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The Complete Guide To Sound Baths and Sound Bathing Therapy

The Complete Guide To Sound Baths and Sound Bathing Therapy

What is a sound bath? The practice of sound bathing, as the name suggests, is the practice of being deeply immersed in sounds and vibrations that have the power to cleanse and heal. It is a journey of self-discovery through deep relaxation and meditation.

Taking a sound bath is taking a holistic approach to relaxation and healing. It can be a perfect escape from the modern stresses of life. A sound bath can cleanse your soul and restore your balance. This stems from the immense power of sound and vibration. Sound has a great influence on our emotions and health and can make us feel happy, energized and relaxed.

During a sound bath, a profound sense of peace and tranquility will surround you. If your sound bath is being conducted using singing bowls, you will feel the healing and cleansing power of various different singing bowls which surround you. All your stress, tension, and depression will become washed away with these vibrations. Both your emotional and physical trauma will be released, making you feel vibrant and lively.

In this article, we discuss the beliefs of  energy practitioners in respect of the health benefits of sound baths, sound healing and sound bath meditation. We will also explain how sound bathing works and describe the tools used during a typical sound bath. We will then discuss how to prepare for a sound bath and describe the experience of participating in a sound bath. We will conclude by discussing the healing properties of sound bathing and how you can create your own sound bath in the comfort of your home.

History of the Sound Bath

When we open up the history books to learn about the origin of sound bathing, we are taken back to the age of the ancient Greeks. Back then, sound frequencies were often used to treat various health ailments, including indigestion, mental disturbance, and insomnia.

It was believed that sound waves could calm the nervous system and balance the physical and spiritual aspects of the body. It was believed that a holistic approach which utilized the power of sound could help to relieve stress, insomnia, anxiety and depression. In fact, in the famous book De Anima, which was written by the ancient Aristotle, there is mention of how music can help purify the soul.

In addition, sound healing has been used in various other cultures for healing and wellness, and has led to the creation of various ancient instruments, from Tibetan singing bowls to Aboriginal didgeridoos. For thousands of years, these instruments, along with chants and mantras, have been used to balance the chakras by awakening consciousness. Healing with sound is the most ancient and natural form of healing.

At the end of the 19th century, researchers began to study the application of music in medicine and healing. Those early studies study revealed that music can affect physical responses, and reduce blood pressure and heart rate while improving the metabolic process.

How Sound Bathing Works

Sound has a powerful impact on our lives and is all around us. Whether or not you use sound-producing instruments such as singing bowls and tuning forks, there is always music around you. Even a simple walk in nature will surround you with the harmonic music of the wild. Music provides relief from pain and discomfort and makes you feel relaxed.

Sound bathing is the practice of intentionally creating waves of harmonic sound which envelop and surround your body. Whether you are actively participating in the creation of the sounds or acting as a passive receiver, you will feel the healing effects of sound bathing.

Sound healing practitioners use different methods of sound therapy to enhance your emotional and physical well-being. These practices are based on the belief that sounds and vibrational forces can directly influence your health and well-being.

According to quantum physics, every cell is made up of small pieces of vibrating matter joined together by magnetic forces. It is believed that during illness or disease the vibration in the cells is less effective or there is a reduction in the frequency of the vibration. Alternative health practitioners theorize that when your body is exposed to healing sounds, the sound vibration helps to raise the frequency of your body which brings health and spiritual enhancement. This is the basis for the belief of alternative health practitioners that sound therapy helps you to achieve an optimal vibration.

Sound Bathing Tools

Energy healing practitioners use different instruments or sound tools to create different frequencies depending on a person’s particular needs. These vibrations influence different energy fields of the body affecting the chakra or aura to bring balance to a person’s life force energy (prana). This encourages physical, emotional and spiritual growth and healing.

These are some of the tools commonly used during sound bathing sessions:

Tibetan Singing Bowl - This sound tool has its origin in ancient Tibetan Buddhism and is made using different metals. Practitioners strike the bowl with a mallet to create a vibration that helps to balance your energy. Singing bowls used in sound baths are often referred to as sound bath bowls, and sound baths which rely largely on the use of Tibetan singing bowls are often called Tibetan sound baths. Singing bowls are known to have excellent health benefits and have been used since ancient times.

Crystal Singing Bowl - These bowls are made of quartz crystals. Crystal singing bowls are designed to produce a specific tone to align with your specific energy center. Crystal singing bowls are often used in sound baths in conjunction with other crystal singing bowls or Tibetan singing bowls.

Tuning Forks - These are made of steel and produce a single precise tone. The practitioner will often tap the fork and hold it near your body.

Crystal Pyramid - Quartz is molded into the shape of a pyramid. The practitioner uses a mallet to strike different parts of the pyramid that produces a ringing sound which helps balance your energy.

Chimes - It is believed that wind chimes can cleanse your aura. They are commonly used by practitioners in feng shui.

Gong - This tool plays soft sacred music in a geometric pattern. It is also believed that loud sound vibration from a gong can release stuck or trapped energy from your body.

Drum - In many ritual practices, drums are used as a symbol of divinity. Drums help to heal by improving focus and stimulating your energy center.

Digital Sound - In this modern age, sound bathing can be performed using digital sounds generated by smartphone applications or digital recordings. Although this method is not as effective as vibrations that are produced in your physical presence, they can still help to relax and balance your chakra.

How to Prepare for a Sound Bath

Preparing for a sound bath means preparing yourself for physical and emotional cleansing and healing. Bringing any emotions or thoughts to your sound bath session can inhibit the healing and cleansing process. Be aware of your thought process and try to avoid distraction in order to fully benefit from the practice.

Being mindful in anticipation for your sound bath will help relax and prepare you for the process of sound healing. On the day of your sound bath, spend your day reading and relaxing.

