Take Note! The Healing Power of Sound
This article was originally published in Your Health Connection Magazine as a Special Health Bulletin
Take Note! The Healing Power of Sound
By Tracy Marcynzsyn
We are all familiar with the ability of music to move us — even to stir our souls. Music evokes every emotion under the sun, often prompting us to sing, dance, relax or recall special moments. As it impacts our feelings, music also profoundly affects our health and well-being.
“Since the earliest times, we’ve needed food, shelter, and music,” says sound healer Pam Gerrand. And historically, every culture throughout the world has used music communally, to commemorate life passages from birth, to death, to celebrations, adds Gerrand. “Music and sound were used to share great human emotions, allowing us to recognize the emotions and then let them go so they don’t get stuck,” explains Gerrand during a recent sound workshop in Thousand Oaks.
While the healing power of music was well known and regarded as medicine for the body and soul by just about every ancient civilization from India and Africa to Europe, the Orient and the Aboriginal and Native Americans, music as a healing modality is once again beginning to gain recognition among today’s health care practitioners. Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used sound to restore harmony in the body, bathing his patients in sound showers comprised of frequencies geared to their specific ailment.
Music’s numerous health benefits have been documented in recent scientific studies, ranging from reduced blood pressure, increased energy, a stronger immune system and less stress to reducing the frequency of migraine headaches and relieving the effects of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Researchers from Hans Jenny, who developed the field of Cymatics, visualizing sound frequencies’ effects on matter, to Dr. Masaru Emoto who studied the effects of sound on water and Dr. Alfred Tomatis who showed how high frequency sounds can affect the brain and may even create new neurological connections, have demonstrated music’s powerful affects on the human body and soul.
“The therapeutic effects of sound and music are a natural and innate part of our being. From a mother’s first song to her unborn baby to the therapeutic effects of a good cry, to the eerie spine-tingling sensation of fingernails scratched over a blackboard, sound affects our physical and psychological state automatically,” as stated on http://www.BioWaves.com, by a company specializing in vocal analysis and low frequency sound therapy.
The key to music’s ability to support and enhance healing is vibration. “Sound is a vibration, and any sound generator will cause other particles (atoms, electrons and subatomic particles) to act as resonators, picking up the sound from the source. The change in the vibration of subatomic particles resonating to music can impact how larger structures such as atoms and cells are structured,” as explained on http://www.peacetour.org by The World Peace Through Technology Organization (WPTTO), a non-profit corporation with the mission of inspiring world peace through technology. “If healing can take place on an atomic or cellular level, [music] can conceivably heal the entire human being, cell by cell,” says WPTTO.
Such is the science behind “vibroacoustics.” Defined as “the process of hearing sound vibrations through the body,” vibroacoustic music (VAM) resonates the body directly through nerves, skin, and bones — the sound is not directed to the ears. According to Dr. Drew Pierson, a psychologist with electrical engineering experience, “The body holds emotional events in cellular memory. The use of vibration from 4.5 to 1,800 Hz has the effect of disengaging those resonant patterns that seem to run in loops and fixate themselves in the body. Vibroacoustics changes the bioelectrical signature of the emotional imprint, allowing healing to occur at the cellular level.”
NexNeuro Care’s SMART (Stress Management And Relaxation Therapy) Lounge combines vibroacoustics built into a comfortable mattress with binaural beats (auditory tones that influence the brain in more subtle waves through the entrainment of brainwaves) to provide audio and tactile stimulation to the mind and body, delivering “natural stimulants” in a passive, non-invasive process that exercises the brain and central nervous system and appears to balance the nervous system and clear cellular memory.
The SMART Lounge has demonstrated potential as part of an integrated medicine approach to relieve the effects of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s patients using the SMART Lounge have reported less tremors, better balance, reduced pain, stronger speech, decreased anxiety, relief of motor dysfunctions and improved sleep. The therapy also shows promise in extending mobility and relieving symptoms, thus reducing reliance on life-long drug treatment.
“The music surrounds and encompasses your body; it’s soothing and comforting,” says Mary, who has Parkinson’s disease and experienced the SMART Lounge last March at the American Parkinson Disease Association Midwest 2009 Symposium in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.
Also linking music with Parkinson’s patients is Dr. Ron Tinter at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Texas. Dr. Tinter is using music to help Parkinson’s patients with coordination and movement. His goal is to find the most “kinesigenic,” or movement-promoting music that will keep those with Parkinson’s moving.
“Parkinson’s patients have trouble with coordination — they take small, slow steps, and then stop for no reason. It’s as if their brain suddenly forgot how to walk. But music keeps them going, because it gives them a beat to hang on to,” says Dr. Tinter in a report by Melissa Glavez at KUHF NewsLab in Houston, Texas.
