When I walked into the small sound and vibration healing studio on Tuesday, I was panicked and sweating, my mind racing. I had rushed up, through, and across the city to make this morning appointment while trying to ignore the knots progressively tightening in my stomach and the nausea swinging from my gut to my throat and back down.
I was greeted by Katherine Hamer, my teacher and practitioner for the next hour or so and invited to take off my shoes, sit down, and catch my breath. My two friends, colleagues, and mentors were already inside, clearly already calmed by this same invitation. We had booked an Ancient Tibetan singing bowl session with Katherine to experience the humming, ringing, and vibration of the bowls. Purported to reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and pain, and enhance circulation, immunity, insight and intuition, I was intrigued and clearly in need.
For years I’ve been interested in the healing power of sound and music. On the most basic level, I’ve experienced how turning on music takes me from low to high energy, darkness to light, agitation to calm. Studies show listening to music that moves you causes your brain to release dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical. In fact, listening to music we love has the potential to give us the same excitement, joy, and euphoria as eating our favorite foods or having great sex. But mood enhancement is just the start of the benefits of music.
Music helps maintain and can enhance brain function, speeds the recovery of those suffering from heart disease, and lowers stress, anxiety, and depression. When it comes to the brain, studies reveal that listening to music is like exercising the brain. The simple act of listening can sustain brain health, especially as we age, resulting in better memory function and mental sharpness. In terms of the heart, music lowers blood pressure and slows the heart rate—both key in heart health recovery. And, when it comes to relieving stress, anxiety, and depression, music not only produces that feel-good dopamine, but also endorphins. Endorphins, released from the pituitary gland of the brain, help relieve pain and induce feelings of pleasure. In addition, music reduces the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. This perfect combination of increasing the good and decreasing the bad helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.
In short, music is good for your health—how nice is that—something so enjoyable that’s also so good for you! And, from my conversation with Katherine and some research on my own, sound can have the same effects on the body as does music.
So that day, we laid on comfortable mats, our bodies propped with pillows and our eyes closed, as Katherine moved around the space with her bowls, eliciting beautiful tones, some deep and others high pitched. We connected to the vibrations through sound and contact as she placed the bowls on different parts of our bodies. The sounds and vibrations helped relax me and bring me to a meditative state. Then Katherine placed a bowl on my stomach, filled it with warm water, and played the bowl. The combination of the compression, heat, and vibration was pure heaven. Of course, I still have more to discover from a science perspective, but I can tell you I left this session relieved of my cramping and nausea, and profoundly more relaxed. Even as I moved to my next appointment, that feeling of rush had disappeared. I was still moving quickly but the associated panic was gone.
I’m interested to explore how sound, outside a healing studio, can help me sustain that wonderful calm, even if just a sliver of it. And you can too. Wouldn’t you love, in the midst of your hectic week, to bring your mind and body to a state of total calm? This week’s challenge is this: Explore how sound can enhance your health and wellness. Take a look at our suggestions for inspiration and guidance.
Make A Change Today,