Last week I had the pleasure of experiencing a Gong Meditation (also known as Gong Bath as one is bathed in the sounds of the gong) at the stunningly beautiful and instantly calming Indaba Yoga Studios in Marylebone.
Gong meditations, a type of Sound therapy, have been around for thousands of years as a way of healing. It is said that this particular therapy aids in stress reduction, breaking up emotional blockages within each person that practices this technique.
Having never tried this type of practice before, I admit I was slightly skeptical at first about how I would feel afterwards. Upon arriving, there were yoga mats sprawled out around the studio and two large gongs situated in the front of the room. As fellow Gong Meditation participants trickled in, we were asked to take two light blankets from the shelves for each of us. With everyone toting eye pillows, cosy gear, and now blankets, it felt more like a large fun slumber party, than a meditation!
Within moments however, our instructor for the day, Leo Cosendai, explained the profound significance of the gong to ancient cultures, how it works, and the numerous benefits one could experience.
We then started a series of light physical exercises that allowed us to warm our bodies and move around a bit till we started the actual relaxation part of the meditation.
Then, the lights dimmed and we were asked to lie down and take in the hypnotic vibrations of the gongs. All I remember after I slipped on my eye pillow and covered myself with the light blankets was that I was in an utterly blissed out state. A few people around me had slipped into a deeper sleep (they had started to snore lightly!) The sound of the gongs was indeed incredibly soothing. Towards the end of the session, we hear a few high-pitched gongs to awaken us gently from our deep relaxation states.
When I rose, I was struck how (pleasantly) disoriented I felt, like I was floating on air.
I was truly surprised how quickly I was able to relax. My jaw and lower face had relaxed to such an extent, I was having trouble formulating sentences for the first few minutes!
The effects lasted well into the evening and even the next morning, when I felt an incredible sense of calm and focus.
I had the opportunity to have a short Q&A with our instructor Leo Cosendai who was able to provide more details on this relatively unknown but extremely powerful form of meditation.
Q&A with Leo Cosendai
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and bred in 1989 in Lausanne, Switzerland. My toddler self was once told by his great uncle, the first Swiss Chiropractitioner, that I had the ears of a musician. Twenty-odd years later, I ironically find myself being a composer and a practitioner.
Gongs are instruments I organically and progressively got into by simply being in their presence, whether that was at Classical music concerts or Kundalini Yoga workshops (the last one I remember being in Camden Town with Russell Brand playing a majestic 38" Earth Gong with great sensitivity!)
I started playing some time ago now, and am still learning from a great teacher called Don Conreaux, who I try to go and see every time he is in Europe.
Certain gongs and techniques may help me best in doing space-clearing in people's homes, whilst others will be most potent succeeding or preceding reflexology and other treatments (during one to one therapy and group meditations).
2. How would you describe Gong Meditation in its simplest form?
Put simply, Gong meditation is a powerful sonic practice that enables one to experience how it feels to step out of the reality we are all taught since day 1.
3. I've heard that sound therapy has been around for thousands of years. What are the main benefits of Gong Meditation?
That's correct. In fact it is believed that the first Gong was accidentally made over 4000 years ago.
Although Gong meditation could be thought as merely just another fad activity, it really is not. Gongs have been used as shamanic tools and celebratory instruments for thousands of years, and are truly part of the tradition that is sound healing, which uses techniques such as chanting, drums, and Tibetan bowls to name few.
The benefits one can get from being exposed to the tones of the gongs are numerous, yet vary considerably. Most of my clients have been noticing a major improvement in the quality of their sleep, a better ability to cope with stress, and a sense of familiarity with stillness and contentment.
4. Are there different types of gongs (ie sizes, types and what about bowls)?
Gongs on the market come in many different sizes, ranging from a few inches to about 84 inches.
Since they have been made and played in an extensive list of countries, it only seems right that they sound, look and feel different.
Some Gongs are symphonic, usually found in Orchestras. Some are tuned to different planetary vibrations (all calculated by Swiss Musicologist and mathematician Hans Cousto), and some are more experimental sounding. There also are Chinese brass gongs, Thai Gongs and Balinese tuned Gongs, which tend to only play one musical note.
5. Can you explain how it works (specifically about Alpha, Delta and Theta brainwave states)?
Our normal waking consciousness corresponds to the Beta state, which is our brain emitting waves between 13-30Hertz
The feeling of relaxation and concentration is linked to the Alpha state, which sends waves between 8-13Hertz
Then we can go into Theta state (5-7Hertz), associated with Rapid Eye Movement and release of muscular spasms and energetic blockages.
Last but not least, Delta state (0.5-4Hertz), emitting extremely low vibrations associated with deep sleep and other unconscious states.
To illustrate this frequency state, a lot of us tend to be on a full on Beta state with a little dash of Alpha during the day, and if fortunate enough, a decent amount of hours spent emitting Delta waves at night. We do not necessarily want 10 hours of Theta waving nevertheless, we all need considerably more time spent in Theta state, so that we are able to concentrate and relax on demand through Alpha waves.
Talking about switching from one state to another, most Yogis excel at the task. Some of them even can alter their heart beat, production of body heat as well as sweat production!
6. What advice would you give to someone who's never tried Gong Meditation before?