Research is increasingly opening up new possibilities of using sound as a healing mechanism for the human body and mind. Sound therapy is continuing to grow in the UK, using instruments such as gongs, tuning forks, the human voice and singing bowls, it has also been used to help treat patients with terminal illness, alongside their medical treatment. Similarly in the US, this therapy is growing as more research is unfolding.
Sound has been used as a healing modality for thousands of years. Although current practices and theories do vary, and there are differences between sound healing and sound therapy (will be discussed in another article), sound can alter the mind and thus the body, bringing calmness, relaxation, mental focus and clarity and sometimes aid with certain ailments. Sound healing works on an emotional, energetic field (or spiritual) level and can address certain issues and challenges. One way to look at sound healing is discussed by Jonathan Goldman as he puts emphasis on the healing intention, which is important. In his book Healing Sounds – The Power of Harmonics, he discusses his formula of “frequency plus intention equals healing”. Basically, if we find the right sound frequency with the right intention, healing will occur.
Finding the right frequency is something that current sound therapy practices employ. Some have assigned notes from our western musical scale to specific chakras, something that I personally do not practice as I do query the use of adopting our current western scale for an ancient sounding device. However, within the right context, these methods do have their benefits.
As contemporary sound practice has evolved from some of these theories and extensive research, it should also be noted that current sound therapy and sound healing practices do vary from practitioner.
We now have scientific evidence of the healing properties of sound however, singing bowls seem to be slightly more complex as they are very temperamental with varying degrees of acoustics, resonance, pitch, timbre, harmonies, decay and amplitude. Antique singing bowls possess some interesting acoustic properties and multiple harmonics. They are also said to possess healing properties as researched by Dirk Gillabel in his article “Singing Bowls, A guide to healing through sound: Altered Brain waves” (2001).
If we look at the concepts of brain waves and sound waves, we can categorize brain waves into four groups, Alpha, Beta, Delta and Theta, he explains that Alpha waves (7 to 12 Hz) arise when the eyes are closed and the mind is in a relaxed state. Beta waves (13-30 Hertz) reflect a state of alertness. Theta waves (4-7 Hertz) are responsible for a state of drowsiness and dreaming. Delta waves (0-4Hertz) are related to deep sleep, when the body and mind is most relaxed.
According to Gillabel research, sound waves that correspond to the four kinds of brain waves can be heard when playing a bowl, which does help to explain one aspect of the positive effects from this sound.
There are some very useful articles which discuss sound therapy and sound healing from the College of Sound Healing, BAST and also a very interesting article “Pondering the realm of healing with sound” by Frank Perry. These articles have been extremely useful in gaining a good understanding of this area.