What Is a Tibetan Singing Bowl?

collection of singing bowls

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A Tibetan singing bowl is a type of bell that vibrates and produces a rich, deep tone when played. Also known as singing bowls or Himalayan bowls, Tibetan singing bowls are said to promote relaxation and offer powerful healing properties. 

Buddhist monks have long used Tibetan singing bowls in meditation practice. In addition, some wellness practitioners (including music therapists, massage therapists, and yoga therapists) use Tibetan singing bowls during treatment.

How It Works

A few different theories have been proposed to explain why Tibetan singing bowls might be beneficial. Such theories suggest that: 

  • The vibrations that the bowls produce may affect the mind and body.
  • The sounds the bowls create may impact brain waves in order to induce relaxation.
  • They may induce the same psychological effects and benefits as listening to music.

The benefits of listening to the bowls may be related to the ancient practice of sound therapy. Often used by indigenous cultures throughout the world, sound therapy involves pulsing sounds, clapping, drumming, and singing for ceremonial, spiritual, and health purposes.

Uses

Very few scientific studies have examined the potential benefits of Tibetan singing bowls, despite their long history of use. But some people do report that they help them feel more relaxed.

Some of the possible uses for singing bowl therapy include:

  • Stress relief: Some research supports the use of Tibetan singing bowls as a way to promote relaxation and reduce feelings of anxiety.
  • Improving sleep: Because singing bowl therapy has been linked to decreased anxiety and tension, it may be helpful for improving sleep. Further research is needed, however, to support this.
  • Lowering blood pressure: A preliminary study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion in 2014 examined the benefits of starting a directed relaxation session with 12 minutes of singing bowls and found a greater reduction in systolic blood pressure and heart rate compared to silence before the session.
  • Reducing depression: One study linked singing bowl therapy to improvements in mood and suggested that this approach may be a low-cost way to help reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Stimulating the immune system: Some also claim that Tibetan singing bowls can stimulate the immune system and produce beneficial changes in brain waves.
  • Pain relief: One study looking at chronic spinal pain found that people treated with singing bowl therapy experienced significantly decreased pain intensity as well as decreased stress. However, placebo treatment had the same effects, so the study's authors concluded that singing bowl therapy's effectiveness for pain relief could not be confirmed.
  • Balancing and harmonizing the body: Many proponents claim that the vibrations of a singing bowl can produce beneficial changes in the body by "harmonizing" the cells and "balancing the body's energy system."
  • Enhancing other healing practices: Some people use the bowls in combination with other healing practices, such as meditation and deep breathing.

It is important to note that while Tibetan singing bowls are often used for these purposes, research is still needed to determine what impact they actually have. Proponents may suggest that they have these benefits, but that does not mean that they actually work. Some of the claims don't have a clear scientific basis.

Risks and Side Effects

While using Tibetan singing bowls is generally regarded as fairly safe, there is not a great deal of research on the possible risks and side effects of this type of treatment. People who may want to avoid singing bowl therapy include:

  • People who are prone to headaches: Some people report experiencing headaches as a result of the noise and vibrations that the singing bowls produce. 
  • Pregnant women: Because the effects on pregnancy are not known, you might want to avoid this type of therapy if you are currently pregnant.
  • People with epilepsy: In some instances, noise and vibrations may trigger seizures. 

How to Use Tibetan Singing Bowls

During this treatment, you will lie on the floor while the bowls are placed in different configurations. For example, they might be placed around your body, on your body, or in different locations around the room.

To create sound with a singing bowl, firmly press the accompanying mallet in a circular motion against the bowl's outside edge or rim. When you hear a bright, clear tone, you can slow down the motion. Use your full arm to make the motion, rather than just rotating your wrist.

You can also make the same circular motion against the outside belly of the bowl. Additionally, you can gently strike the bowl before beginning the circular motion.

Where to Buy

If you are interested in trying Tibetan singing bowls, there are a number of places where you can find them. Some sources include:

  • Online retailers
  • Meditation centers
  • Yoga studios
  • Music shops
  • Stores that specialize in new age products

Proponents suggest that higher-quality bowls tend to produce more resonant sounds.

The size of the bowl is another factor to consider. Smaller to medium-sized bowls are often more appropriate for beginners, while larger singing bowls may be suited to more advanced users.

A Word From Verywell

Tibetan singing bowls may have some benefits, but more research is needed to substantiate their use. Some research does support the idea that these singing bowls can enhance meditation and deep breathing, which may help maximize the stress-relieving benefits of those practices.

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  2. Landry JM. Physiological and psychological effects of a Himalayan singing bowl in meditation practice: a quantitative analysis. Am J Health Promot. 2014;28(5):306-9. doi:10.4278/ajhp.121031-ARB-528

  3. Wepner F, Hahne J, Teichmann A, Berka-schmid G, Hördinger A, Friedrich M. [Treatment with crystal singing bowls for chronic spinal pain and chronobiologic activities - a randomized controlled trial]. Forsch Komplementmed. 2008;15(3):130-7. doi:10.1159/000136571