Therapeutic Evidence for Sound as a Healing Modality
Sound sessions utilize a variety of instruments and can help regulate stress and tap into the body's natural trend towards homeostasis when in a soothing and nurturing environment. Participants are encouraged to find a relaxing repose and allow the harmonious sounds to wash over them. I usually start my sessions with some gentle breathing exercises to prime the body for the experience as, "breathing practice, also known as “diaphragmatic breathing” or “deep breathing,” is defined as an efficient integrative body–mind training for dealing with stress and psychosomatic conditions." (See "The Effect of Diaphramatic Breathing" study below for research on breathing)
The ability regulate stress is crucial to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Living a life of contentment and peace does not have to be a special "every now and again" treat. It can be a healthy way of life that we cultivate with consistency and practice. When we move deeper into what it feels like to have internal harmony with a regulated nervous system, by taking good care of our psychological and spiritual well being, we have the opportunity to move with greater clarity, wisdom, resilience, and grace regardless of what is going on in the external environment. Alternatively, for individuals who are experiencing pain or dysregulation, sound has the potential to compete with those pain pathways and create an analgesic effect. This is why music has long been used as a complementary therapy in operating rooms, in childbirth, in hospice settings, and with a variety of treatments.
Common instruments that I utilize in my sessions include: tibetan bowls, crystal singing bowls, tuning forks, chimes, a harp, a xylophone, gong, an ocean drum, a shruti box, the human voice itself, and a rav vast. When instruments are used live, they can be placed around or on the body, amplifying relaxation due to the literal vibrations felt with live sounds. While different in experience and benefit, online sessions are a wonderful alternative to have customized to you from wherever you are in the world. When enjoying zoom sessions, I encourage my clients to use headphones and click on "original sound" for the best experience.
As a practitioner, I aim to find the instruments and flow that will allow your body and mind to reach the deepest states of relaxation possible. This is why I don't do sessions shorter than 30 minutes. It is also why I have invested years worth of my time and money in attaining certifications and education from some of the best sound professionals I can find with vast experience in the field (one of my mentors has been practicing sound healing since before I was born!). Sound healing is an unregulated business for practitioners, and when they are improperly (or not at all) trained, it has the potential to create a jarring or confusing experience. If instruments are played incongruently, too close to the head, too loudly for the space, or the practitioner is using veiled, esoteric, or "spiritual" jargon that is not explained in an applicable way, it can leave participants with a less than optimal experience. While I am happy to adventure into conversations around spirituality or mystical practice, it is my goal that you leave sessions relaxed, with more clarity than when you came in, and ready to move into an inspired and peaceful unfolding of your day.
Examine research further at the links below!
"Poor mood and elevated anxiety are linked to increased incidence of disease. This study examined the effects of sound meditation, specifically Tibetan singing bowl meditation, on mood, anxiety, pain, and spiritual well-being. Sixty-two women and men (mean age 49.7 years) participated. As compared with pre-meditation, following the sound meditation participants reported significantly less tension, anger, fatigue, and depressed mood. Additionally, participants who were previously naïve to this type of meditation experienced a significantly greater reduction in tension compared with participants experienced in this meditation. Feeling of spiritual well-being significantly increased across all participants. Tibetan singing bowl meditation may be a feasible low-cost low technology intervention for reducing feelings of tension, anxiety, and depression, and increasing spiritual well-being. This meditation type may be especially useful in decreasing tension in individuals who have not previously practiced this form of meditation".
Goldsby TL, Goldsby ME, McWalters M, Mills PJ. Effects of Singing Bowl Sound Meditation on Mood, Tension, and Well-being: An Observational Study. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jul;22(3):401-406. doi: 10.1177/2156587216668109. Epub 2016 Sep 30. PMID: 27694559; PMCID: PMC5871151.