Some things to consider before your sound bath:

  • Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. Sound waves travel better through water. When you are well hydrated, you will have a better experience. 
  • Eat light and healthy food. A sound bath becomes more impactful when you have an empty stomach.
  • Set your intentions and be positive.
  • Wear warm, comfortable and flexible clothing.
  • Try to arrive 15 to 20 minutes prior to your sound bating ceremony. Settle yourself in the space with a calm mind. 

The Sound Bath Experience

Sound baths are offered in either individual or group sessions. Follow your instincts during the session. If you feel like standing, then you should stand. Alternatively, if you feel like you want to lay down in savasana, do that.

During a sound bathing session, everyone will feel intense vibrations surrounding their body. Some will receive those vibrations and feel themselves moving to a meditative state. Others may experience emotional release. Have a clear intention and let go of your stress. Whatever you feel is all good, so let your feelings come and go. Being open in this manner will help you release deep-rooted emotions. You might have moments where you feel very happy or very sad. You might even cry during the session. Whatever happens is fine.  Let your emotions flow and accept the release.

During sound bathing, your facilitator may use a variety of tools to create sonic space, which is the frequency range that an instrument or a vocal sound takes up when it is played. Generally, a collection of singing bowls are used, although some sessions may also use tuning forks, chimes and drums. Each instrument creates its own frequency which will help guide you to a meditative state. These sound waves are known to trigger the creation of theta brain waves, which are associated with deep relaxation and healing.

Sound bathing generally starts with a light breathing exercise which gradually quietens your mind. You will likely be told to lay down in savasana to feel comfortable and relaxed. The session may last for 60 to 90 minutes. At the end of the session, the instructor will bring you back to reality using some focused breathing. Every person experiences sound bathing differently. It may shift you into a state of deep relaxation or an altered state of consciousness, or you may even find yourself falling asleep, which is fine. The room will usually be dimly lit to set the mood.

Different sound bath instruments serve different purposes. Crystal and singing bowls help to keep you grounded, resonate with your chakra and allow you to attain a meditative state. Bells and gongs help to remove deeply stuck energy.

Group sessions for sound bathing generally cost between $35 to $60, while individual sessions often cost a bit more and often between $150 and $250.

After completion of the sound bathing session, spend the rest of your day relaxing. Have a light meal and go to sleep early.

Healing Properties of the Sound Bath

Experiencing deep rest, relaxation and bringing balance to your chakra is the goal of the sound bath. The harmonic vibrations produced by singing bowls, gongs or other sound bathing tools are intended to stimulate alpha and theta brain waves which resonate and trigger the deep meditative state of the brain in a way that stimulates healing. When done regularly, sound bathing can have profound health benefits. The following are a list of some of the health benefits of sound bathing:

Helps to release stress and anxiety - Sound vibrations help to reduce anxiety and stress. They also help your brain enter a deep meditative state, which creates an environment conducive to cleansing and healing. In fact, studies have shown that meditative therapies can reduce anxiety and that relaxing music can reduce stress and anxiety.

Decreases blood pressure and balances your nervous system - The sound vibrations produced in sound baths bring physiological as well as psychological benefits. When you enter a mindful meditative state, your blood pressure and heart rate are reduced. In fact, research published in the Journal Of Psychiatric Research found that mindful meditation practice can decrease the physiological markers like heart rate, systolic blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Helps you to focus better and achieve a deep meditative state - Meditation has many healing benefits but attaining a full meditative state with a completely clear mind is not easy. The vibrations produced during a sound bath compel you to focus on the intense sounds, which helps you keep your mind clear of thoughts and distractions. As a result, a sound bath is a simple way of attaining a full meditative state.

Helps balance your chakra and makes you feel relaxed - Sound bathing creates a completely safe and relaxed space. When you are lying in savasana, a comfortable and restorative pose, sound bathing can allow your body to feel more relaxed. It helps your mind let go of thoughts and rejuvenates and recharges you.

Helps you find inner peace - A sound bath helps you completely reset your mind and reconnect with yourself. The healing vibrations expand your consciousness and bring inner peace. In fact, studies have  revealed that the use of Himalayan singing bowls in meditation practice greatly enhance physiological and psychological responses before attaining complete relaxation.

How to Create your Own Sound Bath

Attending an organized sound bath or an energy healing session is always impactful. But, when that is not possible, there are ways you can harness this powerful practice in the comfort of your own home. The easiest way to do this is to use singing bowls, which are very effective healing tools and very useful for use in sound bathing. Accordingly, it is a great idea to always have at least one singing bowl at home.

You should follow these steps in order to create your own sound bath at home:

    • Begin by clearing out negative energy from your space. Hold a singing bowl in one hand and use your other hand to strike your bowl with your mallet as you move around your house.
    • Once you have cleansed your space, sit in a comfortable position and surround yourself with your singing bowls. If you only have one singing bowl, hold it in your hand.  Light a candle to set the mood and increase the flow of spiritual energy. 
    • Set your intentions on peace, love or hope and play your singing bowl. Connect with the sound resonating from your singing bowl.
    • Breath deeply and focus on your intentions. Feel relaxed and let the sound vibration bring deep harmony and inner peace.
    • Singing along with your singing bowls can make you feel empowered. Let your intentions guide you. When you give yourself completely to your practice, you will have a wonderful experience and feel vitalized.
    • When you are finished, sit silently for a few seconds and express inner thanks for your practice. Show your gratitude for your singing bowls and for your own efforts.

    As an alternative to the above, you can also consider creating a sound bath by listening to digital recordings of singing bowls or other sound bathing tools. The benefit of this method is that you need not occupy yourself with playing any singing bowls. Instead, you can lay down in savasana and listen to the digital sounds while attempting to attain a deep meditative state.

