What is Sound Healing?
Sound healing: The word is emotive.
It makes sense that its etymology comes from the Greek “Art of the Muses,” the goddesses who embodied and inspired art, literature, and knowledge of mankind.
Music was not invented or discovered, but rather something innate in us all. It comes as no surprise then, that for centuries sound healing has been used as therapy to ease and cure many a malady.
We use music for entertainment, expression, celebration, ceremony, leisure, and communication. Whether we are musically inclined or not, it is most likely the one thing that truly connects all humans from all cultures, creeds, and corners of the earth.
We play music at our weddings to celebrate love, and at funerals to say goodbye. We listen when we are bored, and dance to it when we want to have fun. We sing praises and worship our deities with it.
Most importantly, we use music for healing.
Think about every time you have listened to sad songs when you were feeling down, or upbeat songs when you were feeling happy.
Music is therapy.
Healing with sound dates back as far as ancient Greece… Apollo was the god of both music and medicine (a strange, but viable combination). Aesculapius was believed to cure mental disorders with songs. The philosophers Plato and Aristotle both claimed that music affected the soul and the emotions. Hippocrates played music for his patients, too.
In Ancient Egypt, music therapy was a staple in temples.
In biblical times, instruments were used to vanquish evil spirits from human souls.
Native American culture used both song and dance to heal the sick.
Instances of sound healing therapy are limitless.
Fast forward a few centuries, to the 1940s, when the United States Military incorporated music into their programmes for the recuperation of army personnel during World War II. This is often described as the official dawn of music therapy.
Today it is used, or at the very least highly recommended, in all aspects of medicine and spiritual growth. While it is still considered an alternative to modern medicine, scores of evidence suggest that it is effective — and also necessary — to our emotional and psychological health.
Yet, it remains misunderstood.
Some people assume that those who partake in sound healing therapy are crackpots who seek magical solutions to medical problems. However, music therapy, or sound healing, has a basis in both neurology and psychology.
What Is Sound Healing?
Sound healing is the process in which a practitioner uses all (or specific) aspects of music — including the emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical, social, mental, and superficial — to improve the health of their patient.
Sound healing therapy improves many facets of the patient’s life, including emotional and social development, cognitive and motor functioning, and psychological and psychiatric health.
Healing with sound happens by having the patient experience or partake in music by means of either listening or singing along to it, improvising musical acts, moving to the time of music, meditating to music, chanting, shouting, or humming to music, playing musical instruments, and even subjecting the patient to specifically crafted and produced sounds that are said to induce positive brainwaves and alter our mood.
Almost everything we experience in the universe is simply our perception of waves.
When sound waves reach our ears, they are converted into electrical signals that travel up the auditory nerve into the auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes sound. Once sound waves reach our brains, they trigger responses in our bodies. This process alters our emotions, releases hormones and chemicals that affect both our bodies and our moods, and triggers certain impulses (for example, singing and dancing).
Although research on how music changes our brains is lacking, there is evidence to suggest that musicians have different brains than those who are not musically inclined. Research has shown that the brains of musicians are more symmetrical and that the parts of the brain that are responsible for motor and cognitive functioning, coordination, reasoning, as well as the processing of information, are significantly larger. The two hemispheres of the brain have better communication thanks to an enlarged corpus callosum, as well.
In neurological studies, it has been proven that listening to music makes us more productive and creative; it can relieve stress and, depending on the sort of music, can improve our moods.
This is because listening to music floods our brains with dopamine — the happy chemical. It also releases oxytocin, a natural painkiller and hormone that allows us to bond with and trust people — it is most commonly found in mothers during labor.
Music also helps language development and improves communication.
It has been shown to increase our IQs ever so slightly, so it’s safe to say that music makes us smarter. It improves our memory too, warding off brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Music is powerful. It can change our brains, and so it changes our bodies.
How Sound Can Heal You
The simplest way that sound can heal is in the sense that, as mentioned, it makes us happy and can alter our mood. Both when listening to upbeat or cheery music, or when listening to deep, melancholy songs, our emotions flare and we can better process our feelings. The only difference is that typically, we only care to listen to sad songs when we are feeling sad because (and here is the mystery) we know it makes us feel better.
A 2006 study done by the Journal of Advanced Nursing supplied evidence that those who listen to music feel less pain and are generally happier and less inclined to stress and anxiety than those who don’t. Music is therefore not only a tranquilizer of sorts that soothes our emotions, but it also a painkiller.
Since sounds come at different frequencies and we too emit our own waves, healing with sound happens by matching frequencies of different sounds to those that are necessary and conducive to healing and relaxation in the patient.
A study in the 1970s proposed that when one tone is played to one ear, and a different tone is played to the other, the two hemispheres of the brain connect and create a third (internal) tone called a binaural beat. This is said to synchronize the brain, providing clarity, calmness, and faster communication between the mind and the body. It is also evidence that our brains and bodies indeed respond to sound in such a way that we create our own intrinsic music to adapt to it.
This is largely the basis of sound healing, if not a little less refined. We can use certain tones or sounds aimed directly at certain parts of our bodies or brains, and we respond to it by adjusting our own frequencies to suit it.
Therefore, if you are in pain, let’s say you have a headache, a sound can be played to you that will interfere with your brain waves to cancel out the ones that say you are in pain.
Or, if it is your mood… perhaps you are grumpy, playing a relaxing song might lift your spirits and make you forget that you are aggravated.
Sounds and songs also create memories in us, and this can be used to help patients who are traumatized or depressed.
There are a number of methods for achieving sound healing therapy, and a number of instruments and tools that can be used to help the patient through it. However, at its foundation it is based on the premise of entrainment.
Entrainment is a method of synchronizing our brainwaves, which fluctuate, by producing a stable, solid frequency that our brains adjust to and then match.
Healing with sound can improve or cure many ailments including, but not limited to:
Psychological/Psychiatric and behavioral disorders including autism, depression, learning disabilities, and developmental troubles
Mood swings, or negative emotions, such as sadness, aggravation, anger, self-pity, and heartbreak.
It can also bring about:
Clarity and balance
Improved memory and concentration
Improved sleep (both in quality and quantity)
A stronger immune system
Heightened awareness, both of the self and the environment
This Article was published by MindValleyJanuary 2018