This post was most recently updated on July 9th, 2019
When you travel, you become more aware of different cultures and practices. The more you learn, the more you will benefit. When I first discovered a Tibetan singing bowl, it was no different. I was truly fascinated with the harmonious sound and vibrations it created. I wanted to know more about what it was, how it worked, why people use it, and so much more!
What is a Tibetan singing bowl?
It’s a bowl. And it’s a bell. It’s also a complex musical instrument, originating from the Himalayan countries, but most associated with Tibet. My Tibetan singing bowl is created from panchaloga, a 5-metal alloy of copper, zinc, iron, and traces of silver and gold. The presence of several different ores produces multiphonic overtones when the bowl is rubbed or struck like a bell. The “singing” sound is quite remarkable and can be both energizing and soothing at the same time. It can be quite large or small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Its pitch can be low or high, depending on its size and other variables, like whether or not it is filled with water or the surface of the mallet.
What is the history of singing bowls?
Tibetan singing bowls go back over 2000 years. Originally hand-hammered, each bowl was unique in its tones and ‘singing’. Singing bowls have been used to aid in meditation, religious practice, relaxation and healing. They have been found primarily in Tibet, India and Nepal, but also in Japan, Korea, China and Mongolia. There is a common association between singing bowls and Buddhism, but the use of singing bowls predates Buddhism. The first singing bowls are said to have been made in Mesopotamia over 5000 years ago, making them one of the oldest artisan crafts in human history.
Who uses a Tibetan singing bowl?
I was truly amazed at how widespread the use of singing bowls is. Certainly still a cultural practice in Himalayan countries, its use has spread to many people with many purposes. I was first exposed to a singing bowl by my husband’s aunt, who works as a music therapist. Today, you will find singing bowls being used in yoga classes, music instruction (they are a great way to teach about harmonics!), spas, meditation sessions, in sound healing, for stress reduction, and even just for entertainment. If you travel a lot like I do, you could use a singing bowl to calm your nerves before flying OR to keep your children entertained.
When I received my Tibetan singing bowl, I was with my three-year old grandson. He was very interested in learning how to use it. For a young child, the easiest way to use a singing bowl is to strike it like a bell. He liked being able to make the bowl be “quiet” or “loud”.
As I learned how to make the bowl ‘sing’, my grandson immediately picked up on the tones it was producing. Notice how he tries to match the tone with his own voice. But it’s tricky, because there’s more than one tone playing!
Note how my grandson reacted to the singing bowl: It feels “good”, he says. It is a very peaceful sound. This was one of my first attempts to ‘rim’ the bowl and make it sing. I’m much better at it now, and it really does feel good. Even after I stop playing the bowl, I can feel the energy of the vibration long afterwards. It is as if it has set my entire body resonating!
Why use a singing bowl?
For music. Or for pleasure. For meditation. For healing. Or for all of the above!
“The sounds singing bowls produce create a kind of energy medicine that is said to fix the broken frequencies of the body, mind and soul. Playing these bowls creates a centering effect, which causes the left and right sides of the human brain to synchronize with one another. Thus, various activities such as yoga and other forms of meditative practices sometimes employ singing bowls, as they have the miraculous ability to bring the listener to peace and calmness.” – Shanti Bowl
Singing bowls can help reduce stress, cause a calm and meditative state, and help with healing. The benefits of using a Tibetan singing bowl can include:
- increasing energy levels
- improving sleep
- aiding digestion
- stimulating the immune system
- increasing mental clarity and creativity
- aiding with fibromyalgia and psoriasis
- inhibiting and reducing pain
Can a singing bowl really be used for healing?
Because of a singing bowl’s ability to help align body and mind, an increasing number of mainstream medical institutions around the world use singing bowls in health treatment, including cancer treatment. Check out this quote:
“If we accept that sound is vibration and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears but through every cell in our bodies. One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes. Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning and can play a positive role in the treatment of virtually any medical disorder.”
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine, the Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in New York
Disclaimer: I’m not saying a singing bowl will cure every ailment, but alternative healing definitely has a place in my own arsenal of remedies!
How do you play a singing bowl?
To create music with a Tibetan singing bowl, you need only strike it with the mallet. This will make it ring like a bell. To make it ‘sing’, first strike it so it is already vibrating, then place the mallet on the rim and slowly circle the outer rim of the bowl. The friction of the mallet rubbing against the outer edge will cause it to sing, and the ‘voice’ will grow louder as you press more firmly against the rim. It might be a little tricky to get the hang of it, but with just a little practice you’ll have your bowl singing in no time!
And HOW can you get one for yourself?
Tibetan singing bowls can be quite expensive. For an antique Tibetan singing bowl, you’ll easily pay $1000’s. Others typically retail in the $100’s. But I discovered Shanti Bowl, a company dedicated to providing singing bowls of good quality at a very affordable price. Shanti bowls are made in Tibet, where the ancient knowledge of how to produce them is best known. Each bowl receives a special blessing ritual, too.
And for a short time, Shanti Bowl is offering you a 15% discount if you’d like to purchase a Tibetan singing bowl for yourself. Just use the code: POSTCARDS15 in the discount space on the checkout page. But use it soon — the code expires May 15, 2018. Now you can enjoy the creative and healing properties of a Tibetan singing bowl in your own home!
I’d like to thank Shanti Bowl for providing me with a beautiful singing bowl. All opinions and feelings expressed are genuinely my own.
Much appreciation also to Heather Young for her video skills and photos!
Note: while I was writing this article for your enjoyment, I listened to the meditative qualities of this video. Maybe you will enjoy it, too!