"Singing Bowls and Brain Waves: Electroencephalogram (EEG) may be utilized as an effective measurement of various brain wave states, including deeply meditative or even trance-like states such as those associated with delta brain waves. One study used EEG technology to examine characteristics of various bands in the brains of participants after singing bowls were played. While various frequencies are emitted from singing bowls depending on several factors, including the size of the bowl, it was discovered by Ahn and colleagues that different bands (low frequency vs higher frequency) were associated with various energy levels and relaxation states, with the authors recommending further EEG research in this area. Another EEG study examining singing bowls discovered a distinct change in delta brain waves–the brainwave state associated with deepest relaxation–utilizing singing bowls.The EEG is a promising device to study physiological changes in the brain due to singing bowl vibrations and its potential relaxation effect."
Goldsby TL, Goldsby ME. Eastern Integrative Medicine and Ancient Sound Healing Treatments for Stress: Recent Research Advances. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2020 Dec;19(6):24-30. PMID: 33488307; PMCID: PMC7819493.
"Psychoneuroimmunology research demonstrates that emotions influence immunological functioning and that too much stress has a negative impact on the functioning of the body’s immune system. Recent research suggests that the immune system can be enhanced or suppressed by external stimuli and that the brain reacts to external stimuli at an unconscious level (Malkin, 2003). The physiological affects of stress negatively affect patients’ ability to heal. Creating physical environments that support families’ and patients’ psychological well-being, by contrast, can produce a positive impact on therapeutic outcomes, reduce stressors, and improve staff performance and morale (Lusk & Lash, 2005; Malkin). Information received through our five senses evokes physiological and emotional responses of anxiety or serenity (Mazer, 2002). Creating a healing environment within the chaos of a critical care setting might sound daunting, but the potential benefits are well worth the effort...
...In addition to designing critical care units and rooms to create an atmosphere that is conducive to healing, there are other healing measures to consider. Therapeutic sound is one example... some sounds can sooth and calm. Certain rhythmic patterns of music have anxiolytic effects on human psychophysiology (Chlan). Music therapy, which is classified as a noninvasive nursing intervention, is used as an adjunct to medical therapies. Music, when used as relaxation therapy, has an even rhythm that duplicates the normal pulse beat of humans, is nonsyncopated, and is lyric free. Music as therapy can be used to harmonize with or to bring back in sync the body’s own rhythms. Entrainment occurs when two elements become synchronized with one another and vibrate at the same sound frequency. Entrainment with relaxing music and the body’s rhythms induces a decrease in pulse rate, respiratory rate, metabolic rate, oxygen consumption, and blood pressure."
"Psychological studies have revealed breathing practice to be an effective non-pharmacological intervention for emotion enhancement (Stromberg et al., 2015), including a reduction in anxiety, depression, and stress (Brown and Gerbarg, 2005a,b; Anju et al., 2015). A 1-day breathing exercise was found to relieve the emotional exhaustion and depersonalization induced by job burnout (Salyers et al., 2011). A 30-session intervention with a daily duration of 5 min can significantly decrease the anxiety of pregnant women experiencing preterm labor (Chang et al., 2009). In addition, similar effects on anxiety was observed in a 3-days intervention study, where breathing practices were performed 3 times per day (Yu and Song, 2010). Further evidence from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) suggested that a 7-days intensive residential yoga program that included pranayama (breathing exercises) reduced anxiety and depression in patients with chronic low back pain (Tekur et al., 2012). Supportive evidence has also come from a line of RCTs of TCC and yoga (Benson, 1996; Telles et al., 2000; Oakley and Evans, 2014). Currently, breathing practice is widely applied in clinical treatments for mental conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Sahar et al., 2001; Descilo et al., 2010; Goldin and Gross, 2010), motion disorders (Russell et al., 2014), phobias (Friedman and Thayer, 1998), and other stress-related emotional disorders."
Ma X, Yue ZQ, Gong ZQ, Zhang H, Duan NY, Shi YT, Wei GX, Li YF. The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Front Psychol. 2017 Jun 6;8:874. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874. PMID: 28626434; PMCID: PMC5455070.