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Where to experience an (of-the-moment) sound bath in New York City


Sara Auster sound bath
© Deneka Peniston 2015
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Finding a sound bath in New York City is getting as easy as, well, seeing one of your favorite bands perform live. In fact, we seem to be in the middle of sonic bath boom.

Whether the rise of these events are a super beneficial reaction to the frenzied lifestyles of Type A New Yorkers or a next-level extension of the social meditation scene, more and more places are holding these ear-pleasing, stress-busting, spirit-engaging sessions with regularity. Are you ready to make a habit out of sound bathing? (Yes, I just raised my hand.)

What exactly is a sound bath?

Think of it as part meditation, part listening session. “Typically, sound baths are like ‘horizontal concerts,’ wherein participants are lying down on the floor with blankets and pillows as the facilitator creates a soundscape by playing various kinds of instruments,” explains Stephanie Rooker, a sound practitioner and co-founder of Sound Body Yoga. That often means (but is not limited to) Himalayan and crystal singing bowls, tuning forks, gongs, and even human voices. (Get your complete sound bath primer here.)

What started as big, one-off events (like a recent 800-person sound meditation hosted by The Big Quiet, where I found myself wanting to keep my eyes open as a pianist serenaded the crowd), sound baths are increasingly on the menus of your fave yoga studio, holistic spa, or acupuncture spot, making it way easier to do it regularly. Prices run about $30 or so, depending on what else, like say acupuncture, is offered.

Just as you’ve got your Saturday morning hot yoga class that you never skip—not even if your friend nabbed a table at Egg Shop—you can now make sound bathing a real habit.

And your list of options is only growing: Sky Ting, the yoga studio of choice for a cool downtown fashion crowd, is hosting its first monthly sound bath with Nate Martinez this Saturday, February 27. Further proof of just how de rigueur the yoga-sound bath pairing is? The just-opened Brooklyn Yoga Club already has Martinez, who’s become synonymous with the practice in New York, booked to bring his musical therapy to its Clinton Hill space starting in March.

If it’s acupuncture that eases your body, Brooklyn Acupuncture Project offers regular sound baths based off of the lunar calendar. There’s even one in a Himalayan sea salt room (that would be Midtown’s Breathe spa, where after the hour-long session my chronic back pain miraculously disappeared).

What are the benefits of sound baths?

“A sound bath can be compared to the deepest savasana you’ve ever experienced, in the way that you have the opportunity to find a sense of release while feeling entirely supported by the vibrations around you,” says Sky Ting co-founder Chloe Kernaghan. “They can give you a taste of what deep, steady meditation can be like, help clear out blocks in the body, and leave you in a fully relaxed state.”

And, according to many practitioners, the upside only increases when it becomes a part of your routine. “Sound is an exceedingly efficient and effective tool for achieving physical homeostasis, mental clarity, and emotional harmony,” says Rooker. “So working with sound regularly helps us restore mental, physical, and energetic balance as we continually navigate the curve balls of life.”

Sara Auster, another buzzy leader on the sound bath scene (among others, she heads up the monthly series at Breathe), agrees: “I find that the more you work with sound, the more it starts to open up,” she says. (That’s been my experience, even if I’d never quite thought to word it that way.)

“Even if it’s a consistent monthly event with me in the space, you can have a different experience—and that’s why it’s important to make these offerings with some regularity, so [people] can explore the benefits of sound therapy,” says Auster.

Want to try it out or make it a habit? Here are 8 spots around New York City that offer sound baths on the regular.

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Breathe salt room sound bath
Photo: Breathe

Breathe

Not only will you get the benefits of both salt therapy and sound therapy with this monthly event, led by Sara Auster (one of the most popular leaders of sound bath), but the way you hear things will be dramatically different. “From a purely scientific perspective of how sound travels and how sound works, if you put sound in air that is more dense or humid, it moves faster,” explains Auster (she can go into way more detail—but trust her on this one). “I just think that salt therapy and sound therapy are a beautiful complement.”

Brooklyn Acupuncture Project

The Gowanus space’s founder Serra Chase performs acupuncture while a rotating group of practitioners provide the soundtrack (which ranges from didgeridoos to live vocal performances). “Sound enhances [acupuncture] as the stimulated points are more sensitive to physical vibration and, because vibration is energy in motion, this helps ‘move things along,'” explains Stephanie Rooker, who often co-hosts the series. The sound  bath’s frequency, while not consistent per se, is tied to the full and new moon cycle.

Brooklyn Yoga Club

Although it only just opened this month, the new yoga studio-cum-wellness retreat center from Eddie and Jocelyn Stern has already slated a sound bath series. Eddie Stern, for the unfamiliar, has been one of the leaders of Ashtanga yoga in New York City, and whose recently shuttered Soho shala was frequented by a who’s who of yogis (Madonna, included). Nate Martinez, who calls the Stern’s charming Clinton Hill brownstone (and B&B) “a remarkable new space,” will be leading the regular sessions starting March 12. (You can sign-up directly through him.)

Nate Martinez NYC sound bath
Photo: Winona Barton-Ballentine

Brooklyn Zen Center

Park Slope’s Soto Zen Buddhist temple treats the first Saturday night of every month like a party—a sound bath party, we mean. Martinez joins the Center for what he calls an “improvised on the spot—and therefore singular—experience.”

Ishta Yoga

If you want your sonic experiences to be like your green juice—that is, a regular part of your life—you can experience weekly sessions on East 11th Street, near University, with the meditation-and-music duo Aya and Tyler. Their layered soundscapes combine indigenous instruments (keep an eye out for didgeridoo) with vocal harmonies (Aya’s worked with Sade and Lenny Kravitz in the past, so she’s got serious chops).

Maha Rose

The Greenpoint, Brooklyn, neo-boho space is all about holistic healing, so it’s no surprise that, in addition to its roster of yoga classes and group hypnotherapy workshops, it also offers sound baths twice a month. Katie Downs (a licensed music psychotherapist—yes, that’s a real thing) brings her crystal bowls, tuning forks, Indian shruti boxes, and more on the second and last Sunday of every month for this high-demand experience. It often sells out, so book your mat in advance.

Sound Body Yoga sound bath in Greenpoint
Photo: Sarah Capua

Northbrook Studios

By day this almost-at-the-Queens-border Greenpoint space is a photo and film studio. But every Wednesday sound practitioner Stephanie Rooker and yoga teacher Sarah Capua turn it into a place of movement, meditation, and sonic healing via their Sound Body Yoga class. “On the surface it looks like a yoga class with improvised music, but because the sound offered is informed by principles of sound healing, participants report that the quality of the presence in the sound adds profound dimensionality to their experience,” notes Rooker. Just don’t forget to come prepared—it’s BYO mat.

Sky Ting

When it starts up on Saturday, February 27, Sky Ting, the super cool yoga studio on the edge of Chinatown, will be yet another one of Martinez’s regular spots in the city for sound baths. “One of the main ideas we had when opening Sky Ting was figuring out how to bring the ideas of yoga into people’s lives beyond just regularly scheduled asana classes,” says Sky Ting co-founder Chloe Kernaghan. “Sound baths are an amazing way to re-tune the body and mind and sink into a state very similar to deep meditation.” Expect dim lights, lots of candles, and what co-founder Krissy Jones describes as “chill vibes.” Sign us up.

Another wellness trend that’s hit Manhattan? Headphone yoga. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to get a little sweatier, these are the 7 hardest workouts in NYC (yes, we tested them all).