Mention “meditation,” and lots of folks imagine Buddhist monks sitting cross-legged in an incense-filled temple, remaining still and quiet for hours.
In truth, meditation comes in many practices and forms beyond remaining in the lotus position for hours. Reno has always marched to the tune of its own drum, a tradition that carries over into the health and wellness scene. I got the opportunity to explore two different meditation modalities via Reno holistic healers—an experience that expanded my views about mediation and natural therapies.
Wyatt Smith is a sound-bath engineer. A sound bath is an immersive and unique tradition that involves different cadences and pitches of sound for a full-body listening experience. OK, that sounds good—but I didn’t really know what to expect.
Upon arrival at The Center, a local yoga studio, I noticed yoga mats were set up in a circle around the instruments used for the sound baths. Those included colored crystal bowls of all sizes and large gongs.
Smith instructed participants to lay on their backs with their heads near the instruments. Every yoga mat had blankets and pillows; some people brought eye masks to allow for a deeper meditation experience. After a few minutes of guided deep breathing, a cycle of sounds and music began. Various loud and intense sounds emanated from the crystal bowls and gongs and washed over me in an audio wave.
“The vibrations are going to enter the body and bring it back to balance,” Smith explained.
Smith became a sound-bath engineer after a friend “dragged” him to a session 14 years ago. That first meditation experience inspired him to learn the techniques and eventually guide his own sound meditations. The process, he said, helps people feel a deeper and more profound connectivity to themselves and the space around them.
“I had that moment of bliss when the monkey chatter was quiet,” Smith said. “It’s intuitive for me; I don’t follow a script.”
Some of the benefits of sound baths, he said, include lowering depression or anxiety, and allowing a person to have more restful sleep. People have varied reactions to the therapy. They may laugh or cry; they may surrender to a deep state of relaxation; others may feel some discomfort. With any kind of therapy and self-improvement, someone may need to overcome some difficult moments, Smith said.
Immersed in my first audio bath, I never quite knew what was going to happen next. (That felt like a general metaphor for life.) Smith once had a client explain that in her first session, her mind was racing, and she wound up watching the clock. She felt better the next time, he said, and by the woman’s fourth visit, she was able to immediately go into a deep relaxed state.
The hour-long sound bath felt like it went by in a matter of minutes. Afterward, I felt a sense of ease and was in an almost dreamlike state. My fellow bathers seemed to have a similar reaction. Smith recommended that we stay away from loud music on our way home, because in the aftermath of the therapy, the sounds are still being absorbed, and the benefits of the meditative state are still being accrued. The more baths a person takes, the better they will feel, Smith said.
He occasionally hosts pop-up sound baths at local yoga studios and is available for private bookings. For more information or to schedule a private session, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The breath of life
“Breathwork” is another meditative practice used by many to help heal traumatic wounds and chronic stress. The technique involves using breath as a means to open up and expand the body and mind.
Proponents say the power of breathing is vastly underrated, and most people don’t realize they may hold their breath when things get tough, either mentally or physically. In my case, when I’m in the midst of a hard gym workout or deeply focused at work, I’ve noticed I unconsciously hold my breath. That means oxygen is withheld from our bloodstreams, a condition that doctors say can result in a flight-or-fight reaction in our central nervous system. The idea behind breathwork, proponents say, is to be mindful of breathing in order to release toxins and stress while exhaling, and nourish your body and mind on the inhale.
Adrienne Rivera, a Reno native and certified breathwork coach, holds a four-week series of guided sessions focused on breathing techniques. The classes allow a community to form among the participants, she said, as they build trust and closeness. Breathwork evolves beyond a traditional meditation, because it involves doing something active and not just sitting still, she said. The different breathing exercises build focus within the body and allow people to work through unprocessed trauma, Rivera noted; some often report having a spiritual awakening.
“Breath can allow people to disconnect from themselves,” Rivera said. “This is a place for people to carve out space to feel unprocessed emotions. Anybody can do breathwork.”
Rivera’s origin story is similar to Smith’s: She saw a breathwork-class flier and attended the session “on a whim.” The experience, she said, was so profound, she felt like she needed to teach others about it.
“We can create (a) big shift in our body with the power of our breath,” Rivera said.
Each session builds on the last, as Rivera teaches different breathing techniques. One of the practices is called “breath of fire,” a form of controlled breath also found in many yoga practices. Participants lie supine, with their eyes closed, as they focus on fast inhales and exhales. Some participants say the technique can take them into an alternative state of consciousness, or help them feel more alert and mindful.
Rivera’s next breathwork class is scheduled at The Virgil, 301 Vassar St., in Reno, on Jan. 9, 16, 23 and 30, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. She is also hosting a Valentine’s Day class aimed at couples who want to create deeper intimacy through breathwork. Visit www.breathofgold.com for more information.