Three Ways to Use Music and Sound for Self-Healing
Updated: Jan 30, 2020
We’ve all experienced the power that music has to alter our emotional state – it can relax us, pump us up, or even bring us to tears. What is less widely-known is that music and sound can also alter our physical state. The idea that sound can heal the body and mind has been around for millennia. Use of the Tibetan singing bowls, for example, goes back 2,400 years (Shrestha, 2018) and are still used today, including here at Mindful Ways to Wellness in St. Petersburg, FL. The Ancient Greek and Egyptian cultures both used sound healing as well, and religions around the world reference sound in their creation myths (Goldman, 2002).
Modern research has begun to confirm the benefits of these traditional practices; neurological studies suggest that music and sound therapy can provide benefits for those suffering from depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and chronic pain (O'Kelly, Fachner, & Tervaniemi, 2016). Here we will talk about some of the mechanisms by which music and sound affect the body, both physically and mentally, and three ways we can leverage that to heal ourselves.
Tibetan Bowl Tones
One of the most ancient ways to use sound for self-healing is with the Tibetan singing bowls. The benefits of Tibetan bowl sound healing include better sleep, greater focus and attention span, mental and physical relaxation, easing of chronic pain, and greater overall peace of mind. For more information about how the bowls work to heal your body and mind, you can visit our sound therapy page.
Traditional bowls are hammered by hand, made of a seven-metal alloy, and tend to be somewhat polyphonic. Machine-made bowls, on the other hand, are often made with a single metal, have more consistent, one-note sounds, and are more widely available. The bowls are played by striking or rubbing them with soft mallets to create beautiful, rich tones. For self-healing purposes, you can buy your own bowl or set of bowls and play them in a variety of ways.
When choosing your Tibetan bowl, it is best to shop in person so that you can play them, as each bowl’s tone is unique, and so is each person’s preference. You may find the notes of the larger, deeper-sounding bowls more soothing, for example, or want a smaller, lighter bowl if you’re planning to play it in your hand. Find what speaks to you; you can’t go wrong. In the Tampa Bay area, Gopali Imports on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg and The Om Shoppe in Sarasota are great resources for finding quality Tibetan bowls.
To play your bowls for self-healing, remember that, much like when using your voice, your intention is important; with the right focus, any bowl can be used to heal any part of the body. Use your instincts and your healing needs when deciding where to place to bowl – over the heart, the solar plexus, the sacrum, the thigh or calf, in front of your throat, or even on top of your head.
For general stress and tension or headaches, playing a large bowl while it is inverted on your head can be effective (Shrestha, 2018). Hold your head so that the bottom of the bowl stays balanced and stationary on your crown – you can put a towel or cloth on your head first to help hold it in place and keep you comfortable. Once you have your bowl positioned, gently strike downward on the outside of the bowl with your soft mallet and allow it to resonate for about 20 seconds before striking again, and continue for as long as you like. If you have a second bowl, you can hold it up around your throat in your free hand to create an echo chamber for even greater effect.
To heal other parts of your body, simply lie down somewhere comfortable and place your bowl on top of the area you want to work on. With your mallet, softly strike upward along the side of the bowl and allow it to resonate for about 15 seconds. Breathe deeply as it resonates, and feel free to adjust the firmness of your strikes depending on what feels good to you. For even deeper healing, you can fill your bowl about a quarter full with warm water and play it as described; the water will allow the vibrations to resonate even more effectively (Shrestha, 2018).