Every disease is a musical problem; every cure is a musical solution.
Think back on a deeply relaxing moment in your life. One where you felt at peace and fully present. Maybe you were on a beach, the sun and sea melting the stress from your body. Or by the side of river, gazing at the blue sky through rustling trees. Or maybe it was just in your bedroom, listening to music and slowly drifting off to sleep for a few blissful hours.
Now imagine the sound of those peaceful moments. Whether it’s the lapping of waves or leaves in the wind or the sounds of relaxing music in the background, that relaxing soundtrack not only contributes to deep relaxation but may actually contain the power to heal.
Sound healing (or vibrational medicine) uses sounds that resonate with us, both figuratively and literally. It’s based on the idea that certain sound waves can be used to elicit harmony and health. Sound healing can be transmitted via instruments (e.g. Tibetan bowls, chimes), the human voice, the voices of others, and the sounds of nature.
And while it may seem like some New Age phenomenon, it’s been around for a long time. Ancient cultures used chants, mantras, and instruments to relieve pain and restore health. (Think of a medicine man chanting above a sick person; the healing powers weren’t only in the words he sings but the vibrational strength of the song itself.)
The prime objective of all Initiatory music in the Temples of Antiquity was to bring about physical purification and renewal, mental stimulation and alertness, spiritual exhilaration and Illumination.
How does sound healing work? Vibrations surround us all of the time, whether we hear them or not. And since our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water, not only do we possess our own unique resonant frequency but sound waves are able to travel through us and affect our physical beings like big, responsive resonators. Sound healing uses targeted vibrations and frequencies that stimulate healing on all levels of our being.
But can vibrations mend and restore not only our minds but also our bodies? According to an article in the New York Times, vibrations can lower heart rate variability, relax brain wave patterns and reduce respiratory rates.
When the heart rate is relatively steady, and breathing is deep and slow, stress hormones decrease, said Dr. Mitchell L. Gaynor, an oncologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York and the author of “The Healing Power of Sound.” That is significant, he said, because stress can depress every aspect of the immune system, “including those that protect us against flu and against cancer.”
Need an example closer to home? Think of the last time you banged your head or stubbed your toe. Were you silent? Undoubtedly, you felt compelled to make a sound (or shout an expletive or two). But have you ever wondered why? Some theorize our need to yell or scream when we’re hurt is an innate form of self-healing.
The cry we emit when hurt, suggests Jonathan Goldman, director of the Sound Healers Association in Boulder, potentially stimulates endorphins or creates resonance with the wounded part of the body as a way to not only distract us from the pain, but actually lessen it.
So whether it’s a sound we produce or a pleasant sound we hear, both provide not only relaxation but help with the management of chronic pain, depression and anxiety, post-stroke recovery, migraine headaches…the list goes on. Because our entire bodies are affected by sound (remember, we’re mostly water), the healing potential is vast.
For most of us, the power of sound is no big surprise. Think of your favorite song and the profound effect it has on you. Don’t you feel overcome by the song, every note and nuance affecting you to the core? Doesn’t your body and mind feel purged off stress and pain after hearing it? Because your mind and body repeatedly experience such a positive physiological effect, the song never gets old.
And if you allow yourself to sing (without judging your voice—that’s the hard part!), the healthful effects are far-reaching as well. Remember, we’ve been singing since humankind began. When we express ourselves through our voice, we tap into a profound and ancient form of human expression. We are the music maker and the creator of our own healing simply by humming or singing. No prescription required.
Whether you believe in sound therapy or not, figure it this way: surrounding yourself with sweet, beautiful sounds certainly can’t hurt. And it’s free and easy enough to do. Dropping your blood pressure and increasing your overall health may only be a song away.