Strike a Chord With Sound Therapy
Soothe your mind, body, and spirit with three simple sound therapy techniques for self-care.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
During most of the first three decades of her life, Danielle Hall was “on-again, off-again sick.” After suffering from hair and tooth enamel loss, migraines, waves of malaise, chronic constipation, and skin issues, she removed gluten from her diet at age 28, and her physical health was restored.
When she later tried a sound bath—a passive experience that involves lying down while feeling vibrations and hearing sounds from gongs, Tibetan bowls, and chimes—Hall experienced even more healing, finally able to release heavy emotions that surrounded her long-undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. The sound therapy literally struck a chord in her body/mind/spirit.
Because of this profound experience, Hall studied to become a sound healing practitioner. In her training, she learned that sound therapy can be the fastest way to relax the nervous system, relieve stress, reduce pain, and process heavy emotions.
Today, nearly 10 years later, Hall’s SoundEmbrace business helps educate the public about sound healing therapy as a non-invasive, complementary tool for empowerment, health, and wellness.
Sound Healing 101
Sound healing is a vast field with many modalities, but it basically comes down to using sound vibrations—from voice or instruments—to tap into something beyond the physical, relaxing the body and the mind, and often helping people release uncomfortable emotions.
Sound healing practitioners can help you determine your most therapeutic sounds, provide regular sound “tune-ups,” and guide you on protocols to help various health conditions. But you can also practice sound healing simply and inexpensively on your own.
A key point made at the 2021 Sound Healing Summit hosted by The Shift Network is that we are all unique vibrational beings and all of us can be sound healers who have the ability to experiment with different types of sound therapy to discover which ones resonate with us—if one type of sound doesn’t feel good, we can simply stop it and try others.
The following are three easily doable types of sound healing you can try at no cost in the privacy of your own home.
Humming is one of the simplest, yet most profound, sounds a person can make. Just take a few deep breaths, then hum up from your mouth through your nose with your lips closed. You can hum for 10 seconds, or hum off and on for five minutes followed by a little silence to ground yourself afterwards. For a different effect, do a quiet hum and press your fingers against your ears to create internal vibration.
In The Humming Effect, Jonathan and Andi Goldman reveal that humming not only helps with stress levels, sleep, and blood pressure, but also increases lymphatic circulation and melatonin production, creates new neural pathways in the brain, and releases feel-good endorphins and nitric oxide, a neuro-transmitter fundamental to health and well-being. Research has also shown that humming can improve ventilation in the sinuses, which might reduce your risk of developing sinusitis.
Humming requires no musical ability and is an accessible, portable, self-healing tool you can practice in most places. It also has spiritual roles in many world traditions, such as the Om, Aum, or Hum of Hindu and Tibetan traditions.
For thousands of years, music has been utilized as a vehicle for healing, transformation, connection, and higher spiritual awareness. We also can use it as a “bio hack” to quickly feel better, improve our health, and even help extend our lives, says Grammy winner Barry Goldstein, author of The Secret Language of The Heart.
Music speaks to the heart—not just in an emotional sense, but also in a physical one, because the heart has the ability to adapt to the tempo of music, says Goldstein. That means, for example, that if you’re experiencing anxiety, relaxing music can help you calm down, which in turn induces many health benefits, including improved immunity and better sleep. In fact, Goldstein’s music is used for these purposes in hospitals, hospices, and medical practices.
To harness the power of music to shift your mood and energy and improve the quality of your life, Goldstein recommends becoming your own DJ and creating a personalized daily music program. Try following this formula to build a daily individualized playlist:
- Start the day by listening to a song that fosters gratitude. For example, “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.
- At lunchtime, think about what kind of day you’re having and what kind of music would be helpful. Something calming? Something inspirational? Something joyful that makes you get up from your desk and move to the beat? If it’s the latter, consider taking a 5-minute musical vacation in the middle of the day by listening to ethnic music you enjoy, such as Greek dancing music or an Irish jig.
- About an hour before bedtime, wind down your day by listening to calming music that helps you relax. Search the internet for music that has a 60–80 beats-per-minute (bpm) tempo. Several of Goldstein’s Ambiology 60-bpm soundtracks for relaxation and sleep are free to listen to on YouTube.
If you find that you have difficulty meditating in silence, you might consider trying a sound bath—an experience where people are “bathed” in sound waves. The sound keeps the mind occupied, so some people find it easier to quiet an overactive, worrying mind and meditate when they listen to healing sounds.
The most popular instruments used for sound baths are gongs, Tibetan bowls, crystal singing bowls, and chimes. But harps, Native American flutes, drums, or other instruments can be used instead. Remember, it’s all about sounds that resonate with you.
In a sound bath session, you typically lie in a reclining position on the floor or a massage table, or you can sit or do yoga poses or stretches while listening to—and feeling—the vibrations of the sounds.
A sound bath, also called sound bath meditation, is a way to promote serenity. It’s an easy way to unplug from electronic devices, slow down, and listen to sounds that allow the body to de-stress, relax, and heal. It can last anywhere from 5 minutes to a few hours.
Although a live sound bath allows you to better experience the full-body feeling of absorbing the frequencies, listening to a sound bath online can still be therapeutic. Some online sound bath videos use color therapy, nature scenes, meditations, or affirmations that may also be beneficial.
To sample a sound bath in the comfort of your own home, search for “sound bath” or “sound bath meditation” on YouTube, and play a video that appeals to you. Shut your eyes, focus on your breath, and listen. Experiment with other sound baths made with different kinds of instruments to see which ones help you feel your best. For the greatest effect, clear your schedule before and especially after “soaking” in a sound bath to extend the benefits of feeling relaxed, serene, and tranquil.
did you know …
The terms “sound healing” and “sound therapy” are often used interchangeably. Each term means using sound to relax the body and mind and promote emotional wellness. The term “sound medicine” also can mean the same thing, but it usually is more scientifically or medically oriented.
The terms “sound bath,” “sound meditation,” and “sound bath meditation” also are often used interchangeably. Each term means a type of sound therapy in which you immerse yourself in an environment of sound created by sacred instruments or voice for healing effects.
Why Is a Nutritionist Writing About Sound Healing in a Food Magazine?
As the author of Going Against the Grain and Going Against GMOs, a Better Nutrition columnist since 2007, and a nutritionist who has focused on using food as medicine since 1994, I can easily say that the right nutrition plan is an essential ingredient for promoting vibrant health and wellness. It has served me extremely well in promoting my own health and that of my clients and readers. As one example, eating gluten-free is, without a doubt, the best medicine for people who learn they have gluten sensitivity.
But as powerful as nutrition is, I felt a calling in recent years to try another therapy for myself. As someone who has always loved good music, I found myself drawn to sound healing to help me more easily get through major emotional, mental, and spiritual life challenges. Those challenges included the deep grief I felt after my mother—who was also my best friend—passed away. And the extreme anxiety I experienced transitioning to a new home and a radically different chapter in my life during an unpredictable time for all of us because of widespread economic shutdowns and social restrictions.
In my case, I started with a few individualized sound therapy sessions and in-person sound baths from sound healing therapists. However, through trial and error the past two years, I found that the three DIY types of sound therapy mentioned above are so simple and easily accessible—and can be so darn beneficial—that I used them regularly myself and started sharing them with my friends and clients. Those people also experienced positive results and found, as I did, that sound therapy, which some consider food for the soul, can add a new dimension to healing and maintaining wellness.