    However, please note that most alternative health practitioners believe that the healing benefits of sound bathing are greatly increased when you are physically present with the tools that are creating the vibrations, rather than merely listening to a record of a previous sound bathing session conducted elsewhere.

    Conclusion

    The sound bath is the most natural and primal form of healing. This powerful practice brings a sense of relaxation and peace, which resets and rejuvenates your mind and body. Although sound bathing sessions can be somewhat expensive, you can create your own sound bathing experience by purchasing your own Tibetan singing bowl and following the steps set out above.

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        Clearing Negative Energy with Singing Bowls

        Clearing Negative Energy with Singing Bowls

        The home is a fundamental human need. It welcomes you after a tiring day and protects you from the elements. It is where you and your family thrive, and where relationships are built and strengthened. Whether you live in an apartment, bungalow, mansion or flat, it is essential that your home allows you to recuperate and rejuvenate your body and mind.

        Because human beings absorb and exhibit a particular kind of energy, your home may, at certain times or during specific occasions, make you feel energized, relaxed, or even stressed. Particular areas or rooms of your house can evoke feelings of joy, or maybe feelings of gloom.

        These energies are namely positive and negative. Perhaps the principles of feng shui have best tried to grasp and explain this phenomenon. The negative energy is identified as sha chi (translated as killing or attacking energy) and si chi (lifeless and dying energy). On the other hand, positive energy is referred to sheng chi and is the bright, uplifting energy that refreshes and invigorates.

        There are various factors at work which create the energetic atmosphere of your home. It can be caused by the design, the cleanliness and orderliness of the objects, or the emotions and conditions that were manifested by the people living within it. There are easy and practical ways you can try to cleanse your home of negative energy, simply by opening the windows, repairing broken objects, or clearing a cluttered space.

        Clearing Negative Energy with Singing Bowls

        One way of clearing unwanted energy in your home is with sound. An empty and quiet house can easily absorb negative and stagnant vibes, and bells have often been used to drive these energies away from a particular space.

        A special kind of bell known as the singing bowl produces a pure, resonating tone and is an effective instrument in clearing negative energy. These bowls are also valued for their capacity to bring the body’s energy levels into balance. In fact, they are used in meditation sessions and Ayurvedic sound therapy treatment.  

        Tibetan singing bowls are frequently used in cleansing the home and ridding it of low and confined energy. In feng shui, singing bowls are often utilized to create positive sounds which causes negative energy to disperse. When negative energy is cleared, fresh new chi can flow through the house. Singing bowls also help improve the effectiveness of feng shui.

        There are specific steps to follow when using a singing bowl for space-clearing sessions. Firstly, position the bowl on the palm of your hand, taking your time to feel and appreciate the bowl’s weight. Then, when you are ready, start to play the bowl by striking its rim gently. Hit the bowl a few more times and get familiar with the sound that is produced. This is a good time to immerse yourself in the bowl’s sound and let its purifying effects flow through your body. Another way of playing the bowl is by circling the rim clockwise with the mallet.  

        Move through your home one room at a time. In each place, produce a sound from your singing bowl by striking it three times. Pay attention to the tone that the bowl produces. You may be able to notice that in some sections of your home you will hear a dull sound being emitted, while in other areas the sound may be bright and sharp. These differing tones represent the “dead” and “alive” energy of your house. Playing the singing bowl can help bring these energies into positive balance.

        To release negative energy from within the walls of each room, stay near them as you play the singing bowl. You may also focus on the doors and windows as these are considered portals from which energy outside flows inward. You can do this by playing the bowl and moving it clockwise around the door and window frames several times.

        For spaces within the home that you feel especially troubled and anxious, you may place the bowl on a table in the center of the room and play it for a longer duration.

        Other Ways to Clear Negative Energy

        Prior to playing the singing bowl during cleansing sessions, you may wish to burn some incense in each room. Good choices include sandalwood, sage, and lavender. When used for this purpose, it is believed that the aroma summons spiritual forces that facilitate the creation of positive energy.

        Salt is also known to have cleansing properties, and you can pour it into each corner of the room and allow it to absorb the negative energy for 48 hours. After this time, ensure you dispose of it and not allow it to remain in your house. Crystals are also believed to possess the same capability. One of the most recommended crystals is the black tourmaline, which is used as protection from bad energy. Place black tourmalines in a jar with water and position them in the corners and entryways of your home.

        With this understanding of how energies can affect your house and living space, you may wish to purchase a singing bowl of your own. If you are shopping online, make certain that the weight of the bowl is listed in the description. This way you can ensure that it will be comfortable for you to hold while you move around your home using it.

        Although these practices are not easily defined in a physical manner, they do influence your well-being. If you are feeling heavy, negative vibes in your home, consider trying these easy tips to help usher in fresh and positive energy. You can also get your very own Tibetan singing bowl to use in ridding your home of negative energies.

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        How to Play a Tibetan Singing Bowl

        How to Play a Tibetan Singing Bowl

        Many of our customers who are new to singing bowls come to us with questions about how to play their bowl. Playing a Tibetan singing bowl for the first time can be challenging, but with a little practice, it can be easy, fun and rewarding!

        There are two ways to play a singing bowl. The first is to strike the side of the bowl with a mallet. The second is to rub the rim of the bowl with a mallet. In this blog post we explain each method more thoroughly as well as some advanced techniques you can also explore once you become more familiar with playing singing bowls.

        Method 1: Striking

        Striking is arguably the easiest way to play a singing bowl. This is a great introduction to playing the bowl and is suitable for all ages.

        1. Simply hold the bowl in the palm of your non-dominant hand, and the mallet in your dominant hand.
        2. Hold the mallet like a baton and lightly strike the bowl with the padded side of the mallet on the bowl’s mid-exterior wall.
        3. Striking the bowl will produce a pleasant, rich tone.
        4. We recommend striking the bowl once and letting the sound and vibrations fully dissipate before striking again.

