Sound can be a powerful healing tool, offering relief from physical and mental health issues. From traditional sound healing methods like drumming, singing and gongs to modern music-therapy techniques, sound therapy can help restore balance in the body and mind.
Le's dig in!
Sound healing is a type of alternative therapy which uses music, vibrations and sound frequencies to help restore physical and emotional health. The combination of sound frequencies, along with intentional breathing and visualization techniques, can help induce relaxation and promote overall wellbeing.
By activating certain parts of the brain and nervous system it’s possible to reduce stress levels and bring balance to the body’s energy pathways. Ultimately, this allows for healing on all levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
There are a number of different ways people use sound for healing purposes. Here are several to get you started.
Sound healing can take many forms and the most effective methods will depend on the individual. It is important to explore different sound healing modalities to find what works best for you.
Popular sound therapies include vocal toning, mantra chanting, tuning forks, gong therapy, and singing. By understanding how each type of therapy works and its effects on the body, you can create your own beneficial sound healing practice.
Today, I’m going to teach you about these potent methods—and how you can use them to jumpstart your own healing in just minutes a day.
This first one is my favorite!
This method uses the self-healing power of your own voice to create vibrations within the body. These vibrations act upon the nervous system to create a calming effect by gently stimulating the vagus nerve.
An easy vocal toning sound you could try right now is the vowel sound "Ahh" with an "m" sound at the end.
To use it simply inhale and make the sound "Ahhhhm" in an elongated way for the duration of your exhalation. The relaxing effect of vocal toning is enhanced with each repetition. You might start with 3-5 repetitions and notice the effect afterwards.
If you want to feel healing with sound for yourself, I'd be happy to guide you in this free 9 minute vocal toning tutorial. Many people report feeling significantly more clear minded and even a bit euphoric after finishing the whole video.
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Repeating a mantra can helps shift energy through rhythmic repetition of sacred words. Mantras are powerful words or phrases which can help release the stresses and worries of daily life. By repeating a mantra during meditation, you can help your mind become more aware and focused. This allows for better concentration and mindfulness, resulting in improved meditation outcomes.
Additionally, mantras are derived from the Sanskrit language - “man” meaning “mind” and “tra” representing “release." Using chants or mantras can be a great way to make sound a healing tool for your body and mind.
One of my favorite mantras is "Om Ah Hum"—pronounced Ohhm Ahhhh Hoom"—comes from the Tibetan sound healing tradition where it's known as the mantra of purification. To try it, breathe in and sound each syllable in succession for the duration of your exhale. Start with 4 to 8 repetitions to feel the effect.
But if you prefer something a little more hands on, I've got just the thing.
The healing power of sound has long been recognized and drumming is no exception. Drumming can be used to help improve physical and mental wellbeing, as the rhythmic beat has a powerful influence on both body and mind. Experienced or novice drummers can benefit from its use, and those interested in learning more about how drumming can be used to heal should consider exploring some tips and techniques for getting started.
Studies show that drumming—even as a beginner—offers a wide range of mind body benefits including:
If this sounds interesting, you might consider joining a drum circle! Drum circles are a practice of creating beats collectively and are known to have calming effects on the brain. The act of engaging in different rhythms helps relax your mind and body. Even if you don't have any prior experience with playing drums, you can still benefit from the experience, as it is all about the process without needing to be "good" at it!
Looking for a natural way to reduce physical discomfort? Tuning fork therapy may be the answer. This treatment uses calibrated metal tuning forks that apply specific vibrations to different areas of the body, designed to release tension and energy.
Often compared to acupuncture, it relies on sound frequencies rather than needles for targeted point stimulation. Studies have suggested that this method can help reduce muscle and bone pain.
When it comes to healing with sound, the first instrument that might come to mind is a gong!
A gong bath, when facilitated by an experienced facilitator, can be a profound way to experience healing with sound.
This special type of sound healing dates back to ancient cultures like Egypt, Greece, and Rome. During a “gong bath”, participants lie down in a comfortable position and are enveloped by the vibrations from a large disc-shaped percussion instrument called a gong.
The sessions typically last for 45 minutes to two hours and can be facilitated in person with live music or over video or by recording.
By letting the healing vibrations pass through their body, some people report relaxation, emotional release, and pain relief.
Participants in this 2015 study on the effects of gong baths reported increases of relaxation, inner peace and mental wellbeing.
Although gong baths can be accessed by anyone it is imperative that pregnant women, those with epilepsy or seizures, and those with diagnosed mental health conditions get approval from their primary care provider before taking part.
Additionally people who have hearing aids or hearing impairments should be aware that such treatment could cause discomfort.
