By Brian James Rose
Sound has been in practice in various cultures for thousands of years as a tool for healing. Everyone has an experience of feeling calm and good with some sounds. For example, sounds used in yoga promote concentration while those used in aerobics class give energy. Sounds are known to have a powerful effect on how we feel throughout the day. Whether our minds pay attention or not, our bodies take cues from rhythms and sounds, knowing when to get energized and when to slow down. Research also suggests that sound can be used to improve physical and emotional health and wellbeing. Sound therapy nowadays is gaining popularity as preventive medicine and complementing traditional treatments.
What is Sound Therapy or Sound Healing?
As already said, sound healing is not new; it is an ancient practice that uses various musical instruments that create healing vibrations around the body in a meditative state. It is also known as sound meditation or sound bathing. Sound therapy utilizes sounds played in therapeutic ways combined with deep self-healing techniques to improve health and wellbeing. The concept behind sound therapy is that our bodies contain energy frequencies, and the sonic frequencies can reattune these energies when they go off-key. It is believed that a person’s health is affected when the body’s healthy resonant frequency is out of balance. Sound therapy restores that healthy balance of the body by transmitting sound wave frequencies to the affected area. Sound therapy is one of the growing subtle energy therapies in the field of vibrational medicine. Sound therapists believe that each part of our body has its own frequency at which it resonates. The disease is thought to be due to those resonances getting out of tune due to factors such as environmental, illness, or stress. Sound therapy is now being used to treat various physical and mental conditions.
Historical Background of Sound Therapy
There are many theories on how sound healing originated. Instruments like drums, monochords, gongs, didgeridoos, and singing bowls are archaic instruments that stem from early human history. These instruments are usually defined as producing sounds and tones rather than melodies. These sounds have been used as a tool for physical and emotional wellbeing in ancient cultures and civilizations. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks used vowel sound chants as healing tools in around 200 B.C because they believe the vowels are sacred. Tibetan monks used singing bowls in healing. Himalayan singing bowls have been used in Asia for thousands of years in meditation and prayer and are now used for wellbeing and relaxation. Mantra recitations and chanting have also been a part of yoga and Hindu spirituality for thousands of years.
In 1896 American physicists discovered a connection between sound and healing when they discovered that certain music types improve the thought processes and increase blood flow. More advancements in sound therapy were made after World War II, and it was started properly as a part of rehabilitation treatment for soldiers in the 1940s. Sound therapy began in Europe between the 1950s and 1960s. Sir Peter Guy Manners, a British osteopath, developed a machine to treat patients with healing vibrations. He believed that this treatment made the body cells vibrate at a healthy resonance. From the 1960s onwards, a wide variety of sound therapies were originated, ranging from the ancient practice of chanting or the use of singing bowls to vibroacoustic furniture.
How Sound Therapy Works?
For understanding the fundamentals of sound in healing, it is essential to know brainwaves. Our thoughts, emotions, and behavior is the result of communication between neurons. Brain waves are generated by means of electrical impulses to and from neurons. These brain waves are divided into five different bandwidths or frequencies that form a spectrum of human consciousness. Delta waves are the slowest waves with frequencies between 0.3Hz to 5 Hz and occur during deep sleep. Gamma waves are fastest with frequencies between 25Hz to 100 Hz and occur during states of conscious perception. Alpha waves range in frequency between 8Hz to 12Hz and occur during daydreaming or when the mind is consciously practicing meditation. The brain generates impulses at a specific frequency based on the type of neurotransmitter released. Based on this concept, the frequency of delivered sound waves synchronizes with the brainwaves activating the relaxing responses in the brain. For example, sounds generating the alpha waves release serotonin that promotes wellbeing enhances mood, and relieves anxiety. The other healing effect is when these sound waves travel through the body, they promote circulation, rejuvenation, and energy flow. A study conducted by the British Academy of Sound Therapy found that 95% of clients with stress-related disorders felt improvement and calmness following sound therapy.
Types of Sound Healing Therapy
There are different types of sound therapy, some of which are scientific, while others are spiritual. Following are commonly used sound therapies.
It is the type in which voice instructions accompany meditation. Meditation alone also has many benefits, but the benefits can be enhanced when combined with specific mantras, chanting, or prayers. This type of sound therapy is used for stress and anxiety reduction, enhancing memory, pain reduction, lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and decreasing the risk of heart diseases.
This sound therapy method uses sound with guided imagery and is used to explore consciousness, personal growth, and transformation. Bonny method is used in patients with physiological and psychological symptoms.
This type of sound therapy aims to treat children with developmental delays such as learning difficulties, autism, and mental health issues. Nordoff-Robbins assume that every one of us can find meaning in music or sound and teaches patients to create music as a form of healing therapy.
