My foray into the mysterious world of sound healing

Himalayan singing bowls
© Alex McGuire -- Singing bowls on display at the sound healing workshop

Sound healing is based on the idea that pure, deconstructed sound can rebalance the body's energy.

Music is known to be a universal language, but it does more than communicate across cultural lines. It speaks to our hearts and souls, helping us to feel comforted, relaxed, motivated, and excited. Music can arouse old memories and, when broken down into a simpler form, it can be used to heal.

The concept of sound healing is not well known in our society today, but according to Britain’s College of Sound Healing, it dates back to ancient civilizations in China, Egypt, Greece, and India. Sound therapists deconstruct music into pure sound, and use these sounds to ‘reattune’ the energy frequencies within the human body that naturally go out of balance over time.

If you’re raising an eyebrow at this point, stay with me for a moment. There is some evidence to suggest sound healing is effective. A thesis published by Shelley Snow of Concordia University explored the “vocal sound healing method” and found:

“Effects such as the release of emotions and trauma, a change from negative to more positive thought patterns, the elimination of physical pain, relaxing, calming effects and receiving deeper perceptions of life situations, are among the experiences described by participants.”

The Guardian cites a study conducted by the British Academy of Sound Therapy – hardly biased research, of course – that measured the effects of sound on the autonomous nervous system:

“Each client demonstrated an overall decrease in arousal of the ANS compared to the control group, who were lying down relaxing. This study suggests that sound therapy has a deeply calming effect on stressed-out clients.”

Sound therapy is currently used by the National Health Service in Britain to help people with disabilities, dementia, and anxiety.

sound healing workshop© Alex McGuire -- The sound healing workshop at Lush Summit

Without having any knowledge or prior opinion on the efficacy of sound therapy, I had my first-ever encounter with it last week at the Lush Summit in London. Amid the chaos of thousands of people milling around, I came across a quiet space with yoga mats, pillows, blankets, and an array of shiny bronze Himalayan singing bowls in the center. The organizer, Anetta Panczel, invited me in for a twenty-minute session. Curious, I accepted the invitation.

Panczel told me to lie on my back. She covered me with blankets and placed a medium-sized singing bowl on my belly. I closed my eyes and breathed slowly and deeply, as if entering a meditation. After signaling the start with a gong, she and an assistant walked around the circle, tapping the bowls on participants’ stomachs. It was heavy and I could feel it resonate throughout my body, lasting for nearly the amount of time it took for Panczel to return and do it again. It was a grounding sensation, as if I were being pushed into the earth by this heavy vibrating object.

Next came a variety of other sound-makers. Most relaxing was a large drum that seemed to be filled with dry beans; this she waved over my body for a wonderful, long time. There were rain sticks, tuning forks, and more singing bowls, followed by a period of silence. When Panczel finally removed the bowl from my belly, my entire body felt like it was going to levitate. A floating, tingling sensation overcame me.

sound therapy© Alex McGuire -- Katherine from TreeHugger & Courtney Napper of Lush listen to Panczel's explanation of how the therapy works.

In the question period afterword, she explained that the vibrations would continue to work their way through my body for several days. I don’t know if that’s true, and because I was traveling and off my usual schedule, it was difficult for me to perceive physical differences; but I do know that I felt gloriously relaxed, yet energized, for the rest of the day.

Like meditation, sound therapy may not have the immediate measurable benefits that we’ve come to expect in a world obsessed with instant gratification, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. The more time we can take to ourselves, away from noise and busyness, the better off we’ll all be.

TreeHugger was a guest of Lush at the Lush Summit in February 2017. There was no obligation to write about this workshop or any other event at the summit.

Tags: Health | Music

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