With more than a million Americans suffering from the crippling effects of Parkinson’s disease, music therapies are increasingly being integrated into conventional treatments as the benefits of sound therapy gain recognition among doctors and the medical community.
The Mayo Clinic is among the increasing number of institutions combining complementary and alternative therapies with conventional care. While music therapy techniques are currently on the rise, doctors have been using sound as therapy for decades. As early as the 1940s, U.S. Veterans hospitals began using music to help treat soldiers returning from World War II, and in 1944, the first music therapy degree program in the world was established at Michigan State University. More recently, researchers at California State University in Fresno found music helped substantially reduce headaches in migraineurs, and in a joint study by UCLA and Georgia Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta, music helped premature babies gain weight faster and use oxygen more efficiently, compared with babies in control groups without music.
Today, many hospitals and medical institutions offer music therapy for patients, finding music helps to reduce the need for anesthesia and pain relievers, post-surgery. “Music itself has a magical way of taking people to different dimensions. It can be very healing just listening to music,” says sound healer and educator David Castle, who is certified in BioSonic Repatterning™ with John Beaulieu, ND, PhD. Castle uses Tibetan singing bowls and quartz crystal bowls to create sounds and vibrations that are healing to the body, mind and soul. As each of the body’s seven chakras, or energy centers, are tuned to a musical note, the sound vibrations of the crystal bowls travel quickly through the body, creating harmony, says Castle, noting that other ways of creating vibration and sound, such as tuning forks, the voice and chanting, can also be healing.
Comparing the body to a musical instrument, sound healer Jay Schwed explains, “When the instrument is not tuned properly, a state of dis-ease or imbalance occurs.” Emotional, mental, spiritual and environmental factors can cause imbalances in the body, while sound frequencies help “re-tune” the body.
“The sound and vibrations emanating from the crystal singing bowls re-tune the listener’s body, initially by opening, clearing, and rebalancing each of the seven major chakras, plus the high heart. It has been scientifically established that each of these chakras or energy centers are associated with a musical note or vibrational frequency,” explains Schwed.
U.S. Geneticist at the Beckman Institute of the City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, Dr. Susumu Ohno, takes it a step further, suggesting humans themselves are composed of music. Assigning a musical note to each of the six amino acids that make up the DNA code, Dr. Ohno examined the sound patterns formed by the DNA. Dr. Ohno found these notes actually formed patterns that created melodies. He found that the “notes” found in the DNA of a specific cancer formed a melody eerily similar to Chopin’s Funeral March.
Keeping the body in tune, or balanced, is as important today as it was during ancient times, when Egyptian healers used a “Faience bowl,” tuned to the note of F# for the high heart to facilitate healing, says Schwed.
“It’s like a tune up in a way,” says Thousand Oaks’ resident Deborah Nickson, whose husband, Richard Dubuc, serves as a crystal bowl practitioner. “It’s so energizing and brings such peace,” adds Nickson.
“Vibration is energy, and we’re energy,” explains Dubuc. “The frequencies of the bowls energetically break down the energy formed by one’s emotional and physical issues. When you get sick, something is not connecting in the body — there is dis-ease,” says Dubuc, adding that the crystal bowls affect our chakras, etheric and auric fields, and our DNA to heal and rebalance the body. “We become one as we merge this triad of the chakras and the astral and etheric bodies through sound and harmony. The body of emotions comes into alignment as we harmonize the whole being through sound,” says Dubuc, who creates a circle of bowls as a sacred space within which one can experience “the music of the spheres.”
“Sound healing is the future of healing,” believes Jeffrey Gero, PhD, a stress management pioneer, noting that in today’s busy, stressful times, sound is a great tool to help us relax and unwind. “We need to relax every day,” says Gero. “Stress reduces the body’s ability to fight disease. By recharging the body and nervous system, we revitalize what stress has taken away. Gero says binaural beats and vibroacoustics harmonize the immune system, helping to “undo what stress has done” and induce relaxation. Relaxing causes us to feel calm and less anxious, lowers blood pressure, slows breathing, increases blood circulation, and releases the body’s natural chemicals like serotonin, helping to relieve pain and spasms in muscles and joints as well as decrease muscle tension and headaches.
The profound effects of music may well extend beyond our own well-being and healing, as our vibrations and frequencies affect those around us. “By raising the vibrations within us, we can create a situation on this planet that is full of harmony and peace,” says Castle.
For further reading about sound therapy:
The Mozart Effect by Don Campbell
Music Therapy for Non-Musicians by Ted Andrews
Rhythmic Medicine: Music With a Purpose by Janalea Hoffman