Sound therapy is a deep, immersive practice which uses the power of sound to reduce stress and improve relaxation in the body and mind.
What is sound therapy?
Sound therapy uses the vibrations from sounds, music and instruments to help you relax. A variety of instruments such as gong baths, tuning forks, singing bowls, drums and our voice can be used.
Relaxation and healing happens when sound frequencies slow down our brain waves – but how exactly does it work?
How Sound therapy works
Growing evidence shows sound can be used to stimulate our brainwaves, and align them with a particular frequency to bring us into a different state of mind. Fast upbeat music is thought to make you feel more focused and engaged, while music with a slower tempo can help quiet and soothe the mind.
The five main brainwave states are:
Delta (0.1 – 3 Hz)
The brainwaves in delta state have high amplitude and low frequency, characteristic of a very deep, dreamless sleep.
Theta (4 -7 Hz)
Your brainwaves are in theta state when you’re meditating, relaxing, or doing repetitive tasks that require almost no conscious effort.
Alpha (8 -13 Hz)
Alpha state does require low conscious effort – the brain is in alpha state when you’re reflecting on the day or visualizing, although still in a relaxed state. It is considered the ideal state, as this is when we’re fully present and clear-headed.
Beta (16 – 30 Hz)
Characteristic for engaging everyday activities like teaching or having an interesting conversation, this is a state we spend most of our time in during the day.
Gamma (31 -100 Hz)
The fastest of all the waves, they produce the feeling of being in the zone, highly focused and engaged. This is the state our brain is in when we’re learning and our consciousness is at its highest.
Sound therapy shifts our brainwave state through entrainment. It provides a stable frequency which the brain can attune to and shift from the beta state to alpha, theta or delta. The objective of sound therapy is to bring the body and the mind back in the balance.
Most common types of sound therapy
Therapy with tuning forks
Typically used to tune other musical instruments, tuning forks have healing powers of their own. A practitioner holds them close to specific parts of the body to send relaxing vibrations that open blocked energy channels. Tuning forks can be used on reflex points, articulations and meridian points, as well as over and around chakras.
Gongs have been used as a form of healing since around 4000 BC – a gong bath is a style of meditation where the practitioner creates tones and patterns to produce strong vibrations with the whole body bathing in sensations. Due to their size and structure, gongs produce richer sounds that can put you in a deeply relaxed theta state in a matter of minutes. They improve mental clarity and force your muscles to relax.
Singing bowls therapy
Singing bowls have their origin in ancient Buddhist practices. They are either made of metal (Tibetan singing bowls) or quartz and come in different sizes. Each one produces a unique vibration that works on separate parts of the brain. Different sized bowls are often used together, and they can be placed on or close to certain parts of the body. Vibrations move through the water in the body promoting healing and deep relaxation.
The human body is the ultimate healing tool, when we know how to use it. Vocal toning uses voice, the most powerful instrument, to relax the body and the mind. It is intuitive – like releasing an audible sigh of relief. One of the many techniques used in sound and music therapy is vocal toning based on vowels, each connected to a particular chakra.
What are the benefits of sound therapy?
Mental and spiritual well-being
An interesting study was conducted on adults between the ages of 20 and 40, to examine the effects of vocal exercises on their mood. Vocal toning brought them to a meditative and relaxed state, shifting the states of awareness and consciousness.
Another study examined the potential effects of Tibetan singing bowls on mood, tension, anxiety and physical pain. The therapy showed great results in all areas, decreasing pain and relieving anxiety, with an increased sense of spiritual well-being.
Clears energetic blockages
Many sound healing techniques stem from eastern cultures and have root in the concept of lifeforce – also known as Qi, Chi or prana. This lifeforce flows through the body. When we experience pain or illness in our body, it’s root cause is down to an imbalance or blockage of our lifeforce. To regain balance, practitioners may use instruments to unblock this stuck energy.
Stress and anxiety management
Low-frequency brain waves can stimulate the production of serotonin, a chemical that antidepressants are responsible for increasing in the human body. Stress is also one of the factors affecting sleep quality, thus sound therapy could help those suffering from insomnia as well, by reducing stress.
Decreased chronic pain
Sounds and vibrations have been effective in decreasing levels of pain in patients with chronic pain. Patients suffering from fibromyalgia – a syndrome characterized by body pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issued, showed significant improvements based on a study done with low-frequency sound stimulation.
Improved heart health
Attuning brain waves to a certain frequency can cause a positive physiological response by releasing nitric oxide. This molecule is proven to expand blood vessels and increase blood flow. It is essential for the human body because it allows blood, nutrients and oxygen to travel to every part of the body effectively.
What does a typical session look like?
Sound therapy comes in many forms and it can take place in a group or with one-on-one sessions. Some practitioners will use a single tool or many different tools during the session. A session can be both a passive and participatory experience.
The session may begin with breathing exercises to slow the mind and prepare yourself to focus on the sounds. You may be asked to sit or lie down in a comfortable position, with a blanket or an eye mask.
Sessions can last from 20 minutes to 2 hours and longer, depending on the type of therapy. Therapists may place instruments like tuning forks around certain energy fields on the body, while gongs create a sound bath for an immersive whole-body experience.
Sound therapy is considered a generally safe practice. However, pregnant women are not advised to participate, and anyone with tinnitus or a serious mental health problem. If in doubt, consult your doctor first before receiving a treatment.
How to find a sound therapist?
Sound therapists can base their expertise on principles of eastern medicine, mindfulness and neuroscience. Consider what type of session you would like to experience or perhaps try a few different ones to see which resonates best for you.
From Spring 2021 you can find sound therapists in your area by visiting our website. Search and book your next session directly through our online marketplace.