Uncovering the Science of Healing with Sound

sound healing vagus nerve Nov 28, 2020

Back in the early 1990’s, I took my first ever yoga class.

And I’ll never forget the feeling afterward. I knew immediately that it had helped me—especially the “Om” chant that closed out the session.

I distinctly remember noticing that I could actually feel a change in my body and mind.

I felt centered, relaxed, and at ease. My mind was no longer racing… I had clarity for the first time in weeks. And my whole body just felt “lighter.”

What I didn’t understand at the time was why it was helping me.

I often thought to myself, “Why doesn’t everyone know how to do this?” (Mind you, this was about a decade or so before yoga was as popular as it is now…)

When I started sharing with people how they could use this sound healing technique to reduce stress, I quickly learned that many people regarded it as too “new age” and didn’t take it seriously.

Though it was frustrating to try to convince people otherwise, I knew I couldn’t give up.

That’s when I decided to dig into the research and see for myself if anyone had studied how sound helps the healing process.


The science-backed healing power of sound and vibration

As I poured over research,  I discovered that healing happens in the body in multiple ways when we harness vibrational energy.

Of course, Western medicine already uses vibration for healing.

It’s even approved by the FDA…including ultrasound healing for issues like tendonitis, kidney stone removal, glaucoma relief, or clearing plaque from a heart patient’s arteries.

Outside of conventional medicine, there’s also the increasing use of vibration to stimulate the vagus nerve. This has been shown to help people with conditions including epilepsy and treatment-resistant depression.

Then there’s the stimulation of the vagus nerve with self-created sounds, like using your voice for humming or chanting, which are a key part of what I now teach.

Research on vocal humming and chanting shows significant benefits for thwarting depression, anxiety, and irritability; as well as lowering blood pressure and having a positive effect on heart rate variability.


Self-generated sounds work wonders

In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, researchers conducted a study to gauge whether producing self-generated sounds would affect participants resting cardiovascular parameters, including blood pressure and heart rate.

Sixty healthy adolescents were divided into two groups.

One group was led through a slow, active sound healing exercise. (I’ll walk you through the details of this exercise in just a moment.)

The control group was instructed to breathe normally (about 12-16 breaths per minute) with their eyes open in a comfortable sitting posture.

What the researchers discovered was that the group making sound entered a relaxed state such that their parasympathetic or “rest and digest” system turned on and their sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system turned off.

Researchers also found significant reductions in both resting heart rate levels and blood pressure in the humming and chanting group compared with the control group.

In simple terms, these participants used an easy sound exercise to help themselves feel better and reduce their risk of stress-induced cardiovascular issues.


How to use active sound healing for more vigor and vitality

If you’re ready to feel the power of sound for yourself, here’s a helpful exercise based on the method used in the study above:

  1. Find a comfortable position to sit in. Sit with a tall, upright posture with your eyes closed.
  2. Slowly inhale through the nose (for about five seconds) and then slowly exhale through the mouth.
  3. Breathe in again and exhale, humming three syllables (“Ahhh-ohhh-mmm”) in equal length. By the end of one exhalation you’ve completed all three sounds. Listen to an example of these syllables here. 
  4. Continue for as long as it feels comfortable to do so and at the end of the exercise, take a few minutes to be mindful and notice how you feel.

At first, you might experiment with performing the exercise for just a few minutes and build up your stamina over time.

Though cultures globally have been using and benefiting from sound healing techniques for centuries, modern science is just now (finally) validating the healing potential of sound.

And the ability to create sound vibration is one of your body’s many “built-in” features to help you heal and feel better. It’s just that you may have never been shown how to do it…

Learning these techniques have undoubtedly changed my life for the better, which is why I’ve dedicated my career to showing people like you how to do the same.

Be Well,

Jim Donovan

P.S. I want to personally invite you to join the conversation on my Facebook page. I post daily resources on ways to optimize you life with sound and rhythm. I also pop in on Facebook LIVE for the occasional free mini workshop!



“Overview of therapeutic ultrasound applications and safety considerations.” Journal of ultrasound medicine. 2012; 31(4): 623-634. PMID: 22441920

Vagus nerve stimulation therapy: Indications, programing, and outcomes. Neurologica medico-chirurgica. 2015; 55(5): 407-415. doi: 10.2176/nmc.ra.2014-0405

“Neurohemodynamic correlates of “OM” chanting: A pilot functional magnetic resonance imaging study.” International journal of yoga. 2011; 4(1), 3–6. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.78171

“Immediate effects of Bhramari Pranayama on resting cardiovascular parameters in healthy adolescents. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 2016; 10(5), CC17–CC19. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2016/19202.7894

The material provided on this site is for educational purposes only and any recommendations are not intended to replace the advice of your physician. You are encouraged to seek advice from a competent medical professional regarding the applicability of any recommendations with regard to your symptoms or condition.

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