In the ultra-competitive world of luxury wellness travel, companies need to do more than just offer gorgeous views, great-tasting food, and aromatic gardens. They need to think about sound too.
Increasingly, properties including Hyatt’s Miraval Arizona are employing sound therapy to pull in wellness-oriented customers. The idea is that people’s ears offer a path to relaxation and healing every bit as powerful as eyeballs, nostrils, and fingertips. And companies are citing ancient wisdom known to groups as disparate as Australia’s aborigines (think didgeridoos), Tibetan monks (think singing bowls), and Native Americans (flutes, drums, and rains sticks) as part of healing practices.
“Sound can signal the body to release its own tension and negativity, dropping the brainwave into a meditative state quickly and effectively,” said Pamela Lancaster, a widely regarded guru in the field and “master healer” at Miraval Arizona.
What Miraval Arizona and others are realizing is that sound is a powerful tool in reducing clients’ stress levels, improving their moods, and alleviating pain. And given the hectic, anxiety-ridden world of 2020, more and more travelers are seeking out such restorative treatments.
What’s In a Sound?
Proponents of sound therapy call it “vibrational medicine,” arguing that certain systems in our bodies vibrate at different frequencies. If these frequencies get disrupted by ailments like emotional distress or illness, our well-being could be affected.
While efforts to heal through sound therapy is as old as ancient Egypt, scientists have only recently begun to explore its efficacy. The wellness community, however, has been providing sound therapies for more than a decade, with some treatments growing more and more into standard offers.
The offerings include massages that are synchronized to music, listening to the peaceful sounds of “deep nature” and taking in the beauty of Tibetan singing bowl sessions. Tuning forks of varying pitches are thought by some to be a way to “unblock” people’s “stagnant energy,” And so-called “sound baths” — an ancient form of deep meditation — create relaxing, repetitive sounds using musical bowls, cymbals, and gongs.
“An immersion in sound frequency cleanses the soul,” said Robert Lee, a leader at Eaton DC, a hotel and wellness center in Washington, D.C. “It allows for a recalibration to a deep stillness that we can all access within ourselves.”
In fact, sound can be used to create a sense of stillness that people crave, he added. “While trying to quiet the mind in a quiet room is nearly impossible, sound actually makes meditating easier.”
Where Sound And Travel Overlap
At Miraval Arizona, Lancaster has seen firsthand how much sound can help visitors leave behind their stresses and negativity and settle into a meditative state. The resort offers Vasudhara, a water treatment combining Thai massages with pulsating sounds emanating from underwater speakers. “The body brings itself back into a place of homeostasis,” Lancaster said, about the treatment. “And things have a propensity to begin to heal.”
Michelle Pirret, a “sonic alchemist” at the Four Seasons New York Downtown, suggested this type of therapy is powerful because the human body is comprised mostly of water. “When frequency is played on the body, cellular water is vibrating,” she said. “This escalates hormonal release and relaxation.”
The Lodge at Woodloch in northeastern Pennsylvania offers a vibrational treatment that uses the sound waves of singing bowls to create a relaxed, meditative state. Its “Gong with the Wind” selection combines yoga and meditation with holistic sound immersion. The acoustics come courtesy of conch shells, bronze gongs, and singing bowls.
Primordial sound meditation is also on the menu at the Chopra Center for Well-Being in California. Guests receive personal mantras, specific sounds or vibrations that help them achieve quieter, more peaceful states of mind.
In Wisconsin, Kohler Waters Spa at The American Club has wet treatment rooms featuring VibraAcoustic bath technology. There, a big bathtub is tricked out with transducers that send vibrations through the water and aimed at opening up lymphatic pathways, said Nikki Miller, director of Kohler Waters Spas.
For companies looking to add sound therapy to their offerings, here is one piece of counterintuitive advice. Rather than just focusing on the noise, resort operators also need to focus on designing spaces for, well, blissful silence. “Creating a soundproof space significantly enhances the effectiveness of the experience,” Lee, of Eaton in Washington, D.C., explained.
“Silence,” he added, “must be given the honor it deserves.”