written by: Kathy Best, CRM, CRRC, CNS
October 1, 2022
Sound is a universal language, every unique form of sound has a frequency and resonance that can either create healing or create dis-ease. It’s a powerful force that can bring a sense of peace and well-being, love, loneliness, sadness, destruction, and in rare instances invoke violence.
Sound has an ancient relationship with meditation and healing. The roots of sound healing date back tens of thousands of years from cultures all over the world. Australian aboriginal tribes use the didgeridoo as a sound healing instrument for over 40,000 years. Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowl ceremonies have been performed for spiritual and healing purposes in the Eastern world for thousands of years. Sound meditation is a form of focused mindfulness and “sound baths” have become popular in Western cultures recently. Sound baths usually consist of various instruments like Tibetan singing bowls, quartz bowls, harps, didgeridoos and bells to relax and guide listeners. This practice highlights how sound is experienced not only via auditory senses but through palpable physical vibrations and frequencies
What is Sound?
Sounds are waves or vibrations that ripple through the air providing one of the most effective and essential ways we have of communicating with the nervous systems of all beings. The nervous system is the body’s central communication system that directs the reactions of individual parts of the body as it receives and interprets signals from the brain. For example, the sound of an alarm can stimulate a fight or flight reaction in the body. All of existence vibrates, and so we are surrounded by sound constantly. But what can understanding vibrational sound do for you?
The Power of Sound
One of the most remarkable experiments on the power of sound was conducted by Doctor Masaru Emoto, a graduate of the Yokohama Municipal University’s Department of Humanities and Sciences and the author of the bestselling book Messages from Water. Dr. Emoto gained worldwide attention for his groundbreaking research on the surprising effects sound waves have on water.
In his experiments, Dr. Emoto analyzed the formation of water crystals as they were exposed to different sounds in different forms. His research included various forms of music, verbal affirmations, prayers from a priest and even thoughts directed at the water. Part of his experiment focused on positive and negative verbal communication being directed toward water sitting in a Petri dish. He analyzed the water under a microscope taking before and after pictures to document changes.
He experimented with people vocalizing love and appreciation in gentle, positive tones as well as statements like “you fool,” “I will kill you,” and other unpleasant phrases using a harsh tone. Dr. Emoto discovered that unattractive, incomplete, and misshapen crystals formed in the water samples exposed to negative expressions and tones. He and his team also observed very beautiful crystals formed in the frozen water samples where the positive vibrational waves were focused.
Dr. Emoto also experimented with music and water. He exposed water samples to music classical composers like Mozart and Beethoven and found that beautiful crystal shapes formed in these samples as well.
Dr. Emoto concluded that sound vibrations including music and the human voice can be a force for healing or destruction. His research also revealed that thoughts emit vibrations at frequencies we can’t yet register, but that they too have the power to heal or harm.
The healing power of music — hailed by philosophers from Aristotle to Pythagoras — is now being validated by medical research.(1) It is being used in treatments(2) for asthma(3), autism(4), depression and brain disorders such as dementia(5), Parkinson’s disease(6), epilepsy and stroke.
Science is still studying how sound heals, but the current research holds much promise. A review(7) of 400 published scientific articles on music as medicine found strong evidence that music has mental and physical health benefits including improving mood and reducing stress(8). Rhythm, in particular, (more so than melody), can provide physical pain relief.
One study(9) published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine found that an hour of sound meditation helped reduce anger, tension, anxiety, fatigue, and depression while increasing a sense of spiritual well-being. This specific sound meditation used a variety of crystal singing bowls, Tibetan singing bowls, tiny cymbals, gongs, bells, and didgeridoos. The singing bowls were used for 95% of the session. Both new and seasoned participants experienced significantly less anxiety and stress afterward.
There are many theories about why and how sound has such a healing effect on the body. One theory is that sound works through the physical vibrational effects on the whole body. Sound may stimulate nerves that affect pain perception. One study(10) found that fibromyalgia patients who received ten treatments of low-frequency sound stimulation, twice per week for five weeks, experienced improved sleep and decreased pain, enabling nearly three-fourths of participants to reduce pain medication.
Sound-based vibration treatment has been shown to help people with pain from menstrual pain and postoperative pain to arthritis, Sound vibration treatment has also exhibited benefits for mobility problems, muscle pain and
Another theory on the benefits of sound lies with the concept of “binaural beats” or “brain entrainment” which theorizes that listening to certain frequencies can synchronize or change brainwaves.
Electrical activity in the brain is exhibited in the form of brainwaves, or repetitive frequencies. The rhythms of brainwaves can be measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG) device.
Differing states of consciousness in different parts of the brain produce varying frequencies of brainwaves.(11) Brainwave frequencies range from the most activity, or beta waves, which occur throughout the day to the least activity, or delta waves, which occur during deep, undisturbed sleep.
- Beta waves are the fastest brainwaves and occur when the brain is alert and actively engaged.
- Alpha waves occur when the brain is in a state of relaxation, such as doing something enjoyable or meditating.
- Theta brainwaves are associated with daydreaming and the dreaming(12) phase of sleep. Theta brainwaves occur when you are engaged in an extended familiar, repetitive action like driving on the highway, running for a long time, or gardening. This type of state is often associated with creativity(13) and creative problem solving.
- Delta brainwaves are the slowest frequencies and are associated with deep, dreamless sleep.
The concept of binaural beats proposes that the brain synchronizes its brainwaves to the difference in frequencies between tones played in each ear, which can lead one to states of deep relaxation associated with alpha waves or creative genius associated with theta waves.
Researchers are still studying the healing benefits of sound(14,15), but the therapeutic potential of sound in the form of vibrational therapy or meditation appears to be limitless in its benefits with low to no side effects.
In nature, vibrations travel through water and air. When you consider that the human body is approximately 65 percent water, what are the implications of the vibrations and frequencies we are emitting every day? What are we communicating to ourselves and one another through the energy we are producing in our mind and body every moment of the day?
Kathy Best – Intuitive Living Expert, Nutrition Specialist, and Life Coach