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Health and wellness

For an antidote to stress, sink into a Hong Kong gong bath (no water required)

Gong baths have been used for healing and meditation for thousands of years. But can they really help calm an active mind and body? We take the plunge at Red Doors Studio, which has the largest gong collection in Asia

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 6:49pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 6:48pm

Canadian-born Martha Collard wants to take as many people as possible down the wellness path – and she wants to do it slowly and preferably without a mobile device.

Having worked in the corporate world for two decades as an independent management consultant, she is all too familiar with the physical and mental demands of modern living. “We are sleep deprived, we have fewer holidays than the previous generation, digital dementia and depression are on the rise,” she says.

To improve peoples’ lot in life, she wants us to disconnect from technology and “just be”. To that end, she set up Red Doors Studio in Wong Chuk Hang, where she hosts meditation classes and gong baths.

Her 21-gong collection is the largest in Asia, the shining German-made instruments comprising 60 per cent copper, 20 per cent nickel and 20 per cent zinc. She hosts private and group sessions at her studio, and offers gong baths to cancer patients and their carers.

We gave it a try.

What is a gong bath?

Don’t be confused by the bath bit – there is no water, nudity or rubber ducks involved here. It’s the sound waves that you are bathed in. Healing with harmonious sound, such as chanting or drumming has been used to clear minds and bodies for centuries. Gongs date back to about 3500BC and, since the time of Buddha in the fifth or sixth century BC, all sacred Chinese gongs have been inscribed with tai loi, meaning “happiness has arrived”.

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Why do it?

Bright lights, big city. Long working hours, small flats. There are myriad reasons why Hong Kong is a difficult place to get your chill on. This is why Collard says gong baths are an excellent way to get some R&R and help deal with stress-related issues: depression, fatigue, addictions, anger and hostility, feelings of fear, separation and loneliness … I’ll stop now.

How does it work?

Taking a gong bath is easy – and that’s one of its appeals. You don’t have to do anything except lie down and close your eyes. In a way, it’s like a fast track to meditation, ideal for an impatient person like me. Walking into the calm Red Doors Studio was therapeutic in itself. Get under the comfy blanket, have a lavender scented eye pillow placed over your eyes and … gong.

How does it feel?

When Collard hit the first gong the emotional effect was instant: tears welled up and the hairs on my arms stood to attention. Collard says we are all wired differently, so everyone’s reaction is different.

“Some people laugh, some cry.” Others have bursts of creative ideas, see splashes of colour, have out-of-body experiences and feelings of connectedness.

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After a while I found myself involuntarily twitching, muscular spasms which Collard later explained were my energy meridians being aligned.

Immediately after the session I felt “fuzzy”, as if in a dreamlike state. My mouth was desert dry and I also had trouble stringing a sentence together.

Things flipped a few hours later when I had intense focus and energy: I was “buzzing” so much that I found it difficult to sleep, something that never normally happens.

Verdict

I will definitely make it a regular thing.

Cost

Take part in a group session which includes a chanting meditation followed by a 45-minute deep relaxation to the sound of the gongs. Blankets, mats and lavender eye bags are provided, along with home-made herbal tea and brownies. The cost is HK$300 a session, or HK$1,500 for six sessions. Custom-made packages for individuals and groups are also available.

Red Doors Studio, Flat A, 21/F, Lee Fund Centre, 31 Wong Chuk Hang Rd , tel: 2110 0152, red-doors.com