        Method 2: Rimming

        This method can be more challenging but can easily be mastered with practice. If it is your first time attempting to play a singing bowl, anticipate practicing a few times before being able to master this technique. Patience is key!

        1. Begin in a relaxed seated position with a straight spine while maintaining a natural breath.
        2. Hold the bowl in the palm of your non-dominant hand, and the mallet in your dominant hand.
        3. This time, grip the mallet in the center with your forefinger and thumb like a pen with the padded end of the mallet gently resting in the web between the thumb and forefinger.
        4. Lightly strike the bowl on the mid-exterior wall to ‘warm-up’ the bowl and before the vibrations dissipate, immediately position the mallet vertically near the rim of the bowl and begin circling the rim in a clockwise motion. It is important to start circling the rim as soon as you make contact with it to start the singing. If you place the mallet against the rim without moving it, the initial sound from striking will be dampened and you will have difficulty making the bowl sing.
        5. Circle the bowl at least five times using a full-arm movement until you begin to hear the female overtone build. The circling motion is similar to stirring a pot and it’s important to keep the mallet vertical.
        6. As the female overtone builds you can slow your speed and make firmer contact between the mallet and rim. As you continue, the female overtone will sound sweet and clear. It’s important to continue to apply pressure as the friction between the mallet and bowl produces vibrations which result in the singing sound.

        You may also start circling the rim without first striking the bowl, however we find the vibrations produced by initially striking the bowl make it much easier to play for beginners. As you get the hang of it, you can experiment with different techniques.

        Breaking in Your Mallet

        When you receive your new Tibetan singing bowl, it comes with a mallet made of Himalayan hardwood with a padded surface. When you play your bowl with the rimming method, the friction of the mallet produces vibrations which result in sound. To start, the mallet will be smooth on both ends, but as you use it, it will begin to develop ‘micro-grooves’ which help grip the rim of the bowl better. We generally recommend playing your bowl with a new mallet for about five minutes to sufficiently break in the mallet. As you continue to use the mallet, you will notice the bowl has improved sound and is easier to play.

        Video Demonstration

        For a visual instruction on how to play a singing bowl, please see our video below. Like our video, you can place the bowl on a flat surface like a tabletop, cushion or carpet to play. Alternatively, you can also rest the bowl in the palm of your hand or on your fingertips as per the rimming instructions above. Holding the bowl can be easier and also feels amazing because you can feel the resonance from the bowl as it sings.

        Advanced Techniques

        Water Bowl Sounds

        Adding a small amount of water to the bowl produces a very special sound reminiscent of dolphins singing!

        1. Add about ¾ cup of water to the bowl being careful to not get any water on the rim or outside of the bowl.
        2. Play the bowl using the rimming method outlines above.
        3. Move the mallet away from the rim and let the bowl continue to sing.
        4. Tilt the bowl slightly so the water moves towards the rim. Continue tilting the bowl until the water begins to swirl.
        5. Afterwards be sure to empty the bowl and dry thoroughly.

        Try this method with different amounts of water to see the different effects. Generally the least amount of water produces the most beautiful sound but the amount needed can vary depending on the size of the singing bowl.

        Rimming with a Padded Mallet

        You can also circle the bowl with the padded side of the mallet for a different sound. We love the sound of a singing bowl when played with the padded side of the mallet, but it can be more challenging. Follow the rimming method outlined above but hold the mallet with the padded side facing down and use a lighter pressure when circling the rim. This method will produce a more of a bass tone that is very pleasant and relaxing.

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        Meditation and Singing Bowls

        Meditation and Singing Bowls

        These days everyone is busier than ever, and many things compete for our time, focus and energy. We do our best to divide our efforts among many responsibilities, such as family, work and school. It seems there is a heightened pressure to accomplish more tasks in the limited time that we have. Not only that, our smart phones and other technological tools often cause us to spend more of our time on things that, while entertaining, do not provide long-term beneficial value.

        For some, taking a time-out to recollect and get grounded is unthinkable given the burden of other responsibilities. Unfortunately, this can create an increase in stress and anxiety. Prolonged exposure to stress and anxiety can lead to serious health risks which include irritability, headaches, insomnia, and depression. Stress and anxiety can also negatively affect the different systems of the body.

        Anxiety and Stress in Today’s Modern World

        The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States and affect an estimated 40 million people aged 18 and older every year. The American Institute of Stress (AIS) also found that 77% of people experience physical symptoms of stress, 73% of people experience regular psychological symptoms caused by stress, and 48% have stated that their level of stress has increased in the past five years.

        There are many causes of stress that may differ from one individual to another, but, for many, there are similar causes underlying stress. One of the top causes of stress, according to the AIS, is job pressure. Many people become overly concerned with tension with colleagues at work, including their superiors, and are often overworked. Another common cause of stress is money, and such stress may arise due to a sense of anxiety over the loss or potential loss of a job, reduced retirement savings, or medical expenses.

        Health related stresses can include medical crises and terminal or chronic illnesses. Stress over relationships can be caused by many factors such as divorce, the death of a partner, arguments and loneliness. Interestingly, media overload (namely stress from television, radio, internet, email, and social networks) ranked the sixth most common cause of stress. Sleep deprivation and the inability to release adrenaline and stress hormones are also cited as factors that caused stress.

        According to Psychology Today, there are five sources of stress and anxiety in today’s modern world: having to interact with a greater diversity of people, assessing ourselves against high and often unattainable standards, the need to specialize in a specific field, increasingly competitive marketplaces, and the speed at which innovations are emerging.

        According to Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, increased levels of stress have made the nervous system continually activate the 'fight or flight' response. This can cause an increase in blood pressure, oxygen consumption and heart rate. Chronic levels of stress are also correlated with hypertension and heart disease.

