Sound is such a powerful healing tool. Just think how your favorite song can uplift you at the end of a hard day, or how a song from the past can transport you back to that exact moment for a fleeting glimpse. During the pandemic I’ve been drawn to the soothing art of sound, especially the use of mantra, and it’s been really effective at shifting my mood from one of anxiety and worry to one of clarity and balance.
There’s a less well-known branch of yoga called Nada Yoga which translates as the yoga of sound. The aim of Nada Yoga is to bring about harmony and balance in your body if you feel tense, anxious or stressed. Sound has been used throughout history as a healing tool. From Shamanic drumming to yogic chanting, sound can help elevate your energy and shift your vibration and soothe your nervous system.
There are two branches of Nada Yoga. The first is the use of external sounds that we hear through our ears—this could be sound healing through Tibetan gongs or even focusing on the sounds that occur around you, such as birds chirping. The aim of this is to start to focus your energy and bring your intention inwards. The second branch is sound used internally. This sound is perceived through the heart center and an example could be chanting the mantra Om internally in order to shift the frequency inside the body.
I personally find using mantras during my meditation practice one on the most effective and fun ways to drop into my internal space and to shift my focus from the external to my inner landscape.
What are the Benefits of Sound Healing?
Scientific studies show that sound therapy can help reduce stress and anxiety and help to lift our mood. One important study demonstrated that the use of sound during meditation led to a reduction of tension, anger, fatigue, anxiety, and depression while also creating a feeling of spiritual well-being. Further studies show that sound healing can also help with pain reduction and lead to a deep sense of relaxation. Sound healing has been shown to help with the pain associated with arthritis and menstrual pain, and can also help improve mobility.
Exploring the Different types of Sound Healing
It’s fun to experiment with the different types of sound healing available, here I’ve included a few options and you can practice them all at home during the pandemic.
Singing Bowls & Sound Baths
These are often used to clear energy and to reset your energetic field, so these are a good choice if you feel uninspired or stuck. You can lie down on your yoga mat or your bed and play some clearing sounds to help shift your energy. Jasmine Hemsley has some wonderful sound baths available, which is a great place to start. There are also many wonderful Tibetan singing bowl sessions you can access, I like this one which also incorporates chanting the mantra OM.
If you prefer the idea of chanting to singing bowls, you can find some beautiful chants. I especially enjoy the sacred chants of Snatam Kaur which you can find online here. But the choice really is endless when it comes to chanting, it’s great to try different ones and see which works best for you. If you want to chant along, that’s even better as chanting has been shown to stabilize your heart rate, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, produce endorphins, and aid the process of metabolism.
Tuning forks were originally used to tune musical instruments to the proper pitch. Now sound therapists use the vibrations of tuning forks to increase the amount of energy in parts of the body they are trying to heal or energize. This can support relaxation, balance our nervous systems, and increase physical energy. This is a particularly relaxing session with tuning forks that I love.
Humming lifts our mood and also helps clear our mind from worrying thoughts. It’s really easy to practice this yourself at home and I’ve included directions below.
Pranayama Practice (Humming Bee Breath)
This practice is perfect for calming an anxious mind.
Sit comfortably either on a chair on a meditation cushion with your legs crossed.
Close your ears with either your index or middle fingers.
Lightly press your lips together and close your eyes.
Bring the inner gaze to the third eye in the center of your forehead.
Breathe in through your nose. As you exhale, make a smooth humming sound, like the sound of a bumblebee.
Continue for up to 5 minutes to feel the calming effect throughout your body.
Meditation Practice with the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma
This is a wonderful mantra for when you feel anxious and want to bring harmony to the body and mind.
Sa means birth of everything or infinity.
Ta means life or existence from that birth.
Na means change of consciousness or death.
Ma means rebirth and resurrection.
Sit comfortably with your spine straight, either on a chair or on a meditation cushion.
Close your eyes and being by observing your breath as it flows in and out of the nose. Once you feel grounded through your seat start to internally chant Sa Ta Na Ma, as you inhale the breath up the back of your spine to the top of your head, once you get there, pause the breath for a moment, and then as you exhale down the front of your body repeat Sa Ta Na Ma internally again, once you to the end of the exhale, pause again before inhaling back up the spine with the mantra.
Repeat this for 11 minutes, once you finish just sit quietly for a few minutes and notice any energetic shifts in your body.
Sound healing is such a personal journey and everyone will have a practice that resonates with them, so if one doesn’t work, don’t give up, try a different technique and enjoy experimenting.
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Photo: Magic Bowls via Unsplash