Sound waves travel through our bodies like ripples in a pond. Sound therapy is built upon this concept known as resonance. Those powerful vibrations can harmonize and heal the mind-body connection, encouraging alignment, relaxation and rejuvenation. Sound therapy involves a multitude of methods and instruments including crystal singing bowls, chimes, gongs and live music. The number of students turning to this ancient healing practice is continuously growing. At its core, sound healing is based on the ways in which our cells, tissues and bones receive frequencies, so sound therapy can have immense healing benefits for hearing, hard of hearing and deaf people alike.
Kali Basman is a Dharma teacher guiding people through Buddhist psychology, yin and restorative yoga, mind training and trauma healing to achieve greater “anatomical, structural and emotional wholeness,” as she states it. She intertwines sound healing with yin yoga because she recognizes that vibrations are one of the most natural ways that we manipulate the nervous system. “Bringing [sound therapy] into a yin practice can often help bring us into ease more efficiently,” Basman says. She shares the enlightening perspective that we can use sounds to adjust our moods. Even from the time we are in the womb, we are soothed by our mother’s voice.
Sound therapy offers a variety of benefits. Robert E. Varley is a sound healing advocate whose profound experience with the therapy has led to a passion and eagerness to share it with others. When he was diagnosed with tinnitus, he found himself turning to anything that promised relief, but nothing eased the constant discomfort in his head. He also dealt with untamed anxiety. However, one evening he found himself in a yoga class that serendipitously offered a singing bowl meditation at the conclusion of the practice. “I finally felt relaxed and calm,” Varley recalls. He was able to let the vibrations from the singing bowls flood through him and, for the first time, not focus on the persistent ringing and hissing in his head. The healing energy from sound therapy empowered Varley to say, regarding his tinnitus, “I’m not afraid, I’m facing [it].” Today, as a certified yoga teacher, Varley is learning the foundations of sound therapy and integrating singing bowls into his own practices.
Basman explains that sound is vibration. The frequencies at which we receive vibration can affect our bodies on a cellular level. For this reason, Basman says, “for thousands and thousands of years it’s been a deeply moving way for a somatic release.”
“There’s a way in which intermingling the sound healing with yin yoga poses allows us to access those deeper, kind of hidden, parts of us that we’ve exiled or buried or hardened around and learn instead to soften and hold them,” Basman shares. Due to their soothing nature, the frequencies of the vibrations create space for people to tolerate their trauma, or “long held emotion.”
Her experience is undoubtedly similar to Varley’s when he recalls how his anxiety-induced heart rate lowered in response to the sound waves. Since his first encounter, Varley continues to notice an overwhelming calmness that he attributes to sound healing. Sound therapy allows people to find a willingness to approach and acknowledge the more difficult parts of themselves.
Everyone is affected by sound therapy in a unique way. Basman shares, “I feel like my cells soak it in … from the innermost parts of my being I’m absorbing, saturated with the sounds.” Varley compares the vibrations to a wave, saying he is able to “let the sounds wash over” him. It’s as if the vibrations wrap around you, like a caterpillar wrapped in a safe cocoon, emerging after time as a beautiful and empowered butterfly. Sound therapy is an immersive practice that is better experienced than explained. The grounding feeling of surrendering the mind and body to the frequencies — vibrations settling in and around you — is an ethereal feeling yogis say one must experience themselves.
Photos courtesy of Kali Basman.