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I Went To A Sound Bath, And Here’s What Happened

Culture

I didn’t even mind that they made me dance

Constantly on a journey to find new ways to relax and self-heal to combat the everyday stresses of life, I’ve fallen in love with certain new age-y practices and do my best to keep up with them on the regular. From reiki and acupuncture sessions to my own (attempts) at meditating at home (okay, I’m either still panicking or I just fall asleep), I can safely say I’ve become much more mindful of the importance of my well-being over the past year or so—and am at least trying to improve things a bit.

When I saw that Maha Rose, a healing center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, that I frequent for the occasional workshop or crystal shopping session, was hosting a sound bath, I knew I had to get in on it. I mean, sound baths have been trending in New York for a year or so now; I was appalled at the fact that I had yet to try one.

If you’re not sure what a sound bath is, you'll be surprised to learn that there’s no actual bath involved. Nor is there water. The name is rather figurative: You’re “bathed” in sound, the vibrations of which have a healing effect on your body, while you lie down (or sit) in a meditative state. 

The main purpose of the sound bath is to force us to focus on our silver cord, or Sutratma, which is considered to be the “life thread” that connects our soul to our physical body, much like the way an umbilical cord connects a baby to its mother. Simply put, a sound bath is supposed to strengthen that cord, which is good, because once it's severed, we're permanently disconnected from our physical body and into our astral bodies (aka dead).

In the workshop description, the session promised to connect me with “the angel realms, giving vitality to the cord” and stimulating the pineal gland with chanting and meditation, thus allowing the sound to “facilitate an experience of the silver cord where the subconscious and unconscious mind release.” I had no idea what any of that meant, but it sounded good to me.

When I arrived at Maha Rose, I was greeted by Jarrod Byre Mayer and Melody Balczon, a pair of married Kundalini yoga instructors who were facilitating the session. I grabbed a blanket, plopped down next to this overly PDA-y couple, and was ready to go.

The session consisted of three different parts: a warm-up of sorts, a chanting session, and then the actual sound bath meditation.

What was the warm-up, you ask? …A dance party.

When Mayer and Balczon told us that we were going dance around and shake off our days before getting started, I began to shrink away in horror. I only really dance when excessive tequila is involved, so how I was going to shake my ass with a bunch of strangers? (And, of course, this time, I chose to sit up front).

However, the point of this session was to let go of your ego, so somehow, when “Hey Ya” started blaring over the speakers, my body just allowed me to move and shake around freely. In fact, by the time Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” ended, I realized that I had *almost* started singing along, too.

Once we were done, it was time for a chanting session to restore balance. Along with Mayer and his Shruti box, we “ohm'ed” loudly over the B note, which aims to help open the crown, or seventh, chakra located on the top of the head. Now, I’m usually the one that mouths out the words to “Happy Birthday,” rather than actually singing them at any office birthday function, so the fact that I was feeling so open and vocal and comfortable to belt out a chant was already a big deal for me. Something about being in Maha Rose and the people I was surrounded by put me at such ease and immediately made me feel more open—or maybe I just had “Hey Ya” to thank. Then we all had to whistle, which I learned I’m no longer capable of doing. I pretended. As we continued to chant, Mayer and Balczon walked around the studio, placing vibrating tuning forks resonating at the same B note at the top of our heads to further help open the crown chakra. My head sort of buzzed a bit, and it was weird, but I definitely didn't mind it.

Next, the sound bath began. Everyone in the room got on their backs and under their blankets, a position we would be in for the next hour or so. It sort of reminded me of preschool naptime, but in the best way possible. As I laid there with my eyes closed under warm blankets, focusing on my breathing, the sounds of the singing bowls began. Eventually, gongs and other chimes were introduced, with the sound getting louder and more intense in waves.

We were told to picture ourselves reaching the bright white light at the end of the tunnel, which symbolizes the silver cord and approaching death (think, the white light that those with near-death experiences claim to see). I’m no expert at meditating, at all. I usually find that the harder I try to not focus on my thoughts, the more my mind is buzzing. That said, while I had some trouble staying focused on that specific image, after some time, I definitely got lost in myself at some point. I didn’t hear the singing bowls or gongs anymore, and I didn’t know how much time passed. I definitely wasn’t asleep, but I also wasn’t present. I was lost in this pleasant, dream-like state.

Toward the end, I felt myself slip back into a more conscious state. As the gongs began to quiet and the session was ending, Mayer and Balczon played a recording of a Buddhist man speaking of death. The man talked about how we should not be afraid to face it. While that may sound pretty bleak, at the time, it was incredibly comforting.

Once it was over, I left Maha Rose feeling enlightened, relaxed, and slightly high. I didn’t even mind that the G train was down. A $16 cab back to my Bushwick apartment? No problem! When I got home, I went to bed almost immediately. I didn’t even try to watch the latest episode of Girls —I was just happy to fall asleep with a cleared head.

We were warned that we would be sore the next day as the sound actually releases lactic acid in your muscles—which pretty much blew my mind—and that we would probably get the best night’s sleep we’ve had in a while. Both proved to be true.

Whether you're into all of this new age, spiritual stuff or not, I recommend trying a sound bath out. Even if you treat it as naptime (which I feel 100 percent needs be incorporated into any working person's day), you may be surprised at just how good you’ll feel afterward; I would definitely say I saw the light.

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Credits:
Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds

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Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.