Updated: May 13, 2019
The uses and benefits of sound healing
Sound has been used in various cultures for thousands of years as a tool for healing.
Various techniques including the use of mantras, the Icaros, medicine melodies, of various Indigenous peoples from Central and South America, or Pythagoras' use of interval and frequency, have been used throughout history with the same intention: to move us from a place of imbalance to a place of balance.
More recently, music has been used to boost morale in military troops, help people work faster and more productively, and even ward off evil spirits by chanting. Research has linked music to a number of health benefits, from boosting immune function and lowering stress levels to improving the health of premature babies.
What is sound healing therapy?
Sound healing therapy uses aspects of music and sound to improve your physical and emotional health and wellbeing. The person being treated participates in the experience with a trained sound healing practitioner.
The session may involve listening to sound and music, singing along to music, moving to the beat of the music, chanting, breath work, meditation, live healing instruments or a combination of all or some of these elements.
There are different types of sound therapy, including vibrational sound therapy, which uses special sounds that produce vibrations to improve brain waves.
A sound therapy treatment is both a passive and participatory experience. As you lie down, slow your breath, you will become progressively more relaxed and still as you prepare yourself to become the receiver of sound.
From this place of stillness, you actively participate by opening your awareness to the sounds as they come in. Sound acts as the bridge to this place of stillness, in a similar way that mantras help us arrive at this still point.
Types of sound therapy
Some sound healing sessions look a bit different now compared to ancient Egypt or Greece, however their benefits and the intention has remained the same throughout the ages.
There are a few different types of sound therapy on offer now and it’s exciting to see more research being conducted in this area as well as more practitioners emerging to offer the service.
Vibroacoustic therapy uses audible sound vibrations to improve health and reduce stress. This type of sound therapy uses speakers embedded in recliners, mattresses, and special mats to transmit music and sound vibrations directly to the body. There’s evidence to support its benefits, specifically its ability to promote relaxation and reduce pain and symptoms in people with cancer and those recovering from surgery.
Guided mediation is a form of sound healing in which you meditate to voiced instruction, either in a session or class, or using a video or app. Meditation can involve chanting or repeating mantras or prayers. Research has found that meditation offers a number of health benefits, including:
· stress reduction
· decreased anxiety and depression
· improved memory
· reduced blood pressure
· pain reduction
· lower cholesterol
· decreased risk for heart disease and stroke
Neurologic music therapy
Music therapy reduces stress and promote relaxation. It’s been shown to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety levels before surgery.
A study published in 2017 found that a 30-minute music therapy session combined with traditional care after spinal surgery reduced pain. Music therapy is administered by a credentialed provider who assesses the individual’s needs. Treatment involves creating, listening, singing, or moving to music. It’s used for physical rehab, pain management, and brain injuries.
Named after Helen L. Bonny PhD, the Bonny method of guided imagery and music uses classical music and imagery to help explore personal growth, consciousness, and transformation. A 2017 study showed promising evidence that a series of sessions could improve psychological and physiological health in adults with medical and mental health needs.
This sound healing method is delivered by skilled musicians who complete the Nordoff-Robbins two-year master’s program. They use music familiar to those being treated, create new music together, or work toward a performance. This approach is used to treat children with developmental delays and their parents, mental health, learning difficulties and autism, dementia, and other conditions.
Singing bowl therapy
Singing bowl therapy dates back to the 12th century and has been used for meditation and rituals in Tibetan culture. Metal bowls produce a deep, penetrating sound that’s used to relax and repair the mind. A 2016 study found that singing bowl meditation reduced stress, anger, depression, and fatigue. All of these things are known to impact physical health and raise the risk for disease, suggesting that singing bowl therapy may be good for your physical, as well as emotional, well-being.
Tuning fork therapy
Tuning fork therapy uses calibrated metal tuning forks to apply specific vibrations to different parts of the body. This can help release tension and energy and promote emotional balance. It works similarly to acupuncture, using sound frequencies for point stimulation instead of needles. There is some research suggesting that tuning fork therapy may help relieve muscle and bone pain.
Also known as binaural beats, this method stimulates the brain into a specific state using pulsing sound to encourage your brain waves to align to the frequency of the beat. It helps induce enhanced focus, enter entranced states, relaxation, or sleep. Though more research is needed, there’s some evidence that audible brainwave entrainment reduces anxiety, pain, symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, and improves behavioural problems in children.
What sound healing treats
Sound healing is used to treat symptoms of many conditions, including:
· anxiety disorders
· post-traumatic stress disorder
· autism and learning difficulties
· behavioural and psychiatric disorders
Some of the benefits of sound healing include:
· lowers stress
· decreases mood swings
· lowers blood pressure
· lowers cholesterol levels
· teaches pain management
· lowers risk for coronary artery disease and stroke
· improves sleep
Sound healing instruments
Along with voice, the following are some of the different instruments used in sound healing:
· singing bowls
· tuning forks
· pan flute
Some methods and sessions use a variety of instruments in one session and may combine the sessions with breathwork and meditation elements.
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