Self-confessed fitness phobe tries out Manchester Gong Spa ahead of Parr Hall visit

Manchester Gong Spa is heading to Parr Hall tomorrow for an unforgettable evening of pure relaxation. Intrigued to find out more about this growing trend, we sent a member of our team to one of the sessions to see what it’s all about.

It’s 7pm on Friday night. Usually by now I’m curled up somewhere in the foetal position with a beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other but tonight, it’s time for something a little different. I’m sitting in a car park somewhere in Greater Manchester building up the courage to step very firmly out of my comfort zone. I have been shipped off by my colleagues at Culture Warrington – the charity that runs Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, Pyramid and Parr Hall – to experience my very first gong spa.

*** pause ***

Yes – a gong spa. According to a piece in The Guardian, this is something celebrities like to do, which generally involves “lying on the floor while someone hits a big plate.” Happy Friday!

Before we go any further, let me explain why I’m here. Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival is returning to town this weekend and stealing the spotlight this year is Luke’s Jerram’s incredible Museum of the Moon – a seven-metre wide, light-up replica of the moon. To celebrate this fantastic piece coming to Warrington, festival organisers have planned a spectacular series of events under this moon, from silent discos and film screenings, to – yep, you’ve guessed it! – a gong spa.

Linking up with two traditional yoga sessions, this event is supposed to be oozing with relaxing and therapeutic vibes, so – as the office fitness-phobe – I’ve been sent to test it out. So, here goes! One small step for man; one massive, gargantuan fling myself into it for me.

As soon as I enter the room, I am greeted by musician and sound healer Martyn Cawthorne, who immediately makes me feel a little more at ease. Martyn is an experienced musician and fully-qualified gong practitioner and sound healer as well as the founder of the Northern School of SoundSmiths.

After Martyn explains to me a little more about the practice and its benefits, I take my seat – or yoga mat – on the floor and use this moment to take in my surroundings; from the four large gongs that take centre stage at the front of the room, to atmospheric fairylights around the room and the relaxing scent of incense.

The class then begins to prepare for the session by sitting or lying on their mats. Martyn kindly provided some pillows and blankets for comfort and warmth but guests are invited to bring whatever they need to ensure a comfortable and tranquil experience.

I closed my eyes, applied the scented eye pillow provided, and waited. Slowly, the sounds of the street outside and the people around me began to melt away until out of the silence came the sound of a simple chime. The quiet sound began to grow as Martyn used a variety of instruments in different ways to create an enormous range of sounds, from a serene whoosh to a colossal crescendo. Letting my mind focus only on the sounds I could hear, the outside world just seemed to drift away as I could feel my body physically begin to unwind. At the start of the session, Martyn warned that people do sometimes lose body heat during a gong bath and before long I began to feel icy cold and my whole body started to tingle.

As the sound continued to ebb and flow, the gongs took me on a vivid journey to the far reaches of Central Asia, where my imagination conjured up images of scarlet lanterns, majestic mountains clothed in mist and fire-breathing dragons. In the middle of this swirl of colour, my mind also began to reflect on my own life. As unlikely or contrived as it might seem – and I’m not one to usually one to go down this road – my mind started to clear as I looked at things in a different way and realised that everything was actually far simpler than a busy life made it seem.

In what felt like no time at all, the sound of the gongs began to wane and the timid tinkles of the chimes reappeared, along with the gentle brush of a rattle. Slowly, Martyn began to bring us back from our various stages of semi-consciousness until the whole class was sitting back up, sleepy but relaxed and astounded that an entire hour had somehow managed to pass.

As we perked ourselves up with a refreshing glass of jasmine tea, members of the group began to talk about their own experiences and it quickly became apparent that every person responds with their own unique experience and that experience is not always the same for each and every session. Martyn explained that this is because the body takes what it needs from each session, whether that is physical or emotional healing, relaxation or even inspiration.

Feeling rested, focused and definitely a little bit sleepy, I finished my tea, said goodbye and made my way home, where I had what I’m sure was the best sleep of my life!

To conclude? Despite my initial apprehension, my first gong spa experience was quite honestly a revelation. Delivering serenity, clarity and the ultimate sense of repose, Manchester Gong Spa offers the therapy and mental healing we all need in our everyday lives.

Already longing to dive back into that realm of relaxing bliss, my mind now looks forward to an unmissable event that is coming to Parr Hall next week; where Manchester Gong Spa marries up with Museum of the Moon to take guests on a journey that’s out of this world.

Manchester Gong Spa is coming to Parr Hall on Tuesday 8 October.  Please note that mats, blankets and pillows will not be provided at the Parr Hall event