Looking to immerse yourself in the calmness of sound? We explore what sound therapy is and how you can try it for yourself
What is sound therapy?
Sound therapy or sound healing is a complementary therapy that uses music and gentle tones and vibrations to promote emotional wellbeing. The goal of sound therapy is to harness a person’s physical and emotional wellness and empower them to make changes in their life to maintain this state.
How does it work?
Every part of our body, including our organs, bones and cells, vibrates at a specific frequency. Together, they work in harmony, known as a composite frequency. This keeps our bodies healthy, but if one element becomes out of tune, it can affect us as a whole. Sound therapy uses a combination of techniques to bring balance back to the body.
This is achieved by using a combination of vibrations that stimulate our bodies, rebalance our emotions and help to calm us down. Whilst there’s little understanding of how this really works, it’s believed that sound has the ability to alter our brainwaves. Our brains are able to mirror the sound that we’re hearing, so if a sound is coherent, like a melody, it’s thought that this helps parts of our brain interact more coherently. This can also help the brain relax.
Sound therapy has been around for thousands of years. It originates from Tibetan and Himalayan cultures, where monks would conduct spiritual and healing ceremonies. In more recent years, the Western medical practice of sound healing was first researched by Sir Peter Guy Manners, who found over 600 frequencies and was able to coordinate them with parts of the body. He believed that sounds could stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself.
Today, the use of sound healing can even be seen in our hospitals. A lithotriptor machine is a device that uses sound waves to break up kidney stones and gallstones, allowing them to pass through the body more easily.
Experiencing therapeutic sound can bring about immense changes on every level of being – physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual.
Find out more about the benefits of sound therapy (and how to try it at home).
How can it be delivered?
There are a number of ways that sound therapy can be delivered. The collective term is often referred to as a ‘sound bath’ - the idea being that the individual is bathed in sound waves. Some of the most common methods used include:
- Gongs — gongs may be played continuously throughout a sound healing session. They typically vary in size and weight, which produces unique vibrations.
- Singing bowls — Himalayan or Tibetan singing bowls, also known as sound or music bowls, are created using different compositions of metals. Some may only produce one sound, whilst others may make multiple.
- Tuning forks — tuning forks are used to create musical intervals and also come in a variety of sizes and vibrations. They’re usually played close to the ears or on the body as they’re much smaller, so their sound doesn’t travel as far.
- Voice — sound healers can also use their voices as instruments. The voice is projected towards the body, normally in the form of a chant, which creates healing vibrations.
What are the benefits of sound therapy?
Sound therapy is an incredibly sensory experience which affects individuals differently. Each person will likely have their own experience of sound therapy, so you may find it works well for some and not for others.
The use of sound frequencies is designed to place the individual in a deep state of relaxation, very similar to meditation. This encourages the person to experience a moment of reflection and helps to find more beneficial ways of managing their lives.
Aside from being a totally relaxing experience, there are numerous benefits to sound healing including:
- a more positive outlook on life
- reduced stress and anxiety
- increased energy levels
- reduction in pain and/or associated symptoms
- improved sleep
- better focus and concentration
The use of sound is thought to stimulate the frontal lobes and limbic system of the brain, which promotes more positive thinking. The hippocampus is also stimulated, which is the part of the brain that helps process emotions, learning and memories.
Ultimately, sound therapy is designed to assist the body’s natural ability to heal itself and encourage physical and emotional wellbeing.
What should I expect in a sound healing session?
Sound healing is a very gentle and non-invasive form of therapy. You’ll typically be lying down during your treatment whilst you listen to your practitioner play a variety of instruments. They may speak about your intentions with you prior to the session, so it’s good to come prepared with an idea of what you want to get out of the session. This is usually a set of words or a positive statement.
There’s nothing in particular that you’ll need to do prior to your healing session. It’s recommended that you drink plenty of water beforehand, as the vibrations travel better this way, and avoid eating a heavy meal. Make sure you’re comfortable. Loose-fitting clothing is advised and feel free to bring a cosy blanket, warm socks and/or a cushion to fully relax.
Can sound therapy be used alongside other complementary therapies?
Whilst sound therapy works on its own, it can be used alongside other complementary therapies such as yoga, meditation and massage to enhance their effectiveness. In yoga, sound therapy can be used to bypass the thinking mind and help to focus on breathing with the rhythm, so the two go hand-in-hand.
How can I try sound therapy for myself?
If sound therapy sounds like something you’d like to try for yourself, there are many options you can consider. One of the great benefits of sound healing is that it can be delivered both in person and online, so you can even do it from the comfort of your own home.
You can find out more and book a one-to-one session with a professional, or why not test the waters by signing up for an event? You can see if there’s a sound bath near you using the events page on Therapy Directory.
If you’re unsure whether it’s something that feels right for you, you can try it out on yourself at home first. The easiest way to do this is using your voice (it’s all the most cost-effective, as you don’t have to invest in instruments). Sound therapist Maggie Langton at Sunsetbay Retreats recommends humming up and down the scale, chanting vowel sounds and replicating sounds of nature.