Good Vibrations

Imagine standing in Tadasana at the beginning of your yoga class and feeling subtle vibrations ripple through the floor, along the soles of your feet, and up into the bones of your body. No, it’s not an earthquake; it’s a sound-resonance floor—a 1,600-square-foot hardwood surface that subtly resonates to the music streaming from a dozen speakers arranged around the ceiling and 13 additional speakers in the floor. On March 1, 2008, the YMCA of Boulder Valley in Lafayette, Colorado, became home to the first resonance floor in the country.

The resonance comes from transducers (electronic devices that convert the voltage variations known as music into tactile vibrations) hidden beneath the floor. In addition to producing audio waves, music also emits tactile waves. These vibrations are broadcast through the transducers so that people can actually feel the musical tones. The transducers can be turned up or down to vary the vibrations’ intensity.

Suzannah Long, a Pilates teacher at the Y, and Barry Oser, a concert pianist, developed the floor and other sound-amplifying products at their company, the Lafayette-based SO Sound Solutions, after more than 28 years of research. Long approached Keith Williams, the YMCA’s executive director of operations, about a year ago with the idea. Long’s pitch coincided with the building of the new Mind, Body, Spirit studio at the Y, and the floor seemed to be a perfect addition.

Sitting or standing on the floor fills one’s body with subtle vibrations. The intensity of the vibrations depends on the type of music and the volume, both of which are relayed by the transducers beneath. “By feeling resonance in some parts of your body and not others, you bring awareness to tension,” says Long. Once aware, the body intuitively relaxes.

Carmen Baehr, a certified Anusara Yoga teacher at Lafayette’s YMCA, notices profound changes in her classes since practicing on the floor. She still gives verbal cues to center and relax but says the students are prompted by standing or sitting on the resonating surface. “It is a sacred space,” says Baehr, who likens the experience to a tuning fork: Sound is transmitted through the hollow of your bones and the water in your body to open and warm muscles for asana.

“It’s amazing,” says Shari Soroka, who practices yoga, Nia, and Pilates at the Y. “You feel like you are connecting with something greater.” Attendance has shot up 40 percent since the floor’s installation, making it well worth the $20,000 price tag, Williams says. “It generates more for the soul than any other addition would,” he says.