Why are Tibetan Singing Bowls so Incredibly Relaxing?

Photo of a woman relaxing with a Tibetan singing bowl

Not many things are as effective at helping me relax as the beautiful sound of Tibetan singing bowls. Even when I can’t manage to secure a nice and long Tibetan singing bowls massage, I oftentimes have my favorite Tibetan bowls recordings playing for hours and hours in the background. I feel more relaxed and focused with every minute that goes by. It got me thinking, what is it that makes Tibetan bowls so incredibly relaxing?

There is no concluding evidence on why Tibetan singing bowls are so relaxing, although there are several theories. A popular theory is that they produce a type of sound known as monaural and binaural beats, which have been associated with stress and anxiety reduction and enhanced mood. Another one is that they may have beneficial effects on the body’s energy field.

Tested by Time- From Traditional Practices to Modern Wellness Routines

The fact that Tibetan singing bowls have been around for millennia and are widely used still today speaks to their health-promoting potential. These ancient instruments, which originated in China, are a type of metal bell that create a resonant sound when struck. Historically, they have held enormous religious significance, and it’s thought that they were originally used to hold alter offerings during ceremonial worship.

Currently, they are often used by Buddhist and Taoist monks to enhance their meditation practices and to promote spiritual advancement and healing. However, their deeply soothing tones have also made them popular in the West. Many music therapists, massage therapists, and yoga instructors use Tibetan singing bowls to improve the well-being of their patients and to bring about a state of blissful relaxation.

Apart from their longstanding traditional use as healing tools, there is some evidence that singing bowls can help with relaxation and physical healing. Furthermore, there’s plenty of anecdotal data available from people all around the world who say that incorporating Tibetan singing bowls into their meditation practice helped them unwind and even provided some physical benefits.

Theories On the Relaxing and Health Promoting Effects of Tibetan Bowls

Singing bowls have a wide range of uses, and many people combine them with meditation or breathing exercises. You play a Tibetan singing bowl by moving a small mallet around the bowl’s rim or belly or by striking it gently. This creates a deep, resonant ‘singing’ sound that many people find incredibly soothing. The vibrations produced are believed by many to have a harmonizing effect on the body. Advocates of Tibetan singing bowls say that they can change brainwaves to bring about a range of spiritual and physical benefits, including lowering blood pressure and boosting the immune system.

While it isn’t known exactly why the relaxing sounds from Tibetan singing bowls are so soothing, one popular theory is that they may produce two very special types of sounds: monaural and binaural beats.

According to Wikipedia, a beat is an interference pattern between two sounds of slightly different frequencies. This interference is perceived by us humans as a periodic variation in volume. There is no actual “beating”, but our brain perceives it as such. We hear monaural beats when we listen to these slightly different frequencies with both ears at the same time. We hear binaural beats, in turn, when we listen to each of these neighboring frequencies with a different ear each.

It’s thought that monaural and binaural beats could offer the following benefits:

  • Stress and anxiety reduction
  • Improved memory and concentration
  • Stabilized mood
  • Enhanced meditation

While the scientific evidence for using beats to treat stress and anxiety and promote relaxation is still limited, there is some promising research emerging.

Monaural beats were found to reduce anxiety in a 2017 study carried out by German researchers. One small-scale study found that listening to binaural beats reduced anxiety levels and improved reported quality of life in a study group of eight adults. In another study played music to members of the military suffering from post-deployment stress with binaural beats embedded into it. The results showed that personnel who listened to binaural beat music instead of regular music experienced an improvement in their physical and psychological stress symptoms.

While neither of these studies specifically used Tibetan singing bowls to create the beats, it is possible that these instruments may offer some of the same benefits observed in these experiments.

Another theory that may explain why Tibetan singing bowls are so relaxing is that certain sound vibrations may have a positive effect on the body’s energy field. While the effect of sound on the human body’s energy field hasn’t been studied extensively, a 2004 study looked at the effects of soundwaves on okra and zucchini seeds.

The results showed that seeds exposed to music produced more sprouts than those exposed to regular noise or no noise at all. While a study on seeds may not sound particularly relevant to sound therapy in humans, it is significant because plants can’t experience a placebo effect. So, the researchers could confidently conclude that it was the sound waves that produced the improved growth because zucchini seeds can’t expect a particular result.

Another observational study in 2017 by the University of California carefully examined the effects of Tibetan singing bowls, in particular, on a group of 67 people. The study found that singing bowl meditation reduced stress, anxiety, and depression in its participants. Furthermore, it also found that participants who reported physical pain before their meditation session said that their pain was less severe following the therapy. Interestingly, people who had no prior experience of Tibetan singing bowls and those aged 40-59 experienced the most impressive benefits.

While the researchers of the University of California Study did not find a definite reason why the Tibetan singing bowls had such a positive effect on its participants, the results are encouraging. A reduction in pain, anxiety, stress, and depression could all lead to enhanced relaxation and back up the use of singing bowls as a spiritual and healing therapy.

Beyond Relaxation: Physical Benefits of Tibetan Singing Bowls

Apart from promoting relaxation and mental wellbeing, adding Tibetan singing bowls to your wellbeing routines could be good for your physical health too. A 2017 randomized control trial discovered that listening to the relaxing sounds of Tibetan singing bowls lowered the blood pressure and heart rates of its participants. While more research is needed to find out whether singing bowls could improve cardiovascular health, it could be worth exploring as a complementary therapy alongside mainstream medicine.

Another potential benefit often put forward by Tibetan singing bowl devotees is that they boost immunity, but is there anything in it? Unfortunately, there’s currently no research that directly links singing bowls with a stronger immune system. However, psychological stress is known to have a negative impact on immunity, so the relaxing and stress-busting effects of Tibetan singing bowls could potentially improve your immunity over time. If you’re constantly stressed and find yourself coming down with every cough and cold going, using Tibetan singing bowls could be well worth a shot.

Tibetan Singing Bowls- a Placebo Effect?

One of the most common arguments made by skeptics against spiritual and traditional treatments is that they simply offer a placebo effect. In other words, if you expect to feel relaxed when you listen to Tibetan singing bowls, that’s exactly what will happen. The placebo effect means that it’s the power of positive thinking that makes you feel better instead of the treatment itself.

More extensive research is needed to know for sure whether Tibetan singing bowls really do have healing and relaxation powers or if it’s actually the belief that they work that makes you feel better. However, placebo effects are by no means worthless. As long as you enjoy using Tibetan singing bowls and find that they make you feel better, it may not really matter to you exactly what mechanism is at play.

The Bottom Line

If you are like me and find the sound of Tibetan singing bowls relaxing and soothing, I believe that’s a good enough reason to use them as part of your wellness routine.

While scientific research on the effects of Tibetan singing bowls on our mind and body is still limited, some small-scale studies suggest that they could help calm us down and even improve our physical health. Hopefully, future research will offer better answers on why Tibetan singing bowls are so relaxing and on their effect on our wellbeing. Until then, the wealth of anecdotal information and their rich history are encouraging and make them well worth trying if you want to achieve a chilled-out state and reduce stress.