The Healing Magic of Sound Therapy
What was the last song that got stuck in your head? Did you hum it, sing, groove to the beat? You know that feeling when you chant OM in a yoga class, and vibrations seem to fill your senses, lifting you to a higher plane? Considering how natural it is to respond to vibrations, it's not surprising that the ancient practice of sound therapy (AKA vibrational therapy/healing), often linked to meditation and yoga, comes with plenty of science-backed benefits. Ultra relaxing and restorative, sound therapy gives you the chance to effortlessly take it in, without working up a sweat. Another beauty of vibrational healing: all the wondrous choices. The therapy might involve music, gongs, singing bowls, tuning forks, binaural beats, even the sound of your very own voice!
Why Does Sound Healing Work?
“The fluid and bones of the body conduct sound waves, and your body perceives sound vibrations down to the cellular level.” according to Annie McDonnell, L.Ac., founder of Joy Alchemy Acupuncture. There's nothing esoteric about the practice either. Modern science routinely uses sound to heal. McDonnell mentions examples from Western medicine, such as “ultrasound scans and lithotripsy infrasonic waves to break up kidney stones.” McDonnell, was trained in a system of sound healing called Acutonics, that works by using sound vibrations in conjunction with acupuncture points.
What Health Benefits Might You Expect?
“Everything from your heart rate to your breathing pattern to your brainwaves,” experience the effects. Says McDonnell, adding that “soothing sound vibrations can lower blood pressure and help shift brainwaves into a more meditative state. The direct application of sound vibrations (usually through weighted tuning forks) can relax muscles, promote the release of nitric oxide (a vasodilator), and stimulate blood flow to an area.” Other benefits such as reduced headaches, increased focus, as well as emerging data from two science studies on Tinnitus relief have also been linked to sound therapy.
Does Vibrational Therapy Alter Your Emotional State?
Certain sounds have the ability to ease you into effortless relaxation. So... if you find meditation frustrating, often have anxiety, and/or experience difficulty unwinding, you may respond especially well to vibrational therapy. “Sound healing is a powerful tool to switch the nervous system from sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest); reducing stress hormones and turning on the relaxation response is key to boosting your body's natural healing processes,” says McDonnell.
One of the ways McDonnell uses the power of vibration in her work as an acupuncturist is at the start of treatment sessions, since it “relaxes patients and gently stimulates energy flow to the acupoints.” And for those clients who shy away from needles, alternatively McDonnell offers “a treatment with sound vibrations combined with other needle-free techniques like acupressure, gua sha massage, and cupping, as well as sound baths and guided meditations.”
How Can You Do Sound Therapy at Home?
Vibrational healing takes self-healing to a new level. “Your own voice can be the best medicine: humming creates soothing internal vibrations, singing can release feel-good biochemicals, and chanting can help reach a meditative state,” says McDonnell, who suggests listening on headphones to binaural beats (that have different focuses), get wind chimes, tuning forks, or a gong. You can also go for a meditative walk in nature, and “listen to birdsong, waves, wind through trees, and other ambient sounds.”
Another option is turning to Qigong. McDonnell explains that “there are certain sounds associated with different organ systems (in Qigong). Even in a telehealth session, the practice is so effective it can help lessen the stresses of pandemic isolation,” says McDonnell who recommends listening to Mantak Chia’s Six Healing Sounds Qigong Meditation.
If you'd rather not create sounds yourself or engage an expert, there are a sea of beautiful options online that allow you to simply listen and reap the healthy rewards. Increase your serotonin levels anytime with Alpha waves Binaural Beats, Happiness Frequency from Greenred Productions. Try Tibetan Healing Sounds, or a crystal singing bowl Sound Bath. Try elevating your mood with joyful Kirtan Sessions, performed by the awe-inspiring Bhavani and Bhakti Marga musicians. Bring positive vibrations into mindfulness practices with Om Chanting Mantra, Flute Meditation or Sacral Healing Chants, from Meditative mind. And before bedtime, ease yourself into a tranquil slumber with Sleep music consisting of piano, blended with natural water sounds.