In Berkshire, Massachusetts, U.S., therapist Effie Sirks employs gongs, drums, tuning forks, clocks, bells, singing bowls, rattles, tambourines and kalimba to her daily work at Canyon Ranch Health Center. Having 25 years’ working experience with these instruments, Effie says that sound therapy gives big support to her job.
“Various sounds from the universe flood into human body and flow along the meridian channels,” she explains. “Sometimes, blocks occur in certain parts of the body. If these blocks are not removed, diseases, pains or other discomforts will rise.”
Sirks is one of the modern therapists who are promoting ancient sound therapy to a new level.
Almost all the ancient cultural traditions and therapies in the world feature healing with music, language and voice. In ancient Greek culture, the flute was played to cure gout. In the Bible, David played the harp to drive away the distressing spirits coming upon Saul. For several thousand years, people all over the world have used chanting and prayer to balance the body, mind and soul.
Nowadays, many health professionals combine musical tools into treatments and bring forth wonderful results. These tools include harps, Tibetan sing bowls and bells, tuning forks, gongs, drums and rattles. The researches shown below all confirm the fact that people had perceived long ago: sound therapy is indeed effective.
As a healing method featuring vibrations, sound therapy means energy and harmony. When we are in a status of harmony, resonance and balance, our body functions best. Our internal organs work in mutual support and resonance, for example, our heartbeats and breath.
Ancient physicists of Oriental medicine discovered the energy cycle system which flows along meridian channels and acupoints. Every meridian channel is connected to a certain physiologic system and inner organs. When the energy channel is out of balance and harmony, people will get illness. If the channels are cleared through massage and sound therapy, diseases will be cured.
Sound therapy is mainly based on this Oriental energy channel theory, plus modern cytobiology and quantum physics. These theories manifest that vibrations exist in the whole of Nature, the universe and also cells within the body.
The first time I tried sound therapy was when I had very poor health conditions. In desperation, I visited an acupuncture doctor who used tuning forks, Tibetan singing bowls, bells and gongs to heal. After one treatment, I felt my whole body being reorganized and I breathed more smoothly. Moreover, some of my previous pains and muscle twitches were largely alleviated.
The doctor used tuning forks to massage my main meridian channels. He put Tibetan bowls on my body and tapped them. After three treatments, I ceased using my asthma inhaler and I myself learnt how to open acupoints with tuning folks. This experience changed my life. Fifteen years later, my main job now is studying, teaching and writing about the benefits of sound therapy.
Vibrate with the Centrum
All the things around us are continually vibrating. The audible or inaudible sounds produced by these vibrations can be applied to the healing treatments.
Coming from Mount Shasta, California, Micah Dobush employs sound healing into treatments by murmuring and chanting. “A monosyllable sound such as ‘moo’ is a powerful tool.” He said. “While I am chanting to the guests, I touch their chakras or blocked parts of the body. I’ve also used singing bowls to balance and clear up guests’ inner energy and regulate the body for many years.”
Sound vibrations play positive or negative roles to us. You can easily tell the effect the following sounds: nails scratching across the blackboard, jackhammer drilling in the ground, cars and buses hooting, rock’n’roll music being played in a gym.
Then, let us imagine the effect produced by soothing sound on our bodies.
Carmen Cicotti, from Lopez Island, Washington, said: “What I love most in the sound therapy is the unique and innovative interaction between guests and therapists in each treatment.”
“With the help of sound tools, I not only set the guest’s body free from anxiety and imbalance, but also help them achieve a deeper affection level and open the hidden muscle memory,” she added.
Plentiful research has been carried out on music’s benefits in bringing relaxation and reducing pressure. Many therapists employ music in body treatments. 70% of human body composition is water – even 25% of bone and marrow composition is water. Since sound runs four times faster in water than in air, the body liquid can perfectly vibrate with the sound.
New York Oncology Medicine Doctor Mitchell Gainor believes sound therapy to be one of the most effective therapies. When we are fit to the perfect vibrations of the universe, we will reach deep harmony and resonance with our innermost self.
He employs different sound healing techniques to cure his cancer patients, including still-sitting guidance, crystal bowl and Tibetan metal bowl. “I think sound and music are comprehensive tools. They can cure both patients in severe cases and chronic diseases,” Gainor said. “As a cancer expert, every day I witness the power of sound therapy. It’s a key task for doctors to explore the healing potential of every patient.”
Sound Therapy and the Body
Therapist Maren Good from New Jersey used a series of tools including Tibetan singing bowls, bells and handbells when delivering foot massages.
“Before the massage, I use Tibetan bowl as a diagnostic tool. I scan the whole body with the bowl and observe where the sound is reflected or absorbed. In this way, I know which part of the body is out of balance,” Good said.
Good puts tuning forks on the guest’s body at the beginning and end of a treatment to remove muscle spasms, balance chakras, and calm the body energy. She also uses tuning forks in foot massage. “Tuning forks have taken the place of my hands,” she said.
