Even the name, “singing bowl” conjures up something mystical, magical and wonderful. What would make a bowl sing? Why would we want it to? Bowls are for eating, aren’t they? I’ve always had plenty of questions about singing bowls and the differences between Tibetan singing bowls and crystal singing bowls, so I decided to look into this topic a little more deeply.
My first encounter with singing bowls was—no surprise—at a yoga class. My teacher had seven or eight bowls of different sizes, and she’d often play them during Savasana. This was a calming, meditative, and truly beautiful experience. When her yoga studio closed, I was almost as sad to say good-bye to those glorious bowls as I was to my beloved teacher! Not long after, a dear friend gave me my own singing bowl as a gift. Needless to say, I was thrilled!
Since then, I’ve encountered singing bowls in many places, including on the CDs of the gorgeous singer Ashana. I’m told that experiencing her crystal bowls is even more magical and powerful in person, though listening to an album is quite extraordinary as well.
Tibetan Singing Bowls are quite different than the crystal bowls, though the purpose is similar. The bowls are used in many healing, religious, and spiritual practices and rituals, including meditation, chakra therapy, Reiki, treatments for illnesses, and yoga. They can be used to start or end a yoga session, and I’ve also read that they can be used to calm a class of unruly children! They have a wondrous power to bring us into the present moment, transporting us to calmness, stillness, and peaceful hearts.
Tibetan bowls– also called Himalayan bowls– date back to at least 3000 years ago, and were reportedly initially made in Nepal, China, and Japan, before making their way to Tibet. The bowls come in different sizes, with the smaller bowls having a lighter sound and the larger bowls a deeper, more resonant tone. Today you can order both old and new singing bowls on the Internet, and find them at many yoga and other specialty shops.
To play the bowl, sit with a straight spine, and hold the bowl in your flat hand; keep your fingers extended and avoid cupping your hand or curling your fingers around the base. You play the bowl by gently but firmly circling the outside rim with a small striker or mallet. Once it starts to sing you can slow your movement; the bowl will continue to vibrate and sing even after you’ve stopped circling with the mallet.
It has been said (though there is some disagreement here) that the bowls were originally made of seven metals: gold for the Sun, silver for the Moon, mercury for Mercury, copper for Venus, iron for Mars, tin for Jupiter, and lead for Saturn. There is even a theory that they contained meteorite. More recently, they have been made of bronze and other materials.
Then there are the singing crystal bowls, like those Ashana uses at her concerts and workshops. These are made of pure crushed quartz crystal and are played with a special suede mallet. They can range from 6 to 24 inches in diameter. Like the Tibetan bowls, the crystal singing bowls enhance meditation and healing, and create a powerful awareness of well-being and ease in the listener. Combining the bowls with other instruments and Ashana’s voice provides a sublime and unforgettable experience.
Whichever bowl you choose, rest assured that it will take you on a beautiful sound voyage. The more you play and get to know it, the more comfortable you’ll be with gently bringing out its unique “voice.” Enjoy and let the therapeutic, healing vibration of the singing bowl carry you to a gentle, ease-full place. When it comes to singing bowls (and so many other things) it’s all about the journey!
Enjoy the meditative vibrations of singing bowls with these wonderful albums:
Hear Ashana’s beautiful singing bowls at Sat Nam Fest in Joshua Tree, CA!