        What is Meditation

        We commonly associate meditation with the act of keeping still in a seated position and emptying our minds of all present preoccupations. Some may even have the misconception that meditation is only for those seeking enlightenment.

        Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic, defines mindful meditation as the “awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally.” It entails focusing single-mindedly on a specific thing or focal point.  

        The origin of the word meditation comes from the Latin word meditatum, and means “to ponder.” It goes beyond physical relaxation since it actively engages the mind. It is typically perceived as a heightened state of conscious awareness. Ultimately, it strives for a state of inner peace, stillness, silence, and being in union with one’s inner self.

        Meditation in History

        Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. The religions credited for being the earliest to practice meditation are Hinduism and Buddhism. Vedantism, a school of Hinduism, held the earliest accounts of meditation and was recorded around 1500 BCE. Meditation in Hinduism is referred to as dhyana, and it evolved into other forms within Buddhism and Taoism in China by the 5th and 6th centuries BCE.

        Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha or the Enlightened One, and from whom the religion sprang, firmly believed he could achieve enlightenment through deep meditation. Although there are discrepancies as to the correct timeline of Siddhartha Gautama’s lifetime, scholars agree that he might have died sometime between 410 and 370 BCE. 

        Buddhism’s spread in East Asia is attributed to Bodhidharma, an Indian monk who spread Buddhist principles in China that became known as Chan or Chinese Zen. Buddhism was later introduced to Japan and Korea via trade routes and different forms of it began to emerge. Japan developed its own version, which is now called Zen Buddhism. Dosho, a Japanese Buddhist monk, traveled to China to learn about Zen. When he returned home, he founded the first meditation hall in the country. He also outlined the instructions for sitting meditation, which became known as Zazen.

        By the 12th century, a Carthusian monk named Guigo II established a more methodological concept of meditation in the context of Christianity known as Lectio Divina. It involves reading scripture, reflecting on the truth, prayer, and contemplation.  

        During the 1960s and onwards, meditation has attracted the attention of scientific researchers who have sought to determine its benefits objectively. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program was developed in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts. The goal of the program is to use meditative techniques in treating patients with chronic diseases.

        Meditation in Different Religions

        Meditation is an integral part of many cultures and presents itself in various forms within the different religions of the world. Judaism’s version of meditation is the Kabbalah and hitbodedut, where meditators contemplate on the different names of God. In Islam, meditation comes in the form of Tafakkur, where one reflects on goodness and evil, and the lessons from the creation of Allah. Buddhists perform meditation as a means to achieve enlightenment, and their meditation has varying styles which include Zen, Tibetan, and Theravadan.

        Secular Forms of Meditation

        Meditation can be practiced without any religious involvement. Transcendental meditation introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is one such example. It focuses more on becoming relaxed, reducing stress and encouraging self-development. Common methods of non-religious meditation involve dedicating time to engage in deep-breathing exercises.

        Another similar method of meditation is known as the 'Relaxation Response'. Dr. Herbert Benson created the concept and proposed that it could be an effective remedy for different types of stress-related problems. This process counters the body’s 'fight or flight response' and assists the body in returning to pre-stress levels. It also engages the parasympathetic sector of the nervous system which is responsible for relaxation and digestion.

        Benefits of Meditation

        Several studies have investigated the benefits of meditation objectively.

        Researchers from Yale performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans on both novice and experienced meditators to observe the effects that different techniques had on them. They discovered that there was reduced activity in the default mode network of the brain when they ran the scan on advanced meditators. The prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortex were the areas particularly affected, and this effect was seen to occur no matter what type of meditation was practiced. The default mode network has been connected to lapses of attention and disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and even the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

        A study conducted by Richard, et al. explored the changes that occur within the brain and the body’s immune function as a result of mindfulness meditation. In the study, which ran for eight weeks, the researchers measured the electrical activity within the brains of 25 employees who were divided into a meditators group and a wait-list control group. The individuals in the meditators group were to perform mindfulness meditation in their workplace environment for the eight week period. After the eight week period concluded, all 25 employees were injected with the influenza vaccine. The researchers saw a substantial increase in the left-sided anterior activation of the meditator group compared to the control group. They also discovered a remarkable rise in antibody titers against the influenza vaccine among those who meditated. With these results the study suggests that meditation may affect the brain and immune system in positive ways.

        Research by Lazar, et al. analyzed the connection between meditation and the increase of cortisol thickness. Cortisol is the hormone involved in a wide range of processes within the body, including metabolism, immune response, and the body’s response to stress. The researchers utilized MRI scans to evaluate the cortisol thickness of 20 subjects who had extensive insight meditation experience. The results showed that the areas of the brain involved with attention, interoception and sensory processing, as well as the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula, were thicker in meditation participants compared to a control group who did not meditate. The researchers suggested that meditating has an effect on the structures of the brain involved with sensory, cognitive, and emotional functions, and may even impact age-related declines in cortical structure.

        There have been several studies that have documented the effects that meditation has on anxiety and stress. A study by Sears and Kraus focused on college students, and it was found that brief meditation which focused on love and kindness greatly reduced anxiety levels and increased hope.

        Another study by Barkhe and Morgan investigated the effects that meditation, resting, and exercise have on anxiety levels. The research involved the participation of 75 adult males randomly assigned to an exercise group, meditation group, and resting group. From the data the researchers collected from the experiment, they found a significant reduction of anxiety that occurred for each treatment whether it was from exercise, meditation, or quietly resting. The study concluded that acute physical activity, meditation, and quiet rest sessions are equally effective in reducing anxiety levels.

        Furthermore, another research study explored the effects of mindful meditation on stress levels. The study involved 28 individuals participating in an eight week program focusing on stress reduction and mindfulness meditation. The participants were randomly selected into an experimental group, who conducted the mindfulness meditation routine, and the control group, who did not. Upon conclusion, the researchers discovered that the experimental group had significantly reduced levels of psychological symptoms, an increased level of self-awareness and control, and higher scores of spiritual experiences. The research suggested that meditation may be a powerful cognitive behavioral coping strategy, and may also be a means to help prevent the relapse of mental disorders.

