The Wondrous Healing Properties of Tibetan Sound Therapy
- On March 8, 2017
- By Cez Krol
- In General
Living in this fast-paced, uber-connected world of ours, it is more common than not to feel anxious and stressed out. With so little, real downtime, it’s understandable. When was the last time you went on vacation and weren’t plugged in? Checking our phones right before going to bed—a practice sleep experts consistently advise against—or worse in the middle of the night, prevent us from ever “turning off.” The constant notifications we get from our smartphones may indeed be giving us feel-good hits of dopamine, but they are also a large part of our feeling of overwhelm.
To try and combat this, we’ve seen a major upswing in the practice of meditation. It’s the trendy new wellness practice across all major cities where its inhabitants seem to be most desperately in need of a little TLC. For beginners, though—and, let’s be honest, most of us are just starting to embark on this path—it can seem a little daunting. How do we go from thinking a countless number of thoughts every minute to…well, none? How do we empty our minds? This is the goal, right? Maybe we don’t even understand the practice. We can work ourselves up about anything it seems, even managing to make ourselves stressed at the thought of something that’s supposed to soothe us! What’s a person to do?
Being in Tibet, I came upon a specific type of meditative practice that I was immediately drawn to for its simplicity and rich history: sound therapy. We’re all familiar with the ability music has to incite emotional responses in us. A particular song heard at a concert attended in high school can immediately take you back there if you happen to hear it at the age of 40. Music is so powerful. Interestingly, though, it’s not just the lyrics that we so often credit that promote feelings of calm and relaxation. As we’ll see, the physical vibrations that music creates have a powerful, chemical effect on our bodies. That’s partly why going to concerts and hearing music live is truly a full-body experience that cannot be compared to listening to music online.
The History of Sound Therapy
Tibetan sound therapy dates back to 500 BC when lamas, nuns, lay Buddhists, and monks would traditionally use singing bowls in prayer and meditation. This was the preferred, non-commercial method of healing. It involves striking the bowl with a large mallet, in a circular motion, to a particular rhythm, emitting an “Om” frequency that has been called “the sound of the void.”
How Sound Therapy Works
The idea behind the therapy is that it impacts the synthetic nervous system as the brain waves synchronize to the vibration of the bowls. According to neuroscientists’ research, in our typical wake state our brains emit predominantly beta waves, but when we go into a deep meditation, the brain wave frequencies that dominate are those of alpha and theta. So, sound therapy works to move away from the beta-dominant brain waves, and slow down our respiratory, brain and heart rate to enter this meditative state of alpha and theta.
In addition to the singing bowls, some practitioners will compliment their practice by incorporating crystals, essential oils, massage, color therapy, and visualizations.
What’s it really like?
Recipients of sound therapy do not need to do anything while being administered this holistic treatment. The one rule is to go in with an open mind, and the intention of becoming healed. During the practice, you will lie or sit down, as if in yoga class, and let the music and its vibrations wash over you. And yes, you will feel the effects within one session.
The health-promoting effects include:
- Reduced anxiety and stress
- Reduced depression
- Clarity of mind
- Increased sense of identity and self
- Inner peace and well-being
- Greater creativity
This therapy provides a real opportunity for your mind to slow down, relax and soak up some of these well-deserved benefits your body is calling out for. You’ll leave feeling refreshed and ready to conquer your goals.
If you can’t get to a sound therapist right away, you can start out by listening to binaural beats; feel how your body positively responds and go from there. Binaural beats work in the same fashion as sound therapy, to generate alpha waves which promote this meditative state and increased serotonin. Best of all—they can easily be tried out by simply downloading an app like Binaural.