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Sound Therapy 

How Does Sound Therapy Help Our Brains?

How Does Sound Therapy Help Our Brains?

Sound therapy is currently getting some limelight. If you’ve heard of “sound baths,” then you know of the attested benefits of soaking your brain and body in the ambiance of relaxing, rich sounds. This is not new. For thousands of years, cultures have been using sounds and music—from chanting to gongs and strings—to heal the sick. As it turns out, there’s more than just theory behind this, there’s science.

There are sounds all around us at every moment. The human ear doesn’t have “ear” lids to cover our ears when we sleep, so it’s on 24/7 and never gets a break from listening. The brain, then, never gets a break from processing sounds. For some people, the amount of auditory processing that the brain experiences becomes overwhelming and can create problems. This is often because their auditory system could use some exercise.

Sounds are a powerful tool used not only to enhance the auditory system as a whole, but also to lower stress and, in some cases, lessen pain. This study found low-frequency sounds to positively help women with fibromyalgia. Another study by the British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST) found that 95% of clients suffering from stress and anxiety became more relaxed after sound treatment. This study found sound therapy by The Listening Program (TLP) to be a positive intervention for autistic patients, as well as beneficial for numerous other learning disabilities and challenges. Indeed, the studies are numerous and only rising.

But how exactly does sound therapy work?

First, it should be noted that there is a difference between some sound therapies. A vast majority of sound therapists operate off of the idea that we all have sound frequencies in our bodies, and that listening to sounds can sometimes bring these energies into balance. Other sound therapies operate off of an understanding of the auditory system, using acoustically modified music to activate the cochlea in the inner ear, and thus the brain overall.

The cochlea is a coiled up organ inside the inner ear that creates nerve impulses in response to sound vibrations. Think of it like a high-tech device that “decodes” the sounds you hear and sends that decoded message to the brain. Different parts of the cochlea are responsible for different vibrations

 (even ones that are too low or too high to consciously hear).

Sound therapists practicing this technique utilize music that is acoustically modified, with frequencies targeting all the different parts of the cochlea, to train those different parts by activating them regularly. This creates a stronger, less-sensitive, and more precisely attuned auditory system that is ready to send accurate communication to the brain, thus creating smoother processes for the brain to perform.

This is needed in our current culture for a few reasons:

Children and adults tend to spend more time indoors, thus limiting the frequencies available to their ears and potentially causing the cochlea to weaken over time.

On the other hand, it is becoming all-too-common with the use of poor headphones and ear-buds (and loud concerts) to overload our ears with too many noises, thus exhausting and weakening the cochlea.

There is a rise in learning disabilities in America, and many children diagnosed with learning disabilities are found to also have auditory processing delays because the symptoms of a learning disability and central auditory processing disorder often overlap. Furthermore, auditory processing issues are often an underlying contributor to the learning struggles. This is because the brain has to work double-time to process its surroundings through the auditory system, making everything more difficult and tiring.

Healing Power of Sound 

The healing power of Himalayan singing bowls and sound therapy.

Spas across the globe are taking an increased interest in sound therapy—and we’re not talking about the Enya tunes wafting from the speakers.

“Dating back thousands of years, sound therapy is the use of both sound and vibrations at varying frequencies to achieve a soothing effect on the mind, body and spirit,” explains Christine Hays, CEO (that’s Chief Energy Officer) of Eastern Vibration, a U.S.- and Nepal-based organization dedicated to the research, education and promotion of healing through sound and vibration (

Hays also notes that sound healing “is one of the most easily accessible and inexpensive forms of therapy and healing,” and that its benefits can include “improved sleep, elimination of toxins, stimulated circulation, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and improved recovery from trauma or illness.”

While everything from recorded music and traditional instruments to gongs and tuning forks are used in these types of treatments, Tibetan Singing Bowls (also called Himalayan Singing Bowls) have become among the most popular spa choices. We asked Hays to break down what they are, what they do and how they make a difference.

The history Related to the bell, singing bowls originated thousands of years ago in the Himalayas and were mostly used in monasteries and temples for spiritual ceremonies, meditation and sound healing therapy. Today, they are still primarily made in India and Nepal, and are available as both pure singing bowls or hand-hammered versions made from an alloy of seven metals, symbolizing the seven planets, days of the week, primary colors and musical notes.

ABOVE: Bowls by Eastern Vibration

THE HISTORY Related to the bell, singing bowls originated thousands of years ago in the Himalayas and were mostly used in monasteries and temples for spiritual ceremonies, meditation and sound healing therapy. Today, they are still primarily made in India and Nepal, and are available as both pure singing bowls or hand-hammered versions made from an alloy of seven metals, symbolizing the seven planets, days of the week, primary colors and musical notes.

HOW THEY WORK Singing bowls resonate with a pure, healing sound, while hammered bowls create a special vibration when struck or strummed. The vibrations are similar to those of the brain’s alpha waves, and they oscillate with an energetically high frequency, like that of the “Om” mantra.

The sound of the singing and hammered bowls has an effect on brain-wave frequencies and can help bring the brain into a Theta state within minutes. (Theta waves occur during REM sleep, hypnosis and deep meditation.) At the same time, the vibrations that emit from the bowls provide a cellular massage.

HOW TO USE THEM Simply strike or strum the bowl clockwise, using a mallet; in order to get the full benefit, aim to be totally present and have positive intention. The sound itself helps to center the mind, as all attention becomes focused on the bowl. In spa treatments, bowls are placed on and around the body (typically on the main chakras) and gently struck to bring on the sound and vibrations.

