Illustration by Lia Marcoux
I wrote the below piece for The Bay magazine well before the coronavirus took hold of the nation, and while we cannot currently convene in person for gong baths, meditation or yoga gatherings, studios coast to coast have risen to the occasion, offering live virtual classes, on-demand classes and even free classes. Innerlight Center for Yoga & Meditation featured below is hosting specially priced video classes via Zoom in addition to some upcoming outdoor classes (amen!). Follow them on Instagram for up to date opportunities to find your zen, take a moment to exhale, and find your center during this challenging time.
Let’s just start by clarifying that gong baths do not involve water of any kind – no tub, no sybaritic soaking, no bubbly indulgence. That knowledge aside, I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at Innerlight Center for Yoga & Meditation in Middletown for one of the center’s quarterly gong baths. Walking in the darkened studio on a Sunday evening for a story I was writing for The Bay Magazine, I saw bodies scattered about, all comfortably tucked between layers of blankets (thankfully clothed, despite the “bath” moniker) as if settling in for a long winter’s nap. Following the others, I rolled out a yoga mat and grabbed four blankets: one to spread over the mat, one to act as a bolt under the knees, and two to snuggle under. I quickly realized this was going to be a more meditative experience than I thought and I was psyched – I’m much better at laying like a log than elevating myself via crane pose.
Jess Elliott introduced herself in a calming voice and nearly half of the room joined me when she asked how many of us were first timers. She explained that we should be sure we had enough support underneath us as laying on the floor for 45 minutes sounds easy but can err on the side of uncomfortable if not properly supported. She also said it was perfectly normal to fall asleep and that she didn’t mind a few snores here or there. With that, everyone lowered flat to the floor and Jess instructed us to set our intention for the session.
Soon, Jess’s meditative instruction was replaced by the tapping of the gong. I guessed the “bath” might be a series of gentle, repetitive taps, but instead, the taps crescendoed into loud, echoing vibrations. The remainder of the class was a series of reverberations ranging from soft, melodic “swirls” to deep, thunderous booms. Each moment that passed by seemed to beg the body to relax fully and invite a profound sense of calm to pulse throughout our bodies, allowing us to enter a meditative state. This doesn’t mean fleeting thoughts like what I had in the house to make for dinner didn’t cross my mind, but by in large, the dramatic experience left me both energized and mindful at the same time. Namaste.
WHO SHOULD CONSIDER GONG BATHS:
Anyone! All ages any folks at fitness level will experience the benefits of this practice as research has shown that gong baths promote relaxation and put a person into a deeper state of consciousness, which sets the environment for healing. Considering all you have to do is lay there and relax, anyone can soak in the benefits, and they’re an especially good method for anyone who is interested in meditation but struggles getting through silent meditation.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Jess says the experience is usually “profound” and unique to the individual: a person may feel relaxed or energized, heavy or weightless, may see color, images, memories, or have insights during the bath. The benefits of a gong bath can last up to two weeks – it is certainly a powerful experience.
WHAT TO BRING:
Yoga mats are supplied but you can bring your own. Many people use supplied blankets as a pillow, but bring one from home for added comfort. Bring an eye mask or something to lay over your eyes for complete darkness.
Innerlight Center for Yoga & Meditation, 850 Aquidneck Avenue, Middletown