MARY OOMMEN -
We all have, at some time, experienced the power of sound in our lives. Upbeat music in the gym gets us moving, for example, while meditative chants at a yoga session promotes calm. Our bodies and minds react differently to disruptive noise from a construction site than to the gentle sound of trickling water.
Sound can be therapeutic and has been used as a tool for promoting wellness for as long as history can account for. It is deeply rooted in ancient cultures and civilizations. The early Egyptians and Indians used chants in healing because they believed the vibrations produced were sacred. Tibetan monks have famously used “singing bowls” to produce soothing sounds. This coupled with mantra chanting has been known to facilitate meditation and create relaxation.
Today Himalayan Singing Bowls and other instruments are used to create ‘sound baths’. If you’ve never heard of a sound bath, you’re not alone. Sound baths are a great way to get “in tune” with yourself, and many people turn to them for stress relief. Think of a sound bath, as a kind of guided meditation, enhanced by sounds created by specially crafted Himalayan Singing Bowls.
The sessions are typically done in a dimly lit room, the air infused with the healing fragrance of essential oils. Participants are invited to lie down on a mat, close their eyes and relax.
The practitioner guides participants to observe their breathing and leads them in chanting which helps create a calming atmosphere. Gradually, the practitioner starts creating a distinct sound using Himalayan Singing Bowls, Gongs, Ting-shas (tiny cymbals), Dorges (bells) and the human voice. Participants are encouraged to let the sounds and accompanying vibrations wash over them - leading to a deeply relaxing, peaceful experience.
According to Yashwant Saran, a visiting yoga and meditation expert from India at Yoga Shaala, “we as human beings are essentially compressed energy, and as human beings we are vibrating at a certain frequency. When we connect to a frequency that we are resonating at, we become harmonious with that energy. Each human being has a resonance of a different dimension and sound therapy affects each person differently. The vibrations created by sound penetrate deep within us and helps us to release unresolved energies and creates a state of balance and calm.”
Science now seems to back the practice of sound therapy. A 2017 study reported in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine specifically explored the effects of sound therapy on mood, and wellbeing. Of the 62 participants, every single one of them benefited from an hour of chanting and sound therapy. All of them felt less depressed, fatigued, and tense than before the meditation. In fact, participants who went into the study without knowing what sound baths were, had even more powerful results than those who already knew about it.
While just a single session can have great positive impact, Yashwant suggests that, “people should attend at least six to seven sessions of sound therapy to get the maximum benefits. That is when the energy blocks that we have deep within us slowly start melting away.” He goes on to share what his Guru taught him that, “there is no peace in the Himalayas and there is no noise in the streets. Both are within you. So, when we connect with the noise within, we connect with the noise outside, when we connect with peace within, we connect with the peace outside. Both are actually within us.”
The origins of the Himalayan Singing Bowls are as mysterious as the evocative vibrations they produce. “The special bowls, some of which are made during the full moon, are crafted using an amalgamation of seven metals like copper, tin, mercury, gold and silver each in a different proportion. They are handmade and the vibrations and sounds that they produce are clear, sharp and with a distinct intensity,” said Abirami, a certified Master of the Himalayan Singing Bowls at Yoga Shaala. She shared an interesting aspect about the bowls when she said that, “each set of singing bowls resonates with the energy of the player. Bowls and gongs are chosen based on how they connect with each individual. The choice of instruments is very personal and the kind of vibrations that they produce often is a reflection of the energies of the Master, each strike of the mallet creates different sounds and affects people differently.”
The gongs, bowls and bells create a surprisingly rich and complex harmony. Abirami goes on to explain that, “the selection of bowls varies depending upon which chakra, or energy meridian system in the body, we are focusing on. Each bowl is related to one of the seven chakras of our body.
This is why each sound has a different impact on people. We use a range of rhythms and patterns depending on the need of participants. At times we use water in the bowls, with a few drops of essential oils, to create a more intense sense of peace and wellbeing.”
Those who want to experience the healing power of the Himalayan Singing Bowls can visit Yoga Shaala located at Al Assalah Towers in Al Ghubra. According to Marksim, founder and instructor at Yoga Shaala, “Yoga Shaala offers regular sessions focused on mindful meditation, sound therapy, Yoga and fitness. Details can be found on our Facebook page or on our website www.yogashaala.net.” Marksim suggests coming in a few minutes early so participants can get comfortable with the space and settle in, allowing the relaxation process to begin. He advises participants to “wear something comfortable and stay hydrated. Sound waves carry on water, and the more hydrated you are, the more likely the frequencies will have a penetrating effect. “
Dana Sarhan who recently participated in one such session at Yoga Shaala says that, “I find that it takes me on an internal journey, I feel very peaceful. It is very meditative and it grounds me. I’ve been sleeping much deeper and I encourage people who have never tried it to come and experience it for themselves.”
So, the next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed with daily life, why not get a taste of what deep, steady meditation can be like. See how it helps clear energy blocks in the body, and leaves you in a fully relaxed state.