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Stressed city workers flock to Alexandra Palace to take ‘extraordinary’ Sound Bath

Sam Davies and partner Ania Klis being 'washed' with sound as they enjoy a Sound Bath at Alexandra Palace. Picture: Dieter Perry Sam Davies and partner Ania Klis being 'washed' with sound as they enjoy a Sound Bath at Alexandra Palace. Picture: Dieter Perry

Saturday, February 8, 2014
9:00 AM

A Buddhist proverb about leading fulfilling lives somehow manages to sum up why we all may need to take a bath.

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Gong-expert Satu Siimela 'cleansing' Ham&High reporter Paul Wright with sound at the Sound Bath at Alexandra Palace. Picture: Dieter PerryGong-expert Satu Siimela 'cleansing' Ham&High reporter Paul Wright with sound at the Sound Bath at Alexandra Palace. Picture: Dieter Perry

Where Eastern laziness sees people hanging out all day in the sun, doing nothing, Western laziness – so the story goes – consists of cramming our lives with so much that we are similarly left not discovering life’s true meaning.

To cleanse them of this clutter, Londoners have been turning in their droves to the Sound Bath sessions at Alexandra Palace.

Held every month – and just recently relocated to a bigger hall due to booming popularity – city workers arrive in silence, take off their ties, suit jackets and shoes, and lie down on the floor.

Nobody speaks, no introduction is given and the room is close to pitch-black. Then the extraordinary sounds begin.

“With London being what it is, people mostly come for the stress release,” says Satu Siimela, who has a diploma from the British Academy of Sound Therapy and has been conducting sessions for three years.’’This is vibrational medicine. Using a number of instruments we offer people near-instantaneous relaxation that allows them to wash away the stresses of the day.”

Swinging gongs give a trippy Doppler effect while Tibetan bowls and tuning forks add to a quite unusual orchestra of sound.

As crescendos consume you, your body feels like it’s vibrating and – if you allow it – your mind floats into a different world.

“Every time is different, but I’ve seen diamond waterfalls, flown through galaxies and had amazing stories played out right in front of me,” said investment banker Tanja Nikola.

“I used to write a lot but as soon as I started working in banking the creativity went out the window.

“These sessions give me the chance to experience something I never can outside these walls by just allowing you to be with your own mind.”

When you enter the room there’s a comical resemblance to a toddler nap-time but for grownups.

People lie under blankets, eyes closed in a kind of “time-out” zone, as if they’ve been told they need to take a break and calm down. For some the relaxation can be too much and they drift off. Then comes the snoring.

“The snoring can be quite annoying,” says Melisa Yavas, a 41-year-old belly dancer who has been enjoying Sound Baths for months now.

“But then I realised I was able to train myself to block it out. Every session you take away something different and this time I learnt an invaluable skill to survive the morning commute without getting annoyed about little things.”

Modern medicine replaced shamans as our healers.

But now many find themselves with ailments not easily fixed by prescription alone.

Stress, depression, anxiety, insomnia and pain – these are all supposedly alleviated by a session at the Ally Pally Sound Bath.

The one likely to plague most of us at some point in our lives – stress – has been described as an “epidemic” in recent years.

“Sanctuary” and “safe-haven” are terms you’ll often hear after a session.

“At the end, you open your eyes and you feel like you’ve had a short holiday,” said Sam Davies, an events manager for a charity.

“I’ve got a hectic job and London can be so stressful that it’s just nice to be somewhere completely different.

“There’s also a shared experience here – you don’t speak to anyone, you come in and just go into your own world. But you’re still aware of all these other people doing the same, going on their own trips. It’s quite nice.”

Escaping the outside world seems the most common pull, but this is “not a cult” insists Satu.

“I am not here to preach; this is your space,” she explains. “Stress is the cause of so many diseases that we need a place like this to go.

“Instead of turning to alcohol or drugs to get away from their problems, they come here.

“And what else are you going to do on a Monday evening, anyway?”

nFor more information about the Sound Bath visit www.sound-gong-bath.co.uk/node/121.

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