In June, entrepreneur and supermodel Kendall Jenner took a moment out of her busy life to share the activities that helped her wind down and quieten her mind. Amidst the usual recommendations of journaling and meditation, one stood out: A gentle practice of playing a singing bowl.
Jenner has long advocated sound healing, revealing earlier that she had hired a sound healer to help her manage her anxiety, and keeping singing bowls at her home for easy access.
Sound healing is a kind of meditation in which a person is bathed with vibration propagating sounds produced by instruments usually made of bronze and crafted especially for the treatment. When touted as a holistic treatment, it is claimed to induce “healing” vibrations into the body, in a process so simple one could do it with their eyes closed.
Satya Brat Jaiswal, founder of The International Academy of Sound Healing, says sound therapy is based on a simple premise: Betterment of the mind and emotional state of a person.
As a holistic healing technique, it has been around for thousands of years with versions of it in Tibet where Buddhist monks practiced it, Ancient India as part of Vedic recitations, and even in Mesopotamia around 5,000 BC.
The instrumental role
The practice largely incorporates the use of singing bowls, which function as a sort of inverted bell that generates a soothing tone when a mallet is rotated along its rim. These bowls come in many shapes and sizes – which vary depending on the nature of the illness being treated. The instruments used include bowls, gongs, chimes, tuning forks and even the human voice.
Applications of sound therapy
While proponents of sound therapy claim that it can be used for a variety of reasons, the most important application, Shilpi Das Chohan, Sound healing practitioner and voice artist explained, is its use in de-stressing a person.
“One cannot and should not continually torture their mind. This is where sound therapy comes into picture as a promising method to de-stress,” she said.
This can be particularly useful for older people dealing with dementia and other issues related to old age, she said. It can even be used as a sleep inducer to treat insomnia and help in building better sleep cycles if practiced regularly.
“The basic functionality of sound therapy is keeping the mental, emotional, and spiritual state of a person in rhythm with each other, and this automatically should promote the physical wellness within the body,” says Chohan.
The person receiving the therapy lies down with arms and legs spread out. Around them, singing bowls are tapped to produce sound, starting off soft and growing louder over the course of the session. They can be kept on specific body parts like the stomach or even hovered over the entire body as they are producing the ringing sound.
The therapy typically lasts for 45 minutes.
“I feel like I have completed eight hours of sleep in a mere of forty-five-minute session,” says Naga, who has tried the therapy. He says that during it, he felt his blood rush throughout his body, leaving him both relaxed and energised – and even helping reduce a mild pain he had in his lower back.
Both positive and negative
The effects of sounds and vibrations have been shown to have certain effects on the human body and mind, though these can be either positive or negative. These are mostly that of relaxation and stress relief. Some studies have even shown to reduce pain in some of their subjects.
Sound meditation, specifically using Tibetan singing bowls, have been linked with positive changes like increased relaxation and decreased stress, especially for people aged between 40 to 59.
The extent of these effects and their relationship with sound though is still considered to be highly complex, with more research needed before it can be proven to have medical benefits.