Tibetan Singing Bowls are a great option for finishing a session with your client to leave her feeling centered, relaxed, and rewarded. These bowls from the Himalayan region are made from a combination of metals (bronze alloy, copper, tin, zinc, iron and sometimes other metals depending upon the age of the bowl) and produce vibrating tones when struck or circled along the circumference of the bowl’s rim with a mallet. They are used in yoga classes, holistic sound therapy, chakra re-balancing and personal meditation. Singing bowls produce a calming effect and reinforce the concept of living in the present moment.
The pitch varies on the size and thickness of the bowl, and is played with a wooden stick that creates friction around the rim of the bowl like a wet finger would around a wineglass. The sound changes when using felt covered strikers on the side of the bowl giving it a lower tone. A less metallic sound is also possible using a suede covered mallet. Bowls come in small, medium and large sizes with and without decoration. It is easy to learn how to play them and requires only a quick demonstration on the technique of holding the mallet and how to apply pressure to the side of the bowl.
When the bowls are placed on the chakras they allow the individual to hone in on the energy centers of the body. Although each note is linked to a chakra, relaxation and centering can occur whether or not this pattern is followed. When you buy a bowl, it should specify what notes are played with the striker and mallet. Starting at the 1stchakra the notes correspond in ascending order as C, D, E, F, G, A, and B at the 7thchakra. Although it is helpful to have an understanding of the chakra systems to direct one’s energy and attention, the balancing effect will take place regardless. I tend to place my Tibetan Singing Bowls on a client by size rather than the specific note rendered since the notes played blend together harmoniously.
The calming vibration takes the mind from a cerebral analytical state to an emotional experiential state effectively diminishing internal mind chatter. For those “Type A” personalities, it is truly a gift to get out of one’s head and experience the state of “being-ness.” The opportunity to slow down and recover after a physical workout helps your client transition into the next activity of the day with relaxation and greater ability to focus.
I have also used bowls to finish a group mat class with a guided meditation and have received positive feedback from students. I place the bowls in the center of the room and have the class lie on the floor on their mats like spokes on a wheel with their heads toward the center to clearly hear the sounds. I have even used my bowls in the hospital when my mother was recovering from a traumatic surgery (obviously not near the wound). Now when I go to visit her, she still asks me to bring them because she wants to repeat the relaxing experience.
If there is time at the end of a session I will sometimes do what I call the “spa finish.” I have the client lie supine on the Cadillac with legs propped up on the short box from the Reformer if it is more comfortable. I heat a neck wrap in a microwave and place it around the client’s neck with a lavender eye-cover (ask if lavender is okay—not everyone likes it). I will sometimes cover the person with a heavy blanket to create a swaddling cocoon. I vary the placement of the bowls and how I play them depending on the emotional state of my client using my intuition as a guide. Striking a bowl under the table, one on the chest and playing another one above the body can create a tiered-effect. Occasionally wait for the vibration to stop before playing the next bowl. This silence can align the client with stillness and greater awareness of the present moment.
Pilates is highly adaptable to all skill-levels, but should appropriately challenge your client physically and mentally. After providing your client with this stimulating movement experience, it is helpful to provide some kind of relaxing or centering ritual to finish. There are many ways to end a session, but Tibetan Singing Bowls just might leave your client singing your praises.