        How Meditation can be Performed

        There are many types of meditation, and each method has a unique way in which it is performed. However, there are various common denominators that are present in every process. Some of these include relaxation techniques, concentration exercises, contemplation, reflection, and guided imagery. 

        In 'Relaxation Response', meditation methods include visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, energy healing, and breathing techniques. In Dr. Benson’s book, he outlines how one can meditate. The procedure involves sitting in a comfortable position, relaxing the muscles, and being aware of your breathing. This practice is similar to how Zazen is done, although Zazen requires specific sitting positions. It also entails focusing on the hara, or the spiritual center of the body.

        What are Singing Bowls

        A great companion to have during meditation is a singing bowl, the nature of which is similar to that of a bell. In fact, singing bowls are known as “standing bells” due to their bowl-like shape. Singing bowls are typically crafted from copper or tin. They are commonly used in Eastern meditation and relaxation practices but have also become popular in the West. They are also known by a variety of names such as resting bowls, prayer bowls, Tibetan bowls, Himalayan bowls, Buddhist bowls, and rin gong, among others.

        The sound is produced either by striking the bowl or by running a mallet around the rim, and it is believed that the sound emitted possesses healing properties. It is also believed by some that singing bowls create the sound of “void,” which is the music of the universe.

        History of Singing Bowls

        Many accounts explain where singing bowls originated. One report indicates that singing bowls can be traced back to the 8th century BCE during the time in which Buddhism spread to Tibet from India by Padmasambhava.  

        Tibetan culture asserts that singing bowls came from the Bon Pot Shamans, who were regarded as sacred metallurgists and were able to craft singing bowls through their spiritual understanding of the metals. They created bowls that had a unique sound and vibration. Unfortunately, the sacred recipe of metals has been lost throughout the years.

        Some ancient bowls are regarded as sacred relics. One such bowl is claimed to have belonged to an earlier incarnation of Buddha and was used as a begging bowl. It is housed in the Drepung Monastery, and it is said that the sound projected when one uses it is the sound of their karma.

        How Singing Bowls are Made

        Ancient bowls were usually crafted from high-quality bronze and a combination of different metals such as gold, silver, iron, mercury, copper, tin, lead, and meteoric iron, or thogcha. Meteoric iron is highly regarded by the Tibetans, who refer to it as 'sky-metal', which is said to represent the celestial bodies, such as the sun, moon, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. The contents of the various metals within the bowls is said to be where the multiphonic overtones originate.

        Traditional methods of crafting singing bowls involved hammering the metal by hand, but this ancient process has radically declined in recent decades. Today, singing bowls are commonly made by machines.

        Today’s singing bowls are typically crafted from a combination of copper and tin referred to as 'bell metal'. Ancient bowls are still believed to produce the richest, most beautiful sounds because of their material and age, but it can still be quite difficult to differentiate a new bowl that has been made to look aged from a genuine ancient bowl. Nonetheless, high-quality modern bowls are still capable of creating beautiful sounds. Very few experts are capable of determining if a singing bowl is antique or not, so one must be careful when purchasing a singing bowl that is being touted by a merchant as being 'antique'.

        Singing Bowls in Healing and Meditation

        Singing bowls have an important part to play in sound healing. In most sound therapy sessions, singing bowls are positioned near a person’s chakra. A practitioner may also place the bowl on top of a specific area of the person’s body. The practitioner uses the resonance of the bowl’s harmonic vibrations to create balance and encourage relaxation. Singing bowls are also used as instruments for activating an individual’s chakras, and practitioners may choose different sizes of bowl depending on what they feel is appropriate in the circumstances.

        Singing bowls are also used during Buddhist meditation as a means to facilitate entry into deep meditative states. Playing a singing bowl before meditating allows the brain to synchronize with the sound frequencies of the bowl and assists in maintaining focus and relaxation.

        Benefits of Singing Bowls in Meditation

        Goldsby, et al. conducted an observational study to determine how singing bowl meditation affects a person’s mood, tension and well-being. The researchers aimed to determine if deep relaxation and an uplifted mood could be achieved by listening to high-intensity or low-frequency combinations of singing bowls, gongs, and bells. The study involved 60 adult men and women and compared their condition both before and after meditation. The participants completed the Profile of Mood States, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-Being Scale questionnaires to evaluate their condition before and after meditating. 

        The individuals lay on yoga mats while music consisting of Tibetan singing bowls, crystal singing bowls, gongs, ting-shas (tiny cymbals), dorges (bells), didgeridoos, and various small bells was played. The singing bowls were the main source of therapeutic sound, and they were positioned near each individual's head.

        The researchers saw a significant difference between the pre and post-meditation phases of the participants. The individuals reported feeling a reduced level of tension, anger, fatigue, and depressed mood. Participants aged 40 to 59 also felt reduced physical pain.  

        Although the specific cause of this phenomena is unclear, researchers believe that the sounds generate beta and theta waves and thereby propel the brain into states of deep relaxation.

        How to Use Singing Bowls in Meditation

        It may sound easy, but it takes practice and patience to master the art of playing a singing bowl. To play it correctly, open your left palm flat and place the bowl on top of your hand. For smaller bowls, make a cupping form with your hand and put the bowl on top of your fingertips.

        To start using your singing bowl,  strike the bowl or circle the rim with a mallet. These two approaches produce very unique sounds. The 'around-the-rim' technique will produce a sustained and angelic tone, while the 'striking' technique will create a sound more akin to the ringing of a bell.

