When we think about meditation, we often think of a quiet room filled with people sitting in a lotus position with their hands balanced on their knees facing upwards, with thumb and index fingers pinched together. And, maybe some soothing music in the background. But there’s another way: a more ancient method called the gong bath.
It’s a form of sound therapy that goes back thousands of years. You might associate gongs with sumo wrestling contests, but they play a more alternative healing role during a meditation practice.
Leo Cosendai, gong bath instructor, says the sound of a gong helps the brain reach deep relaxation - specifically the delta and theta brain wave states, which are the slowest brain waves in humans. We tend to reach these states during daydreaming or deep sleep, and they are known to aid relaxation, creativity and natural healing.
We could all use some time spent in a worry-free state. Studies show that five out of 10 Britons suffer from work-related stress at least once every year. And, it often leads to sick leave at work. A Labour Force Survey conducted by the Health and Safety Executive showed that the total number of working days lost due to stress-related illness in 2015/16 was 11.7 million days.
The workshop took place at Centric: 3 Tribes in Crouch End and began with a few breathing exercises led by the instructor. At first, you just inhale and exhale, then use your breath to make different sounds while exhaling. Some of these sounds are quite funny, especially the one when you sound like you’re imitating a motorcycle to a child.
Then, once everybody had covered up with a blanket, all they had to do was switch off and listen to Leo’s music for the rest of the workshop. He used a gong, a shell and an accordion - and even sang some mantras as well.
He says this type of meditation workshop allows him to expand in the territory of music and yoga: “I trained as a singer and composer and I also trained as a yoga teacher,” he said. “It kind of all comes together, music and yoga, for me.”
Seeing the attendees’ faces when Leo woke them up made me realise that it was completely worth their time. They got up from their mats as if they just had the most relaxing nap. They were quiet and slow as they came back to the present, and they certainly looked stress-free, even if just for a couple hours.
The next Gong Bath workshop (£20) is on Saturday May 6 at Yocentric Crouch End; yogacentric.co.uk