How Sound Heals
One of the most common questions sound healers are asked is, “How does this whole thing work, anyway? How can sound heal?”
While people across cultures have used sound to uplift and heal for millennia, and metaphysical theories and anecdotes abound, it’s helpful to know what happens on a physical level.
Sound Waves, Frequency and Vibration
Sound waves are waves – they vibrate. Certain vibrations create cellular level outcomes, even if the effects don’t seem to make sense. An opera singer can shatter glass – no, it’s not a myth – and cat owners have a 40% lower risk of heart attack because purrs heal.
Different sounds at different frequencies – from crystal bowls to purring cats to the sound of your own voice – even sounds that are not consciously perceived, create vibrational effects on the body’s cells, and those effects can heal. Through the processes of resonance Resonance is the frequency at which an object most naturally wants to vibrate. It also refers to the idea that we can “resonate with” someone or something… that is, on some level we are vibrating at the same rate, we feel or believe or sense something the same way as another. Or it refers to two objects vibrating at the same rate. and entrainment Entrainment is an aspect of resonance. It says that when you bring an object vibrating at a particular frequency close to an object vibrating at a different frequency, eventually one object (the less powerful vibration) will start to vibrate at the same rate as the more powerful one. “Entrainment is the tendency for two oscillating bodies to lock into phase so that they vibrate in harmony. A synchronization of two or more rhythmic cycles.” , our brains and other parts of us can be encouraged to vibrate at a frequency that is most natural and healthy for them.
Sounds can enter the body through our ears (ear conduction) or our bones (bone conduction). Sound vibrations affect us through various routes, powerfully impacting the brain, respiratory, nervous and other systems, organs and cells. These effects, in turn, can help to shift our emotions, ease stress, tension and pain, and lift overall mood.
The rhythmic nature of vibration is part of the reason it can have a powerful effect on our brain, nervous system, breathing and heart rates. Our bodies are rhythmic (and vibratory) in nature, so bringing in a sound with a particular frequency can change how we’re vibrating. A fast heartbeat, for example, can be helped to slow down. Someone who has trouble moving, who is sedentary, can be helped to move more and be more energized, if you bring in music or even just percussion, with a rousing beat. These are just basic examples.
Sound Healing And The Ears
Most of us are aware of hearing through our ears. Sound waves are vibrations that travel through the air, through the ear canal, to the eardrum. The eardrum then transmits these sound waves through the middle ear, into the cochlea of the inner ear. The cochlea connects to the auditory nerve, which transmits the sound to the brain.
Across times, across genders, and across cultures, certain music, chanting, bell ringing, and even humming have been considered relaxing, comforting and calming. It stands to reason that if you listen to prolonged periods of calming sounds, you’ll just feel calmer. Calmer people heal faster. (Plus, you get to listen to nice sounds.)
For many, purring cats are soothing, whereas crying babies are jarring. Certain sounds are intrinsically calming, and other sounds are intrinsically disturbing.
I invite you to try this exercise.
I invite you to try this little exercise. Take a look at each of the photos. As you glance at the photo of the baby crying, imagine the sound of that cry. Then pay attention of any subtle emotional or physical reaction you have. Does it make you a little uncomfortable or sad? Does it bring up even a little bit of tension in your body? And now look at the photo of the cat purring, and imagine that sound. Does it help you feel a little more settled or warmed? Or imagine the sound of the ocean, which many of us find very healing and calming. You might hear a silent, internal “ahhhh” within yourself as you imagine that sound. Although this says as much about the power of our imaginations, it also reveals a bit about the emotional effects that sound can have on us.
Sound Healing And The Brain
As the brain processes and interprets the sounds we experience in a sound healing session, entire domino effects transpire to create internal healing circumstances. Processing of sound occurs in different areas of the brain, potentially creating focus, regulating the breath, and activating the parasympathetic nervous system, among other effects.
Music with a certain tempo or rhythm can motivate us to move, get up and dance, or walk. Others help us to slow down. And still other kinds of music can help us be more organized, as certain rhythms help our brains to be more organized. Certain instrumental combinations tend to affect particular areas of our body, mind or emotions, as do certain major, minor or modal keys.
Certain sounds can stimulate the release of endorphins, one of the body’s hidden armies of healing warriors. (These are the same fellows who come out when you’re laughing, a delightful sound in itself). Sound sets in motion myriad effects that profoundly facilitate healing. It helps our entire system to vibrate, function and flow at its very best.
If you’re interested in seeing if sound healing is right for you and your situation, or you’d like to give a sound healing session a try, click here to get in touch.