Believed to help quieten the mind and alleviate stress, sound therapy is fast becoming a popular treatment among those looking for a different way to relax. But what exactly does it involve? We ask the experts…
Whether it’s the gentle crash of moving waves, the funky rhythm of jazz or the reverberation of a yogic ‘om’, sounds and music affect us in different ways. And this knowledge forms the basis of sound therapy. Therapists say this holistic treatment – which is believed to be the oldest form of healing known to man – harnesses the power of sound and its vibrations to rebalance your body and achieve a state of wellbeing. It’s something that many people are turning to today as a way to calm a busy mind and promote better sleep.
“In its most elemental form, sound is vibration,” explains Coral Chambers, a fully qualified sound healing therapist and gong practitioner, who runs Om Sound Therapy in Surrey (
omsoundtherapy.co.uk). “Everything in the universe is in constant motion, including the organs, tissues and cells of your body. Every part of your physical body vibrates at a specific frequency but stress, negative thinking, processed foods and even your posture can negatively affect this.”
According to Coral, this can result in the cells of your body becoming out of sync, which can cause muscle tension, pain, headaches and disease, but when instruments such as tuning forks, gongs or singing bowls are used on, or near your body, the cells of your body resonate with the powerful frequencies of these tools. “By the process of entrainment, the cells begin to vibrate at the same frequency of the sounds they feel and hear, encouraging your body to release blocked energy and helping the qi of your body to flow more freely, thus enabling the body to heal,” she says. “Sound also helps you release buried emotions, allowing you to achieve better emotional health and balance.”
There are many different kinds of sound therapy – those that use tuning forks, gongs or singing bowls and also those that use drums, bells and even the human voice. Whatever the method of sound-creation, it’s a case of becoming enveloped in the tones and allowing the therapeutic process to occur.
Sessions can either take place in groups (you’ll often find group gong bathing sessions or chanting classes available) or on a one-to-one basis. If it’s the latter, you’ll usually enjoy a treatment that’s tailored specifically to your needs.
So, just how can it help you relax and sleep better? “Sound played in specific ways can help the mind and body to relax,” explains Lyz Cooper, the founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy (britishacademyofsoundtherapy.com). “This happens because of the way the human brain responds to sound. When the brainwaves drop to a low frequency it can help you to gently and easily slip into sleep.”
Research backs this up. Studies conducted by the British Academy of Sound Therapy found that 95 percent of clients suffering from stress-related problems felt an increased sense of calm after treatment, while other research from the BAST which monitored stress responses through the autonomous nervous system revealed it can have a significant relaxing effect.
If you’re specifically looking for a way to improve your shut-eye, Coral advises trying gong-based sound therapy. “Mentally, gongs have the ability to shut off the chattering side of your brain sending you into a state of deep relaxation and bliss, sometimes even sleep,” she adds. “For children, the gong’s ability to quieten the mind is invaluable. Children are often given activities to calm them down and occupy their mind when in fact it’s the very opposite that is needed in order for them to find peace and just be.”
But remember, it’s not just sleepless nights that the therapy can help with. “Sound therapy can also ease pain and anxiety,” Lyz adds. “It can improve your mood state too, so is good for mildmoderate depression. It helps to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and can help with stress and stress-related conditions. On top of this, it can increase openness so is really good for helping improve sociability, open-mindedness and build resilience.”
What you need to know
Sound therapy is a non-intrusive therapy that nearly anyone can enjoy. However, it’s not recommended for pregnant women during their first trimester or those who have had a bone fracture in the previous six weeks. People who have a pacemaker, epilepsy, advanced stages of cancer, ear or balance problems might also find they are especially sensitive to the sound and vibrations.
“Aside from people in these situations, I recommend it for anyone with any aliment – physical, spiritual or mental,” Coral says. “Anyone can have sound healing, but as with all therapies I recommend you do your research and find an experienced, qualified and fully-insured sound healer or gong master before having any treatments. This especially applies to gong baths that are becoming very popular at the moment. With this, it’s not about just playing a gong, or how many gongs a person has, but their knowledge of how the gongs work and what the combinations can do. Played without proper knowledge it is dangerous and can cause trauma to the body.”