By Karen Olson, Experience Life
Sound can set a mood. The soundtrack in aerobics class gets us moving, for example, while the one in yoga promotes quiet concentration. Sound also has a powerful effect on how we feel throughout the day. Our bodies and minds react differently to the unrelenting noise of a jackhammer than to a trickle of water in a creek.
In other words, some sounds simply make us feel better than others. Whether our conscious minds are paying attention or not, our bodies take their cues from these sounds and rhythms, knowing when to get energized and when to slow down.
Now, a growing body of research suggests that when used in a directed way, sound can also help us reduce stress, create a deep sense of well-being and even promote healing. From playing Bach in the nursery to yogic chanting in the oncologist’s office, sound therapy is gaining popularity as both a preventative medicine and as a complement to more-traditional treatments. Good for both the mind and the body, it has been shown to help lift depression, clear sinuses and help cancer patients recover more quickly from chemotherapy.
The idea that sound affects the health of the mind and body is not new. Chanting and mantra recitation have been part of Hindu spirituality and the healing power of yoga for thousands of years. Given the recent interest in mind-body medicine, it’s not surprising that this ancient tradition is experiencing a modern-day renaissance.
So what, exactly, is it?
Using the human voice and objects that resonate to stimulate healing (think tuning forks and singing bowls), sound therapy is one of a growing number of subtle-energy therapies that make up the field of vibrational medicine. According to the law of physics, everything vibrates: the chair you’re sitting in, the food you eat, the rocks and trees.
“Whether or not we hear it, everything has a sound, a vibration all its own,” writes Joshua Leeds in The Power of Sound (Healing Arts Press, 2001).
That sound is called resonance, the frequency at which an object naturally vibrates. Each part of our bodies has its own natural resonance, and vibrational medicine is based on the idea that disease is a result of those natural resonances getting out of tune whether due to stress, illness or environmental factors.
As opposed to the highly focused and fast vibrations used in ultrasound (a technology already employed in hospitals to break up kidney stones and check on the health of fetuses, for example), sound therapy works more gently but just as powerfully to return the body’s own vibrations to their natural states.