Sirks asks patients to stand before a gong and then she knocks the gong. The vibratory sound of the gong is deeply transferred into the patient’s body and helps reduce pressure. If patients show no reaction to normal tools and methods, she will employ a rattle or djembe (African tambourine) to dredge the blocked energy and make patients relax. Tuning forks can touch sensitive parts of the body without bringing any hurt.
“With the help of tuning forks, the blocked energy is cleared away,” Sirks said. “The aim of finger massage and sound therapy is to assist with the energy flow.” Once one feels his body in a deep balance, many physical and mental problems will be alleviated and even eliminated such as shoulder pains, ischialgia, back pains and anxiety.
Don’t rush for quick results when using sound tools in the treatments. You can discuss with your guest how you both wish to accomplish the whole treatment with the sound tools. Always remember that sound is very powerful tool that a little application can last for a long time. If you don’t know where to start, it’s better to first have some professional training to get a grasp of the incredible power of sound therapy.
Tools for Sound Therapy
Many sound therapists mention the importance of mind in the treatment. Mind plays an equal role with the tools.
There are numerous tools for sound therapy and we cannot tell their qualities simply from their prices. As a therapist, you need to listen to its sound, touch it, and know its origins. Is it sold by craftsman or merchant who bought them in Tibet or India? Or is it from the Australian aboriginals? With what kind of mind is this tool produced and sold? This is very important, as important as the sound quality and harmonic tone during the treatment.
Resonance is another key. If you want to use several tools together, you need to know how they resonate with each other and work together. For example, if you want to employ Tibetan bowls, then choose several bowls of different sizes. You can put one of 12 inches near the sacrum, and then you need to put a smaller one near the heart.
The tools listed below have been used for several thousand years in various ceremonies, rituals and treatments, ranging from the drum that said to have shown the heartbeats of the universe to the African tambourine which, some believe, makes the world exist.
Many modern sound therapies are based on these traditional tools. They can be used alone or together with others to cleanse and purify heart.
Tibetan Singing Bowl
In the beginning, Buddhists used Tibetan bowls in religious activities. Now they also use the bowl to assist with their meditations. Traditionally, a Tibetan bowl is made of several metals. The proportion of different metals, as well as the thickness and size of the bowl, gives a unique sound to each bowl. Nowadays, singing bowls are used to regulate and balance body energy or the Ether, or particular parts of the body. Although the traditional casting techniques are no more used in the modern productions, singing bowls are now widely used as a tool of sound therapy.
The cymbal is a hand instrument used traditionally by Buddhists and Shamanists. They knock cymbals at the beginning or end of a meditation or religious ceremony. Cymbals generate quite a crisp sound. Now they are used to exalt or transform the dense energy in the Aetheric body. Cymbals have various sizes. Some of them are fairly smooth, and some of them are carved with holy symbols.
Different from the Tibetan bowl, the crystal bowl is made from pure quartz which is heated to 4,000 degrees. They are used to heal Aether and chakra. They generate crisp and melodious resonant tone which is gentler than that of Tibetan bowls.
Bell and Vajra
Symbolizing the Yin and Yang, the Tibetan bell and vajra are commonly used in Buddhism ceremonies. In Shamanism, the voice of bells indicates the element of Qi, realm of spirit and Aether. During the treatment, therapists shake the bells above chakras or within the etheric body, and sometimes above the sing bowl.
The tuning fork is a multi-functional tool to connect different chakras and meridian energy systems. It can be put directly on the acupoints or painful parts. Therapists use tuning forks to harmonize the human body to the vibration frequency of the Earth, the moon, the sun and the planets. It works in the same way as music to the brain. This therapy has long ago been known by people.
Susan Miles, a neuromuscular doctor in Taos, New Mexico, said: “When dealing with muscle fibers problems, if my palpation force fails to relax patients’ muscle fibers after I locate the certain acupoints, I will use a tuning fork to improve their muscle fibers’ contractility.”
This special gong can generate extensive overtone and low pitch sound that vibrate with the cyclic rhythm of the universe. The rich and strong sound can harmonize the natural frequency of human body so that our body reaches balance with the most original sound strength. And it can largely enhance the treatment effects.
The African tambourine is a traditional healing tool of many tribes. They put the tambourine on patients’ feet or belly and combined with sophisticated breathing and chanting ways. Its deep resonant sound calms people down to connect with their inner being.
Most rattles are spherical, with or without a handle. They are hollow, filled with ceramic balls or pebbles, and rustling when being shaken. Fine-toothed comb patterns being embroidered on the outer surface, the rattle is the most commonly-seen ceramic sound instrument in the ruins of the Neolithic Age and is also one of the oldest healing tools that have been adopted in many traditional cultures. In modern therapy, rattles are used to clear away negative energy and emotions.
The drum symbolizes the heartbeat of the globe. Its strong vibrations can help calm down the energy inside human body. Therapists can beat the drum and shake the rattle together to clear away the blocked energy in the chakras and awaken the whole energy system.