A recent study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine examined the effect of Tibetan singing bowl sound meditation on mood, tension and well-being. In this blog post, we will discuss this study and its findings, which support practices that Ayurvedic medicine has promoted for thousands of years.
In our modern world, stress and tension-induced diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as addiction and mental illness, are becoming increasingly common. Meditation is becoming more mainstream and is often recommended to encourage relaxation, help alleviate anxiety and improve well-being. However, many find meditation to be a challenging practice that can take many years if not decades to master. Fortunately, the benefits of meditation can be much more easily attained (or enhanced) by using a Tibetan singing bowl.
Tibetan singing bowls are metal bowls usually made from a combination of metal alloys and originally used by Tibetan monks for spiritual ceremonies. Over the past several hundred years, years, singing bowls have been used more commonly for sound healing.
But what is sound healing? When played, Tibetan singing bowls make a vibration or sound called resonance which is the frequency at which an object naturally vibrates. Our bodies each have their own natural resonance, and vibrational medicine advocates suggest that disease is a result of those natural resonances becoming out of tune due to stress, illness, or environmental factors.
Interestingly, there is very little scientific research on the subject of sound healing. Accordingly, a team of researchers at the University of California delved further into the subject and recently published their findings.
They studied 62 participants, both male and female, with an average age of 49.7 years. Prior to and following the sound healing session, all participants completed standardized questionnaires to assess tension, anger, confusion, depression, anxiety, and spiritual well-being. Participants also completed questionnaires which included questions regarding any prior experience with meditation or singing bowls, substance use, medications, over-the-counter or herbal supplements, and whether they were experiencing any physical pain and to what degree.
Participants laid on yoga mats with their heads near the instruments and listened to the sound meditation for approximately 60 minutes. The musical instruments used consisted of Tibetan singing bowls, crystal singing bowls, gongs, Ting-shas (tiny cymbals), dorges (bells), didgeridoos, and other small bells. The Tibetan singing bowls were primarily played for 95% of the time during the sound meditation, while the other instruments were only played for 5% of the time.
Depending on the size of the room and the number of participants, anywhere from 30 to 80 singing bowls were played with at least two Tibetan singing bowls near each participant’s head. A musician lead the sound meditation using cloth covered mallets to strike the bowls and rub the rims of the bowl.
The results of the sound meditation were striking. The researchers found a significant difference between pre-treatment and post-treatment in tension, anger, confusion, depression, anxiety, and spiritual well-being across participants.
Significantly, tension was most dramatically reduced in participants, thus proving that sound meditation has the ability to increase feelings of relaxation and decrease feelings of stress. Most notably, participants aged 20 to 39 years showed the most significant change in tension followed by those aged 40 to 59 years. Depressed mood and anxiety were also significantly reduced post meditation and feelings of spiritual well-being increased following the meditation.
The study also found that participants who had no previous experience with singing bowls demonstrated larger effects than those with some prior familiarity. For example, participants aged 40 to 59 who were previously naïve to this type of meditation appeared to benefit the most from the sound meditation demonstrated by significant reductions in physical pain and tension.
These findings are significant for many reasons. The results show promise for a low cost form of stress reduction that is simpler to learn than meditation. Tibetan singing bowls are simple to use, and users can expect to feel deep relaxation and inner peace following sound meditation. In addition, health and counseling professionals such as nurses and councilors could easily provide sound meditation to patients at a relatively low cost or investment in training. Singing bowl meditation could be taught to those professionals and would be simple to provide in many settings to reduce stress and invoke the relaxation response. The study also shows hope for reducing stress-related disease in the body through the use of sound meditation.
We are thrilled to see a study that found significant beneficial effects of Tibetan singing bowl meditations on a number of indicators related to well-being. We encourage you to try a Tibetan singing bowl for yourself if you are suffering from any stress and tension related symptoms such as anxiety, depression, tension, physical pain, anger, and confusion.
If you are new to sound healing, we recommend starting slowly by playing a Tibetan singing bowl in a quiet, dim room for 10 minutes. This can be done by finding a comfortable seat on a yoga mat or cushion and closing your eyes where possible while striking the bowl and rubbing the mallet along the rim.
The vibrations created by the sound of the bowl are not only pleasant to hear but will also be felt in your hand and eventually your whole body. As you become more accustomed to sound healing, you can extend your sessions by up to 60 minutes. After a long stressful day at work or school, even a 10 minute practice can completely transform your day and melt away any residual stress or tension.