If sound baths don’t relax you at all (*raises hand slowly*), try 3 other ways to unwind


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I recently attended my first sound bath, a ritual that’s been described as sharing Zen space with the yoga and meditation worlds, but in a super-accessible way that doesn’t require knowing how to quiet your mind or contort into crow pose. So, totally ready to slip into what I expected to be the deepest savasana ever, I was ready to listen and unwind. The two-hour process kicked off with a group guided meditation before the main attraction, which was complete with singing cups, gongs, and other noises. I’m always looking for bleeding-edge ways to relax, and anything new-agey is right up my alley, so I already felt late for trying this practice, which has been on the up and up in New York City, where I live, for a few years now.

While I was stoked to silence my sound-bath FOMO, the result felt kinda tone deaf to me.

But, despite being stoked to silence my FOMO with the sonic exercise, the result felt kind of tone deaf to me. Midway through, my eyes snapped open from a deep, meditative state thanks to the tinging of the singing cups. For the next 40 minutes, I laid with my eyes open—and anyone who’s ever spent a night in bed, inexplicably awake, can probably how this session ended.

Sure, when I left, I felt slightly more relaxed than I had when I walked in, but my mind was in high gear rather than blissed out. After chatting with people who had similar lacking experiences and others too dubious to even give the sonic treatment an ear, I sought out other options to provide me the relaxation respite I need in my go-go-go NYC lifestyle.

Ahead, find three ways to bliss out—no gongs included.

Ways to relax without a sound bath
Photo: Getty Images/Flashpop

1. Walking meditation

I love traditional meditation, but some days, I’m a little too jittery to sit or lay on the floor for a session. So when I recently downloaded the Headspace app and noticed an option for a walking meditation, I was instantly intrigued. A subscription comes with three kinds of walking meditation—city, parks and nature, and around your house—and the option to try it for 2, 5, or 10 minutes.

I first opted for the 10-minute city meditation to soundtrack my commute home from running errands. During the guided meditation, the instructor told me to focus on how I’m actually walking—how my body is moving, how my feet feel striking the ground. He also instructs to gently focus on the general world around me rather than paying attention to every person and thing passing me by.

This meditative option is great because it allows you to get in your Zen in while you’re doing other things and makes incorporating a practice into your everyday life super accessible. Have you ever realized that, while you’re walking, you’re so wrapped up in your own thoughts that you don’t realize how you’ve gotten from point A to point B? Walking meditation—an exercise that doesn’t require you to download an app, BTW—takes you out of your brain, and when you get home, you’ll be feeling a little more centered.

2. A salt float

I got turned on to salt baths a few years ago after learning about the skin-boosting benefits they offer. So now, whenever I’m feeling a little stressed out, I splurge on a salt float at Lift in Brooklyn (but you can do it elsewhere, like Southern California, Vancouver, and beyond). The summation is this: You enter a tank that’s filled with 1,000 lbs of soothing Epsom salt. The tank then goes pitch black, and you float in complete silence for an hour.

Sounds trippy? That’s because it is. But it is also insanely relaxing because it deprives you of all of your senses. Even touch is blunted—the water is specifically warmed to be skin temperature, so that you don’t really feel it. After a float, I always feel a little high, and very relaxed. There have been times when I’ve actually fallen asleep in the water.

Unlike the walking meditation, a salt float is a splurge ($99 per session, where I’ve gone), so I really only do it when I’m feeling intensely stressed. Luckily, there’s another completely free option that gets me feeling relaxed.

3. An actual bath

When was the last time you took an actual bath? Not just a quick few minutes to wash up, but a real, relaxing bath? I try to take advantage whenever possible, but I don’t just run the water and call it a day—a good bath has many accoutrements, after all.

I usually add a few drops of essential oil to the water (typically a mix of lavender and eucalyptus) and then some Epsom salt for my achy muscles. I light a few candles, dim the lights, and put on some music or a relaxation podcast. Sometimes I’ll even pop on a face mask.

Baths like this remind me of being on vacation, and the fact that I can incorporate whatever restorative elements I like make ’em that much more appealing. They allow for me-time I can dip into whenever I want and provide me the space I need to allow my mind to zone out. And, to me, that’s the most important feature of a relaxing ritual.

Want to take your relaxation on the road? Try a top wellness destination or a pet-friendly hotel.

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