Singing bowl therapy utilizes vibrational frequencies to harmonize energy flow and stimulate relaxation.
Singing bowls are a popular tool used in sound healing, which involve a combination of tones and vibrations. These metal and crystal bowls produce sounds when struck or circled with a mallet, creating deep relaxation. They can be placed around the body or in the environment for self-care meditations or therapeutic sessions with practitioners.
Research on the health effects of singing bowls continues to grow. Participants in this 2020 study found mental health improvements including anxiety, depression, and fatigue among other benefits.
Additionally, this 2022 study on " The Neurophysiological Effects of a Singing Bowl Massage" showed that 91.2% of the participants felt more integrated, 97.1% more balanced and 76.5% more vitalized after the singing bowl session.
Sound healing is the practice of using sound and music to help the body heal and return to balance. Sound healing therapies are said to have a variety of physical, mental, and spiritual benefits including reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep, enhancing focus and clarity, boosting immune system function, promoting faster healing and recovery processes, and providing relief from pain.
This centuries-old practice is gaining attention for its potential to offer physical and emotional remedies. Research also shows that with the help of sound therapy, individuals can find relief from symptoms including:
Let’s take a closer look at what makes sound so effective…
I believe healing with sound is the most overlooked tool in modern medicine, but fortunately that might be changing.
The history of medicine is full of stories about treatments that were once ridiculed and rejected—only to become standard practice after years of producing consistent, effective results.
I believe sound healing is following that same path.
In fact, over the past few decades, the use of sound frequencies has made its way into a variety of FDA-approved treatments like:
• Ultrasound healing for tendonitis, kidney stone removal, and glaucoma relief
• Vagus nerve stimulation for treatment resistant depression, chronic pain, epilepsy, cluster migraines
And most recently, the use of vocal toning sound—like this humming exercise recommended by Johns Hopkins—has helped people all over the world to do things like:
• Clear plaque from arteries
• Ease anxiety
• Improve heart health markers
• Lower blood pressure
• Lift depression
• Inhibit the onset of Alzheimer’s disease
I think it's safe to say we're embarking on a new future of healing and sound is already playing an increasingly important role.
Healing with sound can plays an important role in regulating the body’s shift from fight-or-flight mode to a state of rest, digest and restoration.
When your body is out of stress and at rest, it is better able to do its natural daily repair work. Sound healing exercises and methods offer you a multitude of ways to bring about this restorative relaxation.
As always, it may be beneficial to discuss new health strategies with your doctor before starting.
Introduction to Healing with Sound: A Comprehensive Guide Discover the power of healing with sound! This comprehensive guide teaches you how to effectively use sound therapy to restore balance and health.
Healing the Body with Frequencies: The Basics Explained
Discover the secrets of healing your body with frequencies! This guide covers the basics of frequency healing and how to use it for better health and wellness.
Benefits of Vagus Nerve Exercises & 7 Simple Practices
Harness the power of the Vagus Nerve to improve health and wellbeing in a few simple steps! Discover what exercises you need to do, and why they are important.
Vagus Nerve Exercises for Stress and Anxiety Relief
Vagus Nerve exercises have been shown to ease stress and anxiety. Discover what the vagus nerve does, the latest research, and eight free vagus nerve exercises.
Music Healing for Stress, Anxiety and Pain
Music has been used as an effective tool to help people cope with anxiety, pain, stress, and more. Discover research and 7 tips for how music healing works.
Stimulating the Vagus Nerve for Better Sleep, Stress Relief & Health
The vagus nerve has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia, stress relief, anxiety, and mood. Learn 12 easy exercises for stimulation of vagus nerve.
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Jim Donovan M.Ed. is a multi-platinum musician, educator and TEDx speaker.
His mission is to share the restorative power of music through education and performance.
Donovan is an Assistant Professor and Director of Music and Wellness at Saint Francis University.
His viral TEDx Talk "How to Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep" has been viewed over 6 million times to date.
He currently performs with his band The Sun King Warriors who can best be described as a blend of rhythm heavy roots rock, with a strong dose of big barreling drums.
Jim Donovan got his start as a founding member of the multi-platinum selling band Rusted Root.
There he co-wrote the song “Send Me on My Way” featured in the movies "Ice Age", "Matilda" and the Netflix series "New Girl".
During his time with the band 1990-2005, he recorded and released seven full length albums. Including "When I Woke" (3x platinum).
He also had the honor of sharing the stage with many of his musical influences and heroes including Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin (1995 US/UK tour), Carlos Santana (1997/2002 US tour), The Allman Brothers Band (1995/96 US tour), The Grateful Dead (1995 Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA) and many others.
Send Me On My Way also became the first song on Mars where it “woke up” NASA’s Mars Rover.