Singing Bowl Therapy
Singing bowls have been used in Asia since the 12th century for meditation, ceremonial and ritual purposes. In sound healing therapy, singing bowls are believed to improve breathing and circulation, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, boosts immunity, and alleviates aches and pains.
Tuning Fork Therapy
In this type of method, tuning forks are used to apply specific vibrational frequencies to parts of the body, putting the body-soul dynamics back. This type is similar to acupuncture without using needles and instead of using sound frequencies for stimulation. It promotes emotional balance by releasing tension and opening block energies.
Binaural Beats or Brainwave Entrainment
In this type, the pulsing sounds are used to stimulate the brain into a specific state, encouraging brainwaves to align with the sound frequency. This method is used to enhance focus, induce relaxation, and sleep. Studies also suggest that binaural beats reduce pain, improve anxiety, and improve children’s behavioral problems.
In this type, the sound waves are directly applied to the body by placing speakers on the bed’s side on which the patient is lying. The sound waves in this way are penetrated at a deeper cellular level. VAT is used as a complement to traditional treatment in the recovery of patients from cancer, injuries, and stroke.
Instruments Used in Sound Healing
Sound therapists use various instruments for healing purposes, and each instrument has a beneficial effect. The popular instruments used nowadays are:
As the name suggests, tuning forks are used to tune other instruments. However, tuning forks itself is a harmonic instrument with healing powers. Calibrated tuning forks are used to send vibrations to specific parts of the body to release tension and promote emotional balance.
The use of gongs dates back to 4000 B.C. now, and they are used as gong baths in sound healing. It is used in meditation, yoga, and chakras, where the therapist creates different patterns and tones to produce vibrations that produce effects on the mind and body. The sounds produced from gongs work fast, and it can put the body in a state of deep relaxation in 60 to 90 seconds. It is used for clearing emotional and psychological fears and improving mental clarity.
Singing bowls have been in use since the 12th century in Tibetian culture. The metal singing bowls are of different sizes and produce sounds of variable frequencies that work on different parts of the brain. The sound produced improves circulation, lymphatic flow and promotes muscle relaxation. These effects promote relaxation, reduce stress, anxiety, anger, and fatigue.
Drums are metallic instruments with variable pitches to be struck by beater or hand. They are used to play gentle melodies that improve focus and clear blocked energy.
The basic sound-producing instrument can be a human’s own voice that can heal or relax. Voice can be used in various ways, such as humming, chanting, praying, or singing. Chanting of mantras is used in meditation and yoga. Research has shown that chanting stabilizes heart rate, improves blood circulation, produces endorphins, and lowers blood pressure. Sound therapists using voice can sing tones or chant vowels or phrases that promote relaxation and improve focus.
It is a magical instrument used in sound healing dating back to ancient China, India, and Rome. They are also popular in Feng Chui because of their ability to clear or transmute energy. A therapist can use a hand or wind chime to move the stuck energy, induce calmness, and relax.
This instrument also produces calming and soothing sounds that promote relaxation, reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and lowers blood pressure.
Benefits of Sound Healing
Sound healing aims at balancing energy, promoting physical and mental health. By promoting physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing, it is used to treat various medical conditions. Sound therapy is seen to be effective in treating anxiety, stress, depression, autism, and high blood pressure. Chanting is a type of sound therapy used in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease because it is thought to promote memory function. Sound therapy is also used to manage physical conditions like pain in joints and muscles, painful joint conditions (arthritis), pain during labor, back pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, and soft tissue damage. Sound therapy effectively treats child developmental problems and conditions like attention deficit hypersensitivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, downs syndrome, autism, and other behavioral problems.
How is it Done?
Most sound therapy sessions are one-on-one sessions with an experienced sound therapist. The client or patient might be sitting or lying while listening to the sounds from instruments or speakers. Apart from listening, the vibrations from instruments can be applied directly to the body. Depending on the type of sound therapy, the client can participate by singing, moving, or may remain quiet and still while allowing the sound to have an effect. The therapy can be done to the whole body or any specific part that needs to be treated. The vibrational frequencies of the sound interact with the body’s frequency and restore the healthy balance by removing blocked energies.
Sound therapy is emerging as an alternative treatment to treat many ailments. Sound has been in use since ancient times as a tool to promote healing and relaxation in meditation and prayers. It has been predicted that sound healing can take the mainstream and be future medicine. As more and more research studies are coming, people are turning more towards sound healing to manage their conditions. Not only can it treat many medical conditions, but it also promotes physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. By getting sound therapy sessions, one can have an ultimate feeling of relaxation, enhance energy levels, and mood. All these benefits have a positive impact on a person’s life and performance in everyday life and they will have no harmful effects on any person.