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Spa: Awash in a Sound Bath

Healing, soothing sounds lead to deep relaxation.

To celebrate the launch of Swissôtel Chicago’s new Vitality Suite, I participated in a deep relaxation experience called a “Sound Bath.”

It’s a little like savasana at the end of a yoga class but longer. There are sounds going on that are music-ish but not really music. You don’t have to hold still in Corpse Pose.

Our Sound Bath was led by Sara Auster, a sound therapist, meditation teacher, artist and musician from New York.

Sound therapist Sara Auster in a contemplative moment before conducting our Sound Bath deep relaxation exercise.

Here’s how she explains a Sound Bath on her website: “A sound bath, or sound meditation, is a deeply immersive, full-body listening experience, intentionally using sound to invite gentle yet powerfully, therapeutic and restorative effects for the mind and body.”

The 45-minute session began with a couple dozen journalists and bloggers gathered in a large event space. The floor was covered with yoga mats arranged in a semi-circle. A thick white towel and bottle of water was placed atop each mat. Each of us chose a yoga mat and sat down.

Event space at the Swissotel Chicago arranged for our Sound Bath.

Sara began by saying the most important thing was to be comfortable. We could sit or lie down or change positions or drink water or get up to go to the bathroom. We could use the towels as pillows or blankets. It was OK to fall asleep. Or snore.

“I play a lot of different instruments, but this is not a concert or a performance,” she said. “I recommend  you keep your eyes closed, so you stay in your own experience. My voice at the end will guide you out of the experience, so you don’t have to wonder when it is finished.”

She led us through some breathing exercises, inhaling through the nose for four counts and exhaling slowly with a hissing sound through our teeth. Then she instructed us to return to our natural breath, in and out the nose.

Yoga mats, thick towels and bottled water marked each place.

“Become aware of the sounds that are already in the environment, and you will notice new sounds,” she said.

Her words became slower and slower, and then stopped.

For the next while, Sara produced a range of disparate yet pleasing sounds with instruments such as crystal singing bowls, gongs, tuning forks, chimes and a squeeze box. She started with bass tones and gradually moved to higher ones. Some sounds reverbated and faded away. Some were low and rumbling. Some were joyful tinkles. Tempos varied, slow, fast, back to slow. Adagio, allegro, largo and andante.

Practitioners believe sound can bring balance, relaxation and a sense of wholeness to the body. The harmonic vibrations can stimulate brain waves that are associated with meditative and  peaceful states that are conducive to healing. Certain sounds also can slow down the heart and respiratory rate.

Sara Auster of NYC is a sound therapist, meditation teacher, artist, musician and global voice in the wellness movement.

At the end of the session, Sara guided a few gentle stretches and a couple more breathing exercises.

“Take a moment to notice how you are feeling,” she said. “Understand this level of awareness and sensitivity only comes from slowing down. I believe it can happen through the practice of inviting in sounds, and listening. These experiences expand our toolbox of wellbeing.”

As for me, I felt relaxed yet alert, in tune with my world and open to whatever comes my way. A Sound Bath is a soothing total-body experience, and I look forward to doing it again.

Sara Auster travels the world, conducting Sound Baths for schools, corporations, hospitals, museums and public spaces. You can listen to her sounds, which she calls “sound mo (ve) ments,” for free at SoundCloud.com.)

The new Vitality Suite at Swissotel Chicago is the first in North America. Photo courtesy of Swissotel Chicago.

The Swissôtel Chicago Vitality Suite is a serene and stylish sanctuary lavished with bespoke wellness features designed to help travelers revitalize body, mind and soul. The five-room suite is appointed with a spa-like bath, private fitness room, organic toiletries and an exclusive healthful menu. Located on the 40th floor of the downtown hotel, the suite captures stunning views of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

The Swissôtel Chicago is the first property in North America to introduce the Vitality Suite and the third Swissôtel worldwide.

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