What is Sound Healing? A Short Primer
If you have visited Auroville or have been living here for a while, it’s safe to say you have heard about Svaram, a place where you can discover new types of instruments, learn how to make them, play with sound and also, take part in something called Sound Healing. We realize that to the untrained ear, that last bit might not make much sense! To explain the basics, we have put together a short Primer answering the question - what is Sound Healing?
Resonating through the Ages
Music plays an important role in most people’s lives. An escape to some, a means of meditation for another, or simply a way to lift up the atmosphere in a room, music has been an ever- present, ever- changing feature of human culture. The beautiful thing about music is perhaps the unique ways in which we all relate to it, while often still experiencing the same types of emotions when listening : happiness, nostalgia, melancholy, calm. Scientific research points out that this is probably attributed to the way in which music affects the brain. It triggers our pleasure centre and can activate our dopamine neurotransmitters, which explains the rush we feel when listening to our favourite songs.
Sound Healing is a special approach to re-aligning energies in the body using sound frequencies and harmonic tunings. Sound has been used in different ancient cultures throughout history as a way to heal and restore, from the Ancient Egyptians to the Australian Aboriginals. Tibetan monks have used sound as the guide to spiritual ceremonies for thousands of years; the ancient Egyptians used specific vowel sounds with particular resonances because they believed that they could help in re-aligning the body’s inner harmony, since according to physics, we are all beings of vibration; Pythagoras in ancient Greece, considered the founding father of Harmonics, first theorised the ways in which music and different harmonic frequencies could physically affect our body, and be used as medicine; and of course, there is the famous Didgeridoo, which is used in Aboriginal healing practices by playing it next to a sick person. Sound has a deep and rich history tied to healing.
Tunes for Therapy
In today’s world, scientific research has allowed us to understand sound, and how it relates to our body and mind, in a more intricate way, changing the conversation on Sound Healing: from being a rather marginalized collection of ancient knowledge, Sound Healing is now brought into the wider conversation on healing, along with the advancements of science that enable the creation and innovation of sound as a therapeutic medium.
The natural laws of physics declare that everything in the universe has a vibration. Since we are all made up of atoms, and atoms are constantly in motion, each and every thing within the universe is emitting a vibrational frequency. Sound is also a frequency and can be calculated using Hertz(Hz). Every part of your body resonates at a different frequency. When it loses its harmony, it becomes dissonant and is not emitting the same vibration anymore, which is what many believe results in illness. Now using this framework, sound can be used to re-align and re-adjust this disharmony so that it may return to its previous optimal state. This is the scientific foundation of sound as a method of healing.
Sound meditations have been found to reduce depression, anxiety and instill a sense of calm. Different sounds can serve different purposes and can help with a range of ailments, or imbalances in your body’s harmony.
Music and Sound
What might be more familiar to you, as it has become increasingly popular, is Music Therapy. With a significant amount of study to back it up, music therapy is being used to help with emotional, cognitive and physical wellbeing. Because of its popularity, we wanted to take the time to show the difference between the two.
In short, music is a subcategory of sound, and is made up of specific patterns, frequencies and rhythms. Music Therapy involves a trained practitioner who assesses you and then creates a therapy session with any of the following elements:
- Listening to music
- Playing an instrument
- Moving your body to the beat of a song
Sound Healing encompasses more than just music, as it is about all the vibrational sounds that can be heard and interpreted by the human ear. Because of this, Sound Healing is a lot broader and doesn’t necessarily need to have an association with music. This is reflected in its choice of instruments, as Sound Healing is often done with materials that produce amazing vibrations, but which are not necessarily easy to use if you want to produce, let’s say, a nice song to dance to at your birthday party.
Designed for Healing, by Svaram
While you can do sound healing with many existing instruments - such as the Didgeridoo, the popular Tibetan Singing Bowls, or the more recently developed Hang - Svaram is constantly developing new ones specifically for their sound healing work. Some are so specialized (and big!) that you will only find them in their Sound Healing Space, where they work on healing their clients. Others are more accessible, such as their recent Orbits - tuning into the frequencies of the planets - or their Sound Wings. We have selected a few that we find particularly amazing!
Sonic Stones: These unique granite stones with multiple facets are able to produce a very distinct vibrational sound. Similar to the way in which crystal wine glasses are played, these Sound Stones need to be rubbed with water to create a deep humming sound which can be very powerful. The creation of the Sonic Stones has been a long and interesting journey for Svaram, which you can find out more about here.
Nidra Anantar: This beautiful instrument is the size of a massage table and has 50 strings. It’s carefully tuned and the sound it produces can be described as “Pure”. It has been introduced in healing and wellness centres, to accompany different sessions with its harmonizing effect on the body and soul.
Sound Wings: This rotating and suspended instrument has been carefully calibrated keeping mathematics and harmonics in mind. It’s the best of both worlds since it is a chime but can be played using a mallet. Mesmerizing and deeply calming, Sound Wings are a beautifully crafted instrument for outdoor, or indoor use. Want to know what they sound like and how to play them? Check out this little video here.
Sound Plates: On the larger side, the sound plates are essential to the sound healing experience and create a beautifully round vibration.
Sound Healing DIY
If you want to start integrating Sound Healing into your life, we have some good news: you can create a sound space in your very own home! After selecting the sounds that move you, you can have your own collection of sound healing instruments to incorporate into your life. According to Vedic texts and Vastu (Indian principles of architecture and space arrangements), sound can be a powerful cleansing tool in your home. Rid the air of negative energy with a simple wind chime for example, but keep in mind that you place it in the right position. For example, metal chimes are best placed in the North, West, or North-West area of the house, while wooden chimes are best suited in the South, East, or South-East direction.
Music and sound can be used in so many ways, so take the time to explore your relationship to sound and how you can include it as a medium to bring balance into your mind and body. And if you are really inspired to take a healing journey with sound, check in with the people at Svaram, who you can find here.
They regularly offer healing sessions as well as a training in Integral Sound Healing (click for video).