Now it seems like sound bowls are the new yoga pants. Although sound baths may seem like a “New Age” concept, the practice of using sound for meditation and healing has been around for thousands of years with deep roots in cultures across the world. The general intention of using certain instruments that produce sound waves is to calm the mind and body. The sounds aid in reaching a state of relaxation as well as setting a fertile environment in the mind for meditation. The overtones produced by the sound of Tibetan bowls is effective because they work with brainwave entrainment which is intended to induce different forms of tranquility such as relaxation, trances, sleep, and dreams by synchronizing with a periodic external stimulus that corresponds with the desired brain state. These stimuli can be sound, light, or vibrations at different frequencies.
How Does Sound HEAL?
If quantum physics tells us everything is vibration, then we know that our own bodies hold their own resonance frequency. That means, the heart, the liver, the kidneys, bones, tissues, and blood are all vibrating. But when a portion of the body is vibrating out of ease, we call this “dis-ease.” By applying the use of sound, we can put the energetic body in a state of balance and harmony which will, in turn, enhance the resonant frequency of the emotional, mental and physical body. The more the body can relax through the rejuvenating and restorative qualities of sound, the more it will then be able to access the parasympathetic nervous system where healing can take place. It is more of a holistic approach. We know if we are stressed, we are more susceptible to get rundown and sick. The more we can relax, the healthier we will be. It is no wonder we use the term “sound health.” Sound healing can also help quiet the mind, empower positive cognitive change, access and release trauma, enhance self-awareness, diminish panic attacks, and help with insomnia.
I’m Michelle Berlin, a Miami “sound sorceress” (a name my students gave me). I’ve been working with yoga and sound for 17 years. I have conducted sound experiences privately, in corporate settings and events. My “sound journeys” create an internal narrative and experience that can not only induce relaxation but also invoke emotions that may need to come to the surface. My students and participants report feeling relaxed, sleeping better, and feeling balanced. They’ve also described gaining a new spark of creativity or recalling a past memory that helped them understand a current life situation. Many even report they feel like they were “tripping,” “floating” or having an “out-of-body-experience.”
When traveling in Nepal, I had the opportunity to study with the village sound shaman and observe the way the monks use sound for meditation. Every morning at 5 a.m. the temple doors would be open for meditation with the Tibetan monks where they would chant, use bells, horns, bowls and gigantic gongs. In the middle of the chanting, the monks would play and hit gongs with all their might. I found it quite jarring and not relaxing at all. I asked one of the monks “Why do you play in that way?” He explained that their practice is one rooted in mindfulness and awareness and the loud sounds are a call to action to be present and to understand that the only thing that matters is THE NOW. I realized that when those sounds went off you have no other option but to BE HERE NOW. So, in that setting, the sounds aren’t really used to relax you, but to keep you rooted in the present moment.
However, I did get to observe how the local doctor or “sound shaman” would use the sounds in a more therapeutic environment. Now, this clinic was at about 15,000 feet up in the Himalayas. You cannot get there by car, bus or plane. The only ways to get there are by walking, taking a donkey or a horse. This explains how the healers in the village worked with the “medicine” around them. They used herbs, seeds and plants that grew in the area to make tinctures and tonics for certain ailments. Oftentimes, a treatment was accompanied with sound. If somebody came in with a stomach issue, the shaman would put a bowl on the belly and play it for an hour until the pain or discomfort subsided. It makes sense because modern medicine is now using certain frequencies to eradicate unwanted rogue cells and dissolve substances, such as crystallized minerals in the kidneys. This technique is also applied in more innovative sound healing to assist in ridding the body of unwanted bacteria and fungi. With this knowledge of ancient culture in combination with emerging science, I knew I was on the right path to help people on their wellness journey.
The thing that I love about sound is that everyone can enjoy it. Everyone can lay down and receive with no risk. It’s not as intimidating as yoga or meditation. Literally, all you have to do is listen and be receptive.
In my travels, I’ve picked up a variety of instruments that I use as “tools for awakening.” I go beyond the very popular crystal bowls and implement other shamanic tools and New Age instruments that can really color the participant’s inner landscape. I use Himalayan bowls, chimes, gongs, hand pans and bells to invoke different qualities within the human psyche.
Sound is an incredible tool for self-exploration, self-maintenance, self-therapy and healing. It is an experience that creates a space for a healthier mind, body, and lifestyle. If the sound bath trend is anything like the yoga and fitness trends, it can be expected to become commonly used for mental health and meditation. Especially for people seeking alternative ways to relax.