        When you have successfully created a sound using the 'around-the-rim' technique, remove the mallet from the rim and let the bowl continue to vibrate and resonate, which is known as letting the 'sing'.

        You can also try filling your bowl with some water. The liquid creates a unique sound when you play the bowl. Once you have created a sound, try letting the bowl continue to vibrate while tilting and swirling it gently.

        Conclusion

        It can be a challenge to keep ourselves still and find relaxation in today's stressful world. Meditation is a beneficial process that can assist in stress reduction, promote health, and bring inner peace. There are many ways to meditate, and it is up to you to discover the ways that work best for you.

        There are various instruments which can help facilitate meditation, and singing bowls are an excellent option. If you are having a difficult time meditating, consider incorporating a singing bowl into your routine and let the sound guide you through your meditation.

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        Healing the Body with Sound Therapy

        Healing the Body with Sound Therapy

        It is undeniable that music and sound affect the body. Specific harmonic arrangements can cause the body to become energized or induce it to enter a relaxed state. Sound and music are deeply rooted in humanity’s psyche and manifest themselves in a plethora of human activities, including religious activities, celebrations, and entertainment.

        Some cultures have even acknowledged the amazing healing capabilities of sound by using them to treat physical ailments. Today, many alternative healing practitioners tap into the same body of knowledge and use sound therapy for the benefit of their patients.

        In this post, we describe sound therapy, describe its evolution throughout history, explain how it works, explain how it can benefit your well-being, and describe the different methods of performing sound therapy.

        What is Sound Therapy?

        Sound therapy is essentially the process of healing the mind and body through music, tones, frequencies, and vibrations. Sound therapy takes into consideration a person’s emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual well-being and improvement.

        Sound therapy can be performed in a variety of ways and can be conducted with instruments or through clapping, chanting, or humming, among other methods.

        Many people claim to experience feeling rejuvenated after a sound therapy session. When a person seeks healing through sound therapy, their fundamental objective is to focus deeply on the music or sound being generated by the practitioner.

        Sound Therapy Throughout History

        Sound healing is not limited to only one culture. In fact, sound therapy has existed for thousands of years and has manifested itself in different versions throughout the world.

        The Aboriginal Australians known as the Yolngu are believed to be one of the earliest groups to perform sound healing rituals. They play an instrument called the yidaki which they believe can heal various physical ailments including fractured bones and muscle damage.

        The ancient Egyptians also valued sound healing. In fact, for thousands of years ritual leaders and priests chanted vowel tones and used instruments such as the sistra.

        In ancient Greece, the great mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras is credited as a father of music therapy. He wielded the instrument called the kithara and was able to observe the calming effect of the music he played to the people and animals around him. He discovered that the seven keys in the Greek system of music were capable of triggering various emotions, and that some sounds and instruments could cause chaotic and stressful emotions. He described his discoveries as a form of “musical medicine”.

        How Sound Therapy Works

        How does sound therapy affect the body? In order to determine the answer to this question, we first need to understand what sound is and how it is received by the body.

        Sound is essentially the energy created when an object vibrates. When an object vibrates, it causes the air surrounding the object to vibrate as well. The air’s movement allows it to carry the vibrational energy from the object to different places, including the human body.

        The ears are the primary organ that receives sound. The outer ear funnels the sound. The sound is then channeled to the ear canal where it reaches the eardrum, which is a sensitive, tightly-stretched skin. The sound waves cause the eardrums to vibrate and three tiny bones (known as the ossicles) behind the eardrums move. The ossicles’ movement triggers a shift in the cochlea, liquid-filled coiled tubes that are lined with tiny hairs. When these tiny hairs move, they send nerve signals to the brain which translate into sound.

        A study by Salamon et al. investigated how music lowers anxiety and stress levels. The researchers determined that the compound nitric oxide is primarily responsible for causing physiological and psychological relaxing effects. Nitric oxide has been identified to assist in developing the auditory system and the flow of blood in the cochlea.

        Some studies have also explored how other organs, such as the skin, are able to receive and absorb sound. One study by von Békésy identifies the similarities between hearing and sensing vibrations, as both are stimulated by traveling waves. In addition, a study by Gick and Derrick, although in the context of phonetics, considered having their test subjects listen to audio recordings of syllables. The researchers also let out a puff of air similar to the puff that would be created when the syllables are pronounced. The researchers discovered that the participants’ level of accuracy in identifying the syllables was reduced in an absence of the air puffs.

        Principles of Sound Therapy

        The principles of sound healing transcend the understanding of the body’s mechanical reception of sound. In fact, the principles of sound therapy are rooted in the goal of transitioning the body’s vibrations to an optimum state. Practitioners believe that a person and his or her body parts and organs are comprised of unique frequencies. Practitioners perform therapeutic applications of sound vibrations with the intention of bringing harmony and balance.

        Another key principle of sound healing is that our bodies resonate efficiently with sound waves since the majority of our composition is water. The molecules in water are denser, which allows it to transmit energy faster from one particle to the next.

        Entrainment, the practice of tuning the body to a desired frequency, also plays a crucial role in sound healing. Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch scientist, is credited for the discovery of entrainment in the 16th century. In the context of sound healing, entrainment occurs when the sound coming from an external source is used to tune the body back into balance. When a practitioner produces sounds with the intention of healing, he or she ultimately aims to use entrainment to address the patient’s body imbalance by creating a harmonious resonance between the healing sound and the vibration of the patient’s body.

        Another essential principle is the intention behind the sound. This is often thought of as the reason why the sound was generated. People usually create sound or music with the intention to entertain or relax. In sound therapy, the practitioner focuses his or her intention on delivering healing energy to the patient. It is believed that the sound waves become imbued with the practitioner's positive intentions. However, should the sound healing practitioner feel negative emotions, such as anger or anxiety, this can also be transmitted to the patient and may therefore adversely affect the healing process. 

