Music and sound are powerful medicines. The use of sound for healing has a long and varied history.
Long before the discovery of modern medical equipment and drugs, ancient civilizations used different techniques to heal various ailments, and one of those techniques was the use of sound. In ancient Egypt, for example, around 4000 BC, high priests chanted the seven vowel sounds in their rituals, in order to lift the spirit and enhance the healing process.
In Greece, circa 500 BC, Pythagoras – the father of music therapy, built the Pythagoras Mystery School in the island of Crotona, in order to spread the use of flute and lyre as the primary healing instruments. And with the invention of his monochord—a single-stringed musical instrument that uses a fixed weight to provide tension—Pythagoras was able to unravel the mysteries of musical intervals and taught that healing could occur using sound and harmonic frequencies, performed to what he called “soul-adjustments”.
In Australia for the past 40,000 years, the country’s oldest known cultural group, the Aborigines, is believed to use an enigmatic musical instrument called the Didgeridoo (or Yidaki), in order to speed up the healing of broken bones, muscle tears and illnesses of every kind. Interestingly, the sounds emitted by the Didgeridoo are in alignment with modern sound healing technology.
In 1945, United States forces used sound healing to help with the healing of the soldiers of World War 2. This is often described as the ‘official’ dawn of music therapy.
What Does Science Say, Thus Far?
Scientific research into the benefits and effects of sound healing is still relatively young, but interest is most definitely growing, especially given the ever-expanding range of positive results achieved by this method of therapy. The British Academy of Sound Healing, for example, seeks to be as well-grounded in science as possible and is constantly seeking to deepen and broaden their knowledge of sound healing for the purposes of improving health and wellbeing.
A recent study by Lyz Cooper, for example, looked into sound-induced altered states of consciousness (ASC) for these purposes. The study aimed to answer the question ‘What are the therapeutic benefits of sound-induced ASC?‘ The study’s findings demonstrated that those participants receiving live sound therapy experienced more sensations of positive mood enhancements, ‘floatiness’ (disembodiment), and significant muscle relaxation. At the same time, more of those experiencing pre-recorded sounds reported their overall experience as being ‘ineffable’ (lost for words to give an adequate description), and more of these participants also described achieving a sensation of relaxation in their muscles, with physical tension draining from their bodies.
Modern Day Methods Of Sound Healing
In today’s world, there is a wide variety of different methods used for healing with sound and music. These include, but are not limited to, the Bonny Method, the Dalcroze Method, Mantras, Guided Meditations, Neurologic Music Therapy, the Nordoff-Robbins technique, Root Frequency Entrainment, Singing Bowl Therapy, Tuning Fork Therapy, and, among several others, the one that we are here to discuss today; Shamanic sound healing.
What Is Shamanic Sound Healing?
Different from other types of sound healing, the shamanic modality incorporates many elements that are, per se, shamanic in nature. The primary – and all-encompassing – element is that of conducting a sacred ceremony around the sound healing session. No form of shamanic healing is ever conducted without ceremonially opening sacred space, setting a specific intention within the sacred space and, for the most part, inviting in elemental spirits from all directions of existence.
For shamans, all disease is ultimately the result of imbalances with the energy in our body; mental energy, spiritual energy, and physical energy. They generally use different techniques and tools in the above-mentioned ceremonial setting, such as sacred plant medicines, guided meditations, visualisations, hands-on (or off) energy work, plus the sound of their voice, body and a variety of sacred musical instruments to send you through an altered state of consciousness into healing.
What Actually Happens During A Session?
Within the highly intentional and energetically-charged container of the sacred space, the shaman conducts his/her healing practices. Sometimes referred to as a shamanic sound bath, shamanic sound healing commonly incorporates musical instruments, such as the gong, tuning forks, and a Tibetan singing bowl to bathe or flood a ceremony participant’s energetic space, usually in a lying or seated position, with resonant vibrations focused on the relief of anxieties, stress, and the unblocking of energy, in order to help participants discover a higher sense of peace and purpose in life.
Shamanic sound healing sessions can be active or passive. The difference between an active and a passive session is the following:
- This is generally a vibrational re-alignment session, where the shaman’s sound healing techniques direct energy by way of the voice and/or other musical instruments, in order to help clients clear blocked energy and harmonize/align with their soul
- This is where the shaman may guide his/her client in the use of their own voice, by way of interactively-guided voice and movement journeys; alternatively, during guided shamanic visualisation journeys (generally not classed as ‘sound healing’, per se, but still involving lots of sound), the shaman may use voice, a drum, rattles to guide the client into connection with their spirit guides and/or what’s known as their ‘power animals’, for the purpose of self-discovery and empowerment by way of the shaman holding the sacred space for the client to discover their own innate power (i.e. no suggestions or advice is given, but the client is guided to discover their own answers/power by way of key interactions/questions from the shaman)
For What Is Shamanic Sound Healing Beneficial?
The ultimate intention of shamanic sound healing is to envelop the client’s body and aura in healing vibrations, in order to find equilibrium in the chakras, which are the electromagnetic energy centers/fields of the human body. This is always done with the intention of improving the client’s physical and emotional health and their general sense of well-being.
More specifically, shamanic sound healing can help people with:
- Chronic pain
- Sleep disorders
- Promoting movement
- Achieving calm
- Easing muscle tension
- ADD or Inattentive ADHD
and much more.
How To Tell If Shamanic Sound Healing Is For You
Though science is only just catching up and is currently only scratching the mere surface on how sound can truly benefit the body, people who experience passive sound healing – no matter in which modality the session is conducted – often praise the concept for its benefits to their emotional and social development, cognitive and motor functioning, psychological health, and all-around general wellbeing. As discussed above, there are manifold varying modalities of sound healing, implementing a variety of sounds, music, instruments, and tools.
With so many on offer, choosing the most adequate modality of sound healing for your own personal needs may seem like quite the challenge. What the shamanic modality of sound healing definitely brings to the table is the strong sense of ceremony, the very intentional opening and maintenance of the sacred space, as well as, very probably, the incorporation of practices drawn from the world’s indigenous populations.
It is known that the planet’s indigenous peoples hold great amounts of deep wisdom – a wisdom that is considered to hold the secrets of what it truly means to be human. This, in and of itself, may be considered something crucially important in today’s modern world of fast-paced stress and chaos. Perhaps the best way of finding the modality to best suit your needs is to speak to practitioners from a number of different modalities, discuss your needs, and make a decision henceforth.
Or you could simply indulge in the adventurous side of life, and head out to sample them all!
Art by Andrew Ostrovsky