The Science, Mystery and Magic of a ‘Gong Bath’

When avid attendees of gong baths say why they never miss a session, they often cite stress relief or deep relaxation, but there’s nearly always something they can’t quite articulate; they try to describe something more healing and profound. Beyond the ineffable spiritual benefits, there’s scientific and metaphysical evidence in support of this ancient healing practice.

The gong has been used throughout history as a ceremonial and healing instrument. Sources describe its use in 4,000 B.C. to as far back as 16,000 B.C. Gongs have become more popular in the current high-tech age, as the speed and amount of information has created new forms of stress for both adults and children.

Stress in any form (physical, mental or emotional) activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers the release of hormones such as adrenaline (the “fight or flight” response) and cortisol, which directly impacts blood pressure, blood glucose, immune function and inflammation. Physical labor allows the body and muscles to use the hormones, but despite feeling more stress, most of us spend most of our time sitting. When the nervous system is chronically activated by stress, an excess of circulating hormones create dysfunctions like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, depression, insomnia, digestive disorders, autoimmune diseases and other maladies resulting from chronic inflammation. Today’s TV commercials touting pharmaceutical drugs to combat these diseases and disorders are overwhelming evidence that our bodies need a break.

The vibration of a gong is a powerful method for reducing stress. Known as a Gong Bath, the gong creates an ocean of sound that is profoundly relaxing; a state which activates the parasympathetic nervous system to balance the over-amped, over-taxed sympathetic nervous system. Water has often been used as an analogy for the rippling effect of the gong’s vibrations, partially because our bodies are approximately 70 percent water and water serves to conduct sound waves. Like ripples created by a pebble skipped onto a glassy lake, the gong’s sound gently reverberates over, around and through the entire body to calm, relax and soothe. Typically, the listener’s heart rate slows, blood pressure drops and breath is restored to its natural rhythm. The gong induces a holistic resonance in the body and a spontaneous meditative state in the mind, resulting in a sense of expanded awareness and wholeness.