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Healing Through Sound and Music

By David Kennet, Master Sound Practitioner and Visiting Master at AyurMa

Just about everybody can relate to sound and music’s seemingly magical effect on how we feel. As a child I distinctly recall my father, when he wasn’t busy composing Hollywood film scores, blasting Mozart early in the morning over our living room stereo. The celebratory and implicitly playful, childlike melodies made me feel joyful. To this day, I genuinely am excited when a new day begins (even without the sound of music playing). Sometimes I wonder if Mozart in the mornings had this long-term effect upon me.

Past cultures and indigenous peoples across the globe for centuries have been cognizant of the healing power of music and sound. Chi Nei Tsang, an ancient Taoist system for detoxifying and rejuvenating our internal organs, incorporates the use of specific vocal sounds for the purpose of releasing stagnant emotions from the body. Mongolian shamans and Tibetan monks use throat singing and overtone singing as a means of harmonising with nature, maintaining deep meditative states of peace. In Europe, the Sami tribes of Scandinavia express hauntingly beautiful yodel-like songs in their shamanic rituals. In the Himalayas, the resounding dulcet tones of Tibetan bowls trace back over 6,000 years, while gongs have been used in prayer, meditation and for restorative healing since the Bronze Age. The continuous drone of the didgeridoo, believed to be the sound that created the world, remains the hallmark instrument of the Australian Aboriginals play during their Dreamtime ceremonies.

Throughout time, religions worldwide have related creation with sound. The New Testament states, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God”. The Egyptian "Thoth" was said to have created the world by his voice alone. The Upanishads, an ancient Hindu Sanskrit text from the 5th Century BC says, “Nada Brama”, which translates “The world is sound". Appropriately, the first mention of the syllable Om or Aum is sighted in this same mystical Hindu text: "Om is the universe, and this is the exposition of Om. The past, the present, and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be is Om. Likewise, all else that may exist beyond the bounds of time, that too is Om.”

What is sound healing and what is it used for?

In general, sound healing or sound therapy is the intentional use of the voice, or instruments (both mechanical and/or acoustical) to relax the nervous system and reduce stress. Other applications include assisting with reducing physical pain, anxiety, depression, improving sleep, balancing the body’s energy centres (endocrine system and chakras), helping with emotional release, lessening of food and environmental allergies as well as an effective method for reprogramming the subconscious mind.

“Sound baths” or “Sound Journeys” have become increasingly popular over the last decade. These gatherings usually involve one or more sound healing practitioners who typically play quartz crystal singing bowls, metal Himalayan bowls, gongs, flutes, drums, chimes and sometimes also sing. Attendees often report feeling more relaxed afterwards; some say they experience a collapse in time and that they have been transported to a peaceful place.

Have there been any scientific studies on sound healing?

Experiments using encephalograms have shown that listening to Tibetan bowls and crystal singing bowls entrain the brainwaves primarily into Theta. Theta brainwave activity has been associated with improved sleep, cognition, and less anxiety.

Listening to sound and music has been scientifically proven to reduce stress hormones such as ACTH and cortisol. Studies have shown that patients who listened to classical music (or music they personally found pleasing) before receiving surgery experienced a 50 per cent decrease in stress hormones whereas patients who didn't listen to music experienced a 50 per cent increase before undergoing surgery. There have also been studies showing how listening to music and nature sounds significantly reduced pain in post-cardiac surgery patients.

"When you consider the fact that hearing begins four and a half months before the foetus is realise that using music and harmony and voice as a regular practice, both for wellness and recovery from illness, is one of the most powerful things that people could do" said Oncologist Dr. Mitchell Gaynor.

Hundreds of clinical studies have been performed on the healing power of the voice and singing. It turns out that the "happy" hormones and neurotransmitters such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine significantly increase within a matter of minutes of vocalising. An hour or more of singing has been shown to strengthen the immune system, increasing Immunoglobulin A (IgA). Humming for a couple of minutes will boost the production of nitric oxide in your blood as well as stimulate your vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system.

The importance of practising self-care

The traumatising recent pandemic and mounting contemporary life stresses underscore the importance of taking time for ourselves. Regular consistent self-care is no longer optional but rather essential to our survival. As individuals seek out complementary therapies to improve their health and well-being, sound healing offers a unique approach that is both ancient and modern, and that has the potential to enhance our lives in profound ways. For many, the power of sound and music is nothing short of life-changing.

Visiting Master David Kennet will be in residence at AyurMa at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru from 12 March to 13 April 2023. To view his bio or explore his treatment menu, click here.


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