha.