The latest trend in wellness? It’s absolutely audible. These spas and wellness centers use singing bowls, medicine drums, soft music, the sound of a heartbeat and vibrations to leave you relaxed, recharged and rejuvenated.
As I was guided into my treatment room I got a peek at the apparatus that my therapist Lisan said would help me return to an Alpha State of complete relaxation and mindfulness. Made in Germany, the Gharieni Spa Wave System is a table that combines vibration with music to slow down mental activity, target the body’s chakras and offer recovery, refreshment and vitality. It’s a focal point of the spa’s Chakra Rebalance Treatment, a one-hour and fifty-minute experience ($395 plus gratuity) that’s said to facilitate stress reduction, deep relaxation and sleep enhancement while reducing the effects of a high-stress lifestyle and long-haul travel. In other words, it’s two hours of bliss that targets what most of us in the DMV suffer from on a daily basis.
It started with Lisan asking me what my favorite color was, as the light in the room and under the table can be adjusted according to guest preference. (Mine is blue which coincidentally had already been selected.) I started face down under a blanket with my head in a cradle, then was fitted with over-the-ear headphones which began playing the first of several ethereal songs. But this was more than just your run-of-the-mill spa music. Quantum Harmonic Audiotherapy is binaural (i.e. music heard by both ears) and layered over the sound of a quiet heartbeat. Much like the experience of being in the womb (I would imagine), this combination of sounds stimulates the brain and helps coax it from an alpha mode (relaxed awareness) to delta mode (deep sleep or meditation.)
Next Lisan turned on the table which began to gently vibrate in different rhythms. She started massaging me, concentrating first on my shoulders, neck and upper back, the areas I told her beforehand are usually the tightest and sorest from all that time in front of my laptop. Then she grabbed two warm poultices, herb-filled balls from Thailand tightly wrapped in muslim and fitted with a fabric handle, which were filled with lemongrass, makrut lime, patchouli, turmeric, orange peel and camphor and smelled absolutely amazing. She used them much the way therapists use hot stones during a massage: to knead, stamp and rock them over different parts of my body. What was unique was that her movements often matched the vibrations from the table so the overall effect was both satisfying and harmonious.
Halfway through the treatment I switched to lying on my back, a warm compress was placed over my eyes (I could have also selected a cold one) and the massage continued. When there was around fifteen minutes left to my treatment, Lisan told me that I was going to get to enjoy the vibrating table during a meditative nap, during which she would remain in the room. I have to admit I was a little bit self-conscious of falling asleep and snoring, but it felt so relaxing I got over that pretty quickly.
When it was over she elevated the table, turned up the lights just a little bit, reminded me to drink lots of water and told me what to expect in the hours and days after the treatment: clarity, calmness, stress-reduction and perhaps a little soreness. I also was able to take the poultice balls home with me, which could be dried and kept in a Ziplock bag until I was ready to reactivate them by reheating them in the microwave or in a double-boiler. Either way they are good for several uses, and smell pretty great setting on my bathroom counter.
The verdict? The Chakra Rebalance is pricey treatment for sure, but when you think about the fact that you are getting an hour-plus massage, aromatherapy via the poultice balls and the unique benefits of the Gharieni Spa Wave System (which you can’t get anywhere else in the area) it’s a worthy splurge. And as with all treatments at the Mandarin Oriental Spa, it includes access to their facilities including the pool, fitness center, jacuzzi, steam room, hydrotherapy shower and relaxation room.
Here are three other places to experience wellness through sound:
This meditation and power nap studio offers 35 and 45-minute Sound Bath Classes ($18) touted to have a positive effect on the nervous and immune systems. During class guests are invited to lay back and drop into a state of relaxation during the guided sound meditation. Quartz crystal bowls correlate with the body’s main chakras to realign energy and recharge vitality, as seven to 12 different metals ring in the past, present and future on rare Tibetan singing bowls, some which are more than 200 years old. And the beat of medicine drums--which have been used in shamanism for thousands of years--facilitate entering an altered state of consciousness for journeying, healing and ceremony. “The vibrations and tones of a sound bath offer to balance and restore the body and mind on a deeper level, [leaving us feeling] more fulfilled, peaceful and happy,” says founder Daniel Turissini. “Some experience a deep physical and mental state of relaxation, while others experience sensations of floating, this experience can unblock any energetic and physical obstructions to offer deep healing.”
Sound baths can be a great alternative to those who find traditional meditation difficult, says Eldad Moraru, co-founder and chief contentment officer of this D.C. meditation studio. “For some who have a hard time meditating by following their breath find that focusing on sound makes it easier for them to meditate in general and also to get into the ‘zone,’” he says. “It’s a much more passive approach for some which makes it more approachable.” Sound vibrates whatever’s in its path, he adds, which means it can open up chakras and blocked energy in your body. Take Five offers several different sound-related classes available for purchase as a single class ($20 for 30 minutes, $30 for 45 minutes), package (5 classes/$90 or 10 classes/$150) and monthly membership (price varies, up to $115 for unlimited classes per month). Listening to the pure tones during a Harmonizing Crystal Bowl classes eases the transition into the meditative state, bringing clarity, stillness, rejuvenation and cleansing. A Gong Bath Meditation provides a vibrational massage for the entire body, mind and soul that’s said to be “deeply nourishing, restoring and cleansing”; try it and you just might feel refreshed and reset. A Yoga Nidra (“Sleep of the Yogi”) South Bath combines the refreshing effects of a power nap along with some inner reflection time; it starts with a guided meditation lying down, followed by a journey inward to observe and listen, followed by journeying at the end. With regular attendance, Moraru says, many clients say their sleep improves.
Available on request, the spa at the hotel housed in the multi-use socially-progressive space hosts Sound Baths ($20-$35 per class) in their new wellness space, which opened in January and also offers meditation, yoga, infrared saunas, reiki healing, crystal healing, chakra clearing, acupuncture, reflexology, marma therapy and Thai massage. Yoga Nidra Sound Baths combine yoga nidra meditation with a sound bath, giving your body and mind access to deeper states of relaxation and wellbeing while also reducing stress and preparing you for more regenerative, blissful sleep. Balance your day, refocus and clear your mind with a Serenity South Bath Meditation, which has the tones and sound vibrations of healing instruments along with mindful breathing. Scent Sound Baths including the celestial tones of crystal bowls and gong vibrations as well as lightly applied yet potent plant essential oils and flower essences. Finally, QiGong Gong Baths remove rigid blocks and bring ease into all you do, culminating in a cleansing symphonic gong bath. Starting March 18, all offerings will be available on ClassPass.