Sound massage? Sounds like woo-woo to me. I have been to a gong bath before, lying at the back of a sweaty studio for an hour, confused in the dark while a yogi fingered a large gong. It was a pleasant soundscape, but nothing more. I’d only gone because the event description promised participants would be wrapped in a carpet at the end, which sounded amazing; when it came to it, we were told to cover our legs with a blanket in shavasana (AKA corpse pose) if we were chilly. I had pictured someone rolling me up like a cigarillo – not something a grown man can request with any dignity. I didn’t go back.
Only fair to give it another go, this time one-on-one. Michelle Cade, the founder of Mind Like Water (£90 for 90 minutes) leads various sound therapies, and today I’m experiencing it with a full-body ayurvedic massage. I clamber on to the table, ungainly, clammy, full of unrelated anxieties. Luckily, Cade is an innately soothing presence. She is also a composer of binaural beats, and describes brain entrainment to me; the theory by which brainwaves supposedly align with the frequency of a supplied beat. This allows you to shift your brainwaves to, say, a frequency associated with a meditative state. A nicer way of putting it than “getting mashed to a trippy jam”. I like jam. Thoughts like this wash through me and away.
The transporting massage is intended to put me in an optimal state to receive the good vibrations, and it’s working. She sprinkles an ayurvedic powder over me like seasoning, works warm sesame oil into my legs. Is this is how it feels to be a posh Pot Noodle? Smells far nicer. She is burning resin to cleanse whatever energy is clearing my system. Essential oils twist through my brain: bergamot, peppermint, something … something.
I wake myself up with the tickling graze of a light snore, dignity once again nowhere to be seen. Cade tells me that in sleep we access the delta brainwave, at which point internal healing can occur. It’s a nicer way of putting it than: “You fell asleep on the job, you worthless sack.” Now that I am totally relaxed – perhaps too much – it’s time for the sound portion of the therapy. Tibetan singing bowls are placed on my chest. Eyes closed, I feel their vibrato in my body as much as my ears. Cade has many instruments, most of which I can’t identify. She even sings at one point, so in tune with them that I’m not sure the tone is human.
There’s a drum, more boom than volume, which reverberates pleasurably in my belly; a particular soothing, shushing noise that makes me feel like a baby. I take a peek to find myself staring down the business end of a seeded baguette (which I’m later told is actually a rain stick). Most extraordinary of all: surgical-looking tuning forks, like something out of Marathon Man, placed at points around my head. I can feel their muscular thrum resonating against the walls of my skull, long after any audible noise has died away. It is like being massaged from the inside.
This is what I didn’t understand before; that sound therapy is about feeling, not hearing. Does it do any good? You have to believe in healing frequencies, which for many is a big ask. But you don’t need peer-reviewed science to know that relaxation feels nice, and is more healing than being majorly stressed out. I can’t think of another treatment as absurdly relaxing as this. The sound portion makes it more holistically sensual, every sense touched and calmed. Cade doesn’t wrap me up in a carpet (is my fantasy to be thrown into a boot, like a rival gangster in a Guy Ritchie film? Unclear), but I feel so much lighter. The day’s anxieties have evaporated. When I walk out, it is on a cloud. I don’t know if I should be banging the drum for sound therapy in general – I’m not sure how strongly the experience would have resonated without the massage. Yet I can’t deny it has done me a power of good. I sleep soundly that night, too – the best therapy of all.
Some employees are unentrainable
I’ve been caught napping in every job I’ve ever had. Should have told my supervisors I’d been accessing a delta state to facilitate healing. Feel free to try this, and report back.
Wellness or hellness?
Cymbally the best. 4/5