From Hippocrates to Einstein, ancient civilizations and modern cultures have embraced sound as a powerful tool for healing. Famed jazz musician, John Coltrane, mused that one day, the right tune on a saxophone would cure the ill. Hospitals, nursing homes, schools and prisons are using sound therapy to treat people emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This article will reveal two approaches to sound healing, music therapy for relaxation and learning, and the use of sound as medicine. While sound healing is still relatively unknown, a wide variety of practitioners and scientists are investigating and researching the power of sound therapy.
Pythagoras, Aristotle, and Plato, wrote about the power of music to treat patients but it wasn’t until post WWII that music therapy was recognized in the U.S. as an instrument for healing. Today, music is commonly used in integrative and complementary healing centers to create ambiance, a relaxing atmosphere, and pain control. Traditional music therapy is based on the emotional response to music, enhancing endorphin production which contributes to feelings of happiness, wellness, and relaxation. Studies show that people of all ages can reap the benefits of music therapy, from reducing high heart rates in premature infants to calming adults with Alzheimer’s disease. The physical act of playing music enhances motor and communication skills, improves balance and coordination, and helps with post traumatic stress disorders, fibromyalgia, and autism.
How do you choose healing music? Dr. Steven Halpern suggests, “I believe the answer is music that works with the body’s own desire to be in balance. Music that has no sharp edges or jagged rhythms. Music without words or familiar themes, allowing you to come into a relaxed alpha brain-wave state. When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques can prevent many of today’s stressed related diseases and help support a strong immune system and the body’s self-defense mechanisms.”
In “How To Choose Healing Music”, Kay Gardner lists eight elements of healing music to consider:
- Drone – long, uninterrupted sound underneath music that touches tense and blocked areas in the physical and emotional body to free pain and stress
- Repetition – hypnotic/relaxant effect to move listener into receptive state of healing
- Harmonics – overtones that balance the physical body with the aura, healing to the spirit
- Rhythm – duplicates the healthy pulse of heartbeat, breath cycle, and brain waves
- Harmony – for meditation, centering and visualization to work through trauma and emotional disease
- Melody – functions as anesthetic to remove listener from physical awareness
- Instrumental Color – each instrument touches auric layers in a special way
- Form – the cyclical or linear structure underneath all other elements determining direction
Sound therapy for medical uses is becoming more common. From sound surgeries such as ultrasounds to break up kidney stones and plaque to correcting auditory tonal processing and hearing sensitivities like tinnitus, modern medicine is already incorporating sound as a tool.
Based upon the ideas of Cymatics, the study of wave phenomena, and entrainment (the phenomenon of one regular frequency cycle locking into another), practitioners are further investigating resonance therapy, the possibility of measuring the vibration of our bodies and organs, and using this to diagnose and heal with sound. For example, when two tuning forks are tuned to the same frequency and one is struck, the other will also vibrate at the same frequency. “…a treatment contains a harmonic frequency pattern which will reinforce the organs, the vibrations of the intruders will be neutralized, and the correct pattern for that organ reestablished.” - Dr. Peter Guy Manners. Some bodyworkers are incorporating tuning forks or singing into chakras or acupuncture points.
Scientists are also researching how to accurately measure the effects of sound and music on the human body. Kinesiology, a method of muscle testing, can be used to determine effects but there are still many hypotheses, much still to be discovered. Jonathan Goldman writes, “people are intent on vibrating or balancing a particular area or field with sound. We are all unique vibratory beings, in a constant state of fluidity and flow” in his essay, Nine Insights on Sound Healing. Goldman states that it is difficult to measure the effects of sounds on the human body because we are all so different, and due to aperiodicity (the idea that chaos is healthy). “Pattern born amid formlessness: that is biology’s basic beauty and its basic mystery. Life sucks order from a sea of disorder.” James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science.
These two approaches for sound healing; music therapy for relaxation and learning, and the use of sound in medicine are complex, mysterious and fascinating. As new discoveries are made about our bodies and our world, the boundaries of sound therapy expand exponentially. For now, turn on your favorite song, sit back, let your endorphins flow and strengthen your immune system with the healing powers of sound.
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