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Acoustic baths relieve the tension caused by the bloating of St. Louis

On a recent Saturday, Justin Sellers of Chesterfield sprawled out on a blanket overlooking the Grand Basin in Forest Park.

When dozens of other people settled on the slope around him, he picked up a 5-foot-long PVC pipe, held it in his mouth and gave a bellow.

Jury-equipped didgeridoo goes everywhere with him. This evening, it was an impromptu warm-up for the Sound of the New Moon Concert at Art Hill, where the choir of crickets will soon accompany rain sticks, singing bowls, and gongs.

“We are all connected with vibration,” Sellers says. “You can tune your body to a certain frequency.”

Sound bathing – also called sound therapy or sound meditation – has been around for centuries, with deep roots in cultures from Australia to Tibet. But during the Pandemic, the ritual harmony of ancient instruments resonated with a modern-day audience seeking stress relief, relaxation, and focus. Intensive versions – in yoga classes, during massage appointments and even in elementary classrooms – helped bring the practice into a wider circle.

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Over the summer, Becca Blake from St. Charles decided to offer it as an add-on for acupuncture patients.







Svound owner Lisa Grislake prepares for her weekly class inside Manresa Center Church near the SLU campus.


Hilary Levine


“Sound waves stimulate the needles more intensely,” she says. “You get a double dose.”

Blake is one of Mo Costello’s new partners. Costello, who lives in the Solard neighborhood, has been doing sonic baths for nearly a decade — “back when not many people had heard of” — after getting a crystal singing bowl for her birthday. You’ve learned how to move the striker around the edge to raise and lower the pitch.

Costello established her business, A House of Harmony, by networking with chiropractors, exercise studios, and rehabilitation centers.

“It’s a gateway to a lot of other things,” she says. The holistic system helps people to get out of the “monkey mind state”.

Over time, Costello developed the following. Some of its clients have become practitioners themselves.

Steve Coleman of Creve Coeur started meditating about 15 years ago, a habit he adopted while recovering from alcoholism. When he first heard the singing bowl, he was fascinated by the wet waves.

A decade later, he finally took a full sonic bath, quickly became a regular, and made the rounds between Costello and two other local specialists.

“It was strong enough that I thought this was something I wanted to do more of,” says Coleman, who serves as a commercial building inspector.

He put together a collection of singing bowls—which range from cup-sized to bucket-size and can cost hundreds of dollars—and attended a workshop in the spring of 2021 to master the techniques.

The Sound Journeys by Steve opening ceremony was in August. Positive feedback led to a weekly donation-based party at the Hub Community Center in Maryland Heights. It is open to anyone but attracts a lot of people who also have drug or alcohol addiction.

“I consider that part of my recovery,” Coleman says. “It is a spiritual recovery.”







Svond soundbath

Before Lisa Grizlak, owner of Svound, welcomes the autumnal equinox with a sound bath for participants on September 18 at the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park, participants practice yoga during a sunrise celebration.


Hilary Levine


little vacation

For Holly Perkins of southern St. Louis County, it took a few tries to embrace discipline.

“The first time, I was a lot in my head,” she says.

But now she hesitates on Coleman’s audio trips. She bought wind chimes for her house as a reminder between visits of the joy she feels when she lies down, clears her mind and lets the ropes run down her.

Practitioners say that proper bathing, such as meditation, can relieve stress, improve mood, and lower blood pressure. Coleman likens it to a little vacation.

“Consciousness shuts down, and the subconscious goes off,” he says.

Few large-scale studies have been conducted on voice therapy, but small sample sizes have shown improvement in the motor function of patients with cerebral palsy and fibromyalgia and in relief of depressive symptoms.

“This isn’t just a new age,” says Arya Thom, a facilitator at the Forest Park pop-up, “Woooooo, there.” “One hundred percent of what I do is based on science.”

Thomey, who lives in southern St. Louis, has a doctorate in sacred music. As a choir director, she became fascinated with Gregorian hymns.

“The more I researched this topic, the more I found that it calms the nervous system the more,” says Tom.

She wanted to continue learning, so she joined the London-based Sound Healing Academy, taught for two and a half years and earned a diploma in tuning forks.

In 2020, she began making one-hour appointments, at a cost of $85, at her home. Its method is more focused than multipurpose group gatherings.

Thom first assesses what each person wants from the experience. Then, she keeps notes—sometimes harmonious, sometimes contradictory—on each of the seven chakras, or focal points, of the body.

It spins through the machines and changes its turn to release any negative energy, she says, packing it with positivity.

“It’s like she’s making a symphony personally for you,” says Jimmy Rhodes of South St. Louis.

‘Wash the tension off’

Rhodes credits the shower sound for helping her process her grief after her husband’s death last year. Many people seek out an immersive experience after a trauma, says Thom, such as a divorce, a health crisis, or an accident.

But not every participant does a heavy emotional lift. In the Forest Park pop-up, co-facilitated by Thome, many of the sound-bathers had more-worldly motives: Couples came for a weird night out. A nurse wanted to get rid of the stress of the work week. A couple of friends saw this as an opportunity for a kid-free outing.

“We’re busy moms,” says Bridget Cognac of Gillespie. “This allowed me to really clear my mind.”

Svound owner Thomie and Lisa Grislake spun about 60 as the sky blushed and darkened to a dark indigo. They coaxed the lingering melodies of the lyrical bowls and vibrated the chimes made of kenari seed shells. Three hanging triangular space gongs rang or rocked, depending on how the hammers danced.

The Missouri Botanical Garden digs into the sounds of plants and wood

Grezlak, of the Central West End, found the sound during a trip to Arizona six years ago.

“I was on time off from work, feeling stressed all the time,” she says. “I woke up to my higher self. That session woke me up.”

She came home, quit her job, and immersed herself in training. She leads sessions indoors and outdoors, for walks, private parties, and corporate retreats, which range from donation-based donations to $250. She says awareness of vocal healing has increased, and she expects it to continue to grow—infiltrating gyms, spas, coffee shops, and even hospitals.

“The sound is where yoga was 20 years ago,” says Grezlak. “I tell people, ‘Come try this for an hour. Come wash the tension from your body. “

When Alexandra Royer from St. Louis arrived at Art Hill, she still carried the weight of the week with her, she said. I watched the sunset and fireflies glowing as sizzles, rattles, and arms rolled across the grass.

“I felt this movement inside me,” Royer says. “He was very charming.”

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