        According to Jonathan Goldman, a leading figure in sound healing, all music has potential therapeutic qualities. Furthermore, factors such as time, place, and the individual’s needs are essential for music to fully display its therapeutic capabilities. This is an important concept to remember since there are many ways sound healing can be manifested and performed.

        When a sound healing practitioner conducts a session to treat a patient, it is essential for him or her to determine the type of sound or music that best resonates with their patient. Sound uniquely affects individuals; a particular composition may evoke memories of happiness, excitement, grief or anxiety.

        What Sound Therapy Can Do for Your Well-Being

        People who have undergone sound therapy sessions have reported being relieved of physical and mental aches and pains. Some of the health improvements that people have claimed to experience include the following:

        • Better joint movement;
        • Reduced muscle pain and inflammation;
        • Disappearance of kidney stones;
        • Decreased size of ovarian cyst;
        • Better sleep and deeper relaxation;
        • Reduced headaches; and
        • Enhanced positive outlook in life.

        Research has also been conducted to explore the effects of music and sound therapy on a person’s health. Music therapy has been shown to have the potential to affect blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, EEG measurements, body temperature, galvanic skin response, and immune and endocrine processes. In fact, a review by Thaut acknowledges music therapy’s potential to be used in rehabilitation.  

        One research study considered the influence of music therapy on anger management in forensic psychiatry patients. Fourteen participants randomly divided into two groups underwent a music therapy anger management program and aggression management program respectively. The results of the test showed that those in the music therapy group displayed greater positive coping skills. The researchers suggested that the number of hours patients are exposed to music therapy can hasten the process of adopting positive behaviors.

        Ellis also explored the effects of sound therapy on children who have severe learning difficulties and profound and multiple learning difficulties. One study tested the effectiveness of a specialized sound therapy program with a uniquely high frequency. Twenty children from remedial classes were grouped into an experimental and control group. The experimental group listened to the frequency, while the control group listened to classical music without the high frequency. After a 16-week test, results showed that the experimental group showed more significant gains in auditory discrimination, reading ability, reading comprehension and spelling compared to the control group.

        Instruments and Methods Used in Sound Therapy

        As discussed above, sound therapy can manifest itself in a variety of forms, all of which have the potential to heal. Described below are a number of instruments that can be used to perform sound therapy.

        Vocal Toning

        Vocal toning is the process of creating sound with an elongated vowel for an extended period. It creates the strongest healing sound that can be performed without an instrument. It can also help deepen the breath, relax the muscles, and stimulate the body. 

        In Ayurveda, vocal toning is a powerful way to balance the body’s chakras. Different vowel sounds correspond to different chakra. For example, vocal toning of the sound “uh” (as in “up”) resonates with the root chakra.

        Vocal toning is probably the easiest sound healing procedure you can perform since you do not have to use an instrument and it can be done anywhere and anytime. To perform vocal toning, find a place where you will be undisturbed and seat yourself comfortably in a chair with your spine upright. Take a few deep breathes to relax. When you are ready, vocal tone the root chakra. You can then move up to the different chakras, namely the sacral, polar lexus, heart, throat, brow and crown chakra. Visualize the color of the particular chakra as you tone its corresponding vowel sound.

        Chants

        Chanting also uses the voice and involves repeating sacred words, names, and phrases. The goal of chanting is to trigger physical changes in the brain through sound vibrations. Chanting is said to bring about a sense of deep calm and peace.

        A form of chanting that began in India is known as Kirtan. It has a religious aspect that is believed to usher in happiness and to cleanse the heart of distractions. Kirtan is performed in a call-and-response style. Those who participate in Kirtan recite ancient chants which are mostly sung in Sanskrit.

        Both vocal toning and chanting can be done individually or in a group.

        Singing Bowls

        Also known as Tibetan singing bowls and Himalayan singing bowls, these are inverted bells made principally from copper, bronze, or quartz crystal. They are played by circling and striking the bowl’s rim with the accompanying mallet.

        Playing the singing bowl can create unique rhythmic patterns and vibrational sound harmonics similar to the frequency of “aum” or “om,” the sacred mantra in Hinduism and Buddhism.

        Gongs

        The gong is an instrument that has been used in sound healing for thousands of years. It is a percussion instrument usually made from brass or bronze. There are different sizes of gongs, each size emitting a unique sound. The gong is played by hitting its center with a mallet. Other techniques of playing the gong include priming it by stroking and letting it vibrate, and spinning it to make warping sounds.

        Gong baths are meditative and relaxing sessions where a patient lays down while a sound healer plays a set of gongs that surround the patient. The patient allows the sound, volume, and vibrations from the gong to be absorbed by his or her body. Most of those who have undergone gong baths have reported feeling more energized, less stressed, and more peaceful.

        Shakers and Rattles

        As noted above, the ancient Egyptians used a shaker-like instrument called the sistra. Shamans and healers have used shakers and rattles to connect with spiritual entities to aid them in treating a patient. These instruments are believed to fragment dense energy and cleanse the body of negativity.

        Tuning Forks

        A tuning fork is often used to correct the tones of musical instruments. The prongs of the fork are struck to create a specific pitch, to which the musician matches the tone of his or her instrument. Tuning forks have also been used in sound therapy, such as where a practitioner makes it vibrate and then places it in near the patient’s ailing area. Tuning forks can also be placed near the chakra locations to stimulate energetic healing.

        Conclusion

        Sound is a powerful force that affects the mind, body and soul. People of various cultures have identified and harnessed sound’s capability to bring about healing and balance. Sound therapy has evolved over the centuries and has recently been further refined to complement traditional medical treatment.

        Sound healing can be a great complement to improving your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Of course, it is essential that you not subscribe to sound healing as a complete alternative to the treatment of your medical conditions. Always consult your doctor and seek medical attention for any health issues you may be experiencing.

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