CAN YOU USE THEM AT HOME? Definitely. Try it for at least an hour before going to bed: Practice chanting, singing and vocal toning while being aware of the vibrations in the body, which can have a healing effect. For a deep sleep, place a bowl on your solar plexus or heart chakra 

and strike for about 10 minutes.

WHAT KIND OF BOWL TO BUY? It depends on what the bowls will be used for. There are concert-grade bowls for group sound sessions (these are usually heavy and have a thick rim), while spas tend to use therapeutic grade bowls, which are slightly thinner and more refined, and emit a 

longer vibration than the concert grade.

Sound bathing 

 Follow this link to Red magazines article on sound baths

Article from Body & Mind the Daily Telegraph Saturday 3rd march 2018

Kat Bumbul holds gong baths in London CREDIT: RII SCHROER

It’s a chilly Monday night and nearly 200 people are queuing outside the Round Chapel in Hackney, east London. Many of them are carrying mats, blankets and sleeping bags.

“What’s going on?” a passer-by asks. A late-night gong bath session is the answer. The passer-by looks none the wiser, as well he might. Yet gong baths, a form of sound therapy that promises to bring deep relaxation to our harried, 21st-century minds, are rapidly growing in popularity.

Percussive instruments such as gongs and singing bowls have been used as a form of therapy for thousands of years; their powerful vibrations are said to be able to lower heart rate and breathing speed, reducing stress, anxiety and chronic pain, as well as improving sleep.

Whether you believe such claims or not, this year, gong baths are set to make a big din, according to Natalie Blow, content producer at Balance Festival.

“There’s a revived interest in ancient healing practices such as sound healing,” she says. “We’re going to see it becoming much more mainstream in 2018; you’ll be as likely to head to a sound healing session 

as you are a yoga class.”

Gong baths are amazing at bringing people into deep relaxation very quickly, which allows the nervous system to calm down, which in turn allows the body to heal and regenerate

Harvey Jackson

Before you reach for your swimming costume, there is no actual water involved in a gong bath. Water is simply used as an analogy for the rippling effect of the gong’s vibrations; our bodies, which are approximately 70 per cent water, are particularly good at absorbing sound waves.

So how does it work? As a variety of gongs are hit or stroked, a soundscape is created that allows participants to move into different states of consciousness as different sound waves affect their bodies. During a session, they can move from a normal waking state (beta) to a relaxed consciousness (alpha), to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, deep meditation (theta), and deep sleep (delta) where internal healing naturally occurs. Although listening to a gong recording may be relaxing, you need to experience the real thing 

to get the full vibrational benefits. gong bath

Bedding down in the Round Chapel CREDIT: RII SCHROER

And while gong sessions can be enjoyed on your own, tonight’s event is a 180-person sell-out. The Psychedelic Society has been organising events like this one since 2016. Due to growing demand, 

they now take place twice a month.

Many people will have ­encountered them at music festivals, Gaia Harvey Jackson, the society’s events coordinator tells me, but now they want to experience them in their daily lives.

And for stressed-out city dwellers like those in Hackney, a gong session can bring much-needed balance. Stress triggers the release of hormones such as adrenalin (the “fight or flight” response) and cortisol, which directly impacts blood pressure, blood glucose, immune function and inflammation.

“Gong baths are amazing at bringing people into deep relaxation very quickly,” says Harvey Jackson, “which allows the nervous system to calm down, which in turn allows the body to heal and regenerate.”

Tonight’s session is led by musician and sound healer Kat Bumbul, who had her first gong bath experience in 2008, while researching the healing power of drums. The experience was a revelation, and drove her to learn how to perform gong baths herself.

“In most cases a gong experience feels like a psychedelic journey, without taking any psychedelics,” says Bumbul. “It’s completely safe, legal, accessible and suitable for everybody. And it gives you that primordial feeling of something magical being present in the world around us.”

In the centre of the candlelit church are two huge Tibetan gongs, along with an assortment of smaller singing bowls. After everyone has found a spot to lie down, Bumbul instructs us, in a husky, steady tone, to close our eyes and allow our bodies to relax. Slowly a soft reverberating noise fills the hall.

It sounds lovely, but I can’t switch off. Nearby, a man snores ­contentedly. I though, am cold (I forgot my sleeping bag) and fidgety. Being some distance away from the gongs, I worry I’m not getting their full force. When Bumbul instructs us to come back to consciousness, I’m glad it’s over.

Kat Bumbul holds gong baths in London CREDIT: RII SCHROER

It’s not uncommon for a first gong bath to be a bit of a damp squib, Bumbul reassures me later. So I agree to attend one of her more intimate events in Covent Garden. This time there are just six of us and, feeling toasty under a blanket, after 20 minutes I feel myself slipping into the strange space between wakefulness and dreaming.

As my mind fills with colourful adventures, shapes and creatures, my visualisations are as intangible as dreams, yet I know I am awake. Although I enjoy yoga and revel in savasana (the relaxation period at the end), I struggle to ever reach such a deep meditative state. The gongs stop and are replaced by other-worldly throat singing from Bumbul that reverberates through my chest.

At the end of the hour-long session all is quiet and calm. I feel utterly rested. I just wish I was at home in bed, as I step out on to the busy street.

I don’t know about curing chronic pain, but I can certainly attest to the deep relaxation benefits of a gong bath. Next time I’m feeling frazzled, I’ll be sure to tune in and gong out. 

Sound Bathing works 

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