The Bizarre New Wellness Therapy That Claims to Beat Stress

Woman holding a guitar
Free People

Sound healing is one of those trends I predicted as being big wellness news for 2019 and really wanted to try, but, as with everything, life gets in the way—until you’re made to slow down. I visited a retreat earlier this month and was pleasantly surprised when one of the afternoon meditation sessions was sound healing.

After a 15-kilometer hike, the sight of pillows and blankets was all too appealing. I know, I’m getting ahead of myself. Why are there pillows and blankets, and what the heck is sound healing, you ask? Essentially it involves getting comfy and then listening intently to the sounds conjured by a sound healer (using crystal singing bowls and gongs; more on those later) to help lull you into a meditative state.

Since meditation has always been tough for me (my mind is always whirring), I was seriously impressed with my first experience of sound healing. To find out more about the ancient art of sound healing I called on Carly Grace, a London-based sound healer, for her insight. Keep scrolling to read about my experience and find out what she had to say. 

What Is Sound Healing?

“The basic principle of sound healing is that everything in this universe is in a state of vibration, including our mind, body, spirit, emotions, and organs,” says Grace. “By working with the vibrations of sound and energy, we can we can support a shift in our frequency through emitting the correct frequencies, sounds, and tones into the body, supporting us to come into balance and harmony,” she adds.

“There are many different instruments that are used in sound healings—gongs, Tibetan bowls, chimes and beyond—each of these tools create a vibration of a specific wave form that inspires a shift in our energy, supporting us to attune to a state of natural rhythm. I work specifically with the Alchemy Crystal Singing Bowls, these are made of 99.9% pure quartz, infused with precious crystals, gemstones and/or minerals.

“Our entire human body, down to our very DNA, is crystalline in structure, causing it to respond and resonate with the extraordinary frequencies associated with quartz crystal. As the body receives these sounds, it is inspired to resonate with the pure tones, supporting a shift in our vibration; the experience of this is deeply relaxing, soothing and balancing.”

It may sound far-fetched, but by the end of my hour-long session, I felt more relaxed than I do after most nights' sleep.

The Benefits

These are unique to the person and far-reaching; people often share that they feel calm and relaxed following a session. For some, this feeling will last several days. It is also common for people to share the experience of tension releasing from their bodies, emotions releasing, physical sensations of vibrations washing through their body, visions, seeing colors, a heightened sense of oneness and opening in the heart. Insights and clarity often surface during or after a session,” says Grace.

While there aren’t any scientific studies to validate sound healing, with these alternative therapies, it comes down to what it does for you. Vijay B. Vad, MD, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, told the that these therapies can act as a placebo, “Even if it breaks your cycle [of stress] for 15 minutes, that’s sometimes enough to have a therapeutic effect.”

My Sound Healing Experience

There are very few times when my brain totally shuts off. I’ll be thinking about to-do lists in yoga, mulling through work ideas during a massage and worrying about house renovations while falling asleep. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this feeling since we’re living in an “always-on” culture. In line with modern-day life, my brain is always active; even when I sleep, I often have vivid dreams. I’ve tried meditation, counting my breath or listening to guided meditations, but my brain will still run off like a petulant child, not wanting to behave. I was excited to try sound healing because I’d written about it previously, but I had no expectation. I didn’t think it would help me switch off quite as well as it did.

First, I got comfy lying on a yoga mat with a pillow and a warm, fluffy blanket. For anyone who finds Shavasana is their favorite yoga pose, sound healing is for you. The sound healer was sat at the front of the room with a selection of instruments: a large gong, various bowls, and chimes. The bowls, if you're wondering are played by running a felt striker around the rim, a bit like running a wet finger around the rim of a wine glass. We were instructed to close our eyes, relax and simply focus on the sounds.

There were various sounds throughout the hour, some I heard vividly, others were more background noise. But unlike guided meditation where the talking seems to inspire my brain to drift off to think about to-do lists, I was lulled into an almost dream-like state while still being aware of the noises (I definitely wasn’t asleep). In fact, sound healing is meant to lull you to the point where you’re about to fall asleep but you don’t.

After the hour, I came round feeling more rested than I do most mornings; my mind had been still, and there was no internal chatter. I’m not unwell, and I have no pain, so I can’t speak for claims that sound healing actually heals. But for anyone who deals with stress-related symptoms, an hour of sound healing, in which you can break that cycle, could be beneficial. I didn’t notice particular vibrations through my body, or flashes of colors, but feeling as relaxed and zen as I did without 10 days spent lying on a beach is a miracle in itself.

For Grace, sound healing is more profound, during her first session she said, “Every cell of my being was vibrating. I felt a flow of energy through my body, a deep connection to myself and such deep peace. The sound had supported me to relax, to open, to breathe deeper and to experience a feeling of stillness that I had not experienced before. The sound had led me to silence.”

How to Find a Sound Healer

Unlike yoga or even more traditional forms of meditation, it’s definitely trickier to find sound healers, even in London. Google is a good place to start with your search. “I don’t know of any specific networks to advise, however, sound healing is becoming increasingly popular,” says Grace. “I encourage people to explore and try out different styles of sound healing with different practitioners so that they can find something that is best suited to them.

DIY Sound Healing

While the vibrations are meant to be a positive factor in this form of meditation, it’s the sound that is key. So you can experience sound healing with a healer remotely or even give it a try yourself.

“The experience of the sound healing can still be received through the recording. As the person sits to receive, they can set the intention to receive all of the benefits of the sound healing; as they sit in stillness, they will receive the waves of sound through the body. It is recommended to create a space of stillness and an environment that supports the sounds being received,” explains Grace. “In fact, I share remote sessions with people from all around the world, many enjoy experiencing the sounds through the body even though we are not together in person.”

Want to DIY your sound healing experience? You’ll be surprised to know that you might already be doing it without knowing.

A great tip for someone at home is to sing—to listen to music that uplifts and inspires you and to sing along. It sounds simple, or perhaps a little silly, but it is one of the best tools that we have to support ourselves. Our voice is unique to us, there is no one in the entire world with the same voice as us, so our voice is the perfect harmonic to support us, to shift us, to open us, to release us—it is the greatest tool we have, and it is right there inside of us,” explains Grace. “Singing in the shower in the morning is a wonderful way to shift your energy and free your emotions. It doesn't have to sound pretty or perfect, by simply singing we are creating a flow of energy that is very supportive for our body, our mind, and our spirits.”

Singing not for you, even in the privacy of your own home? Grace recommends searching for sound healing podcasts or look to YouTube. Below Grace shares a video of Yantara, Grace’s “mentor in sound,” plus a short video of herself playing the crystal bowls.

Carly Grace offers private sound healing sessions ($96) at Triyoga in Camden, sharing a blend of Reiki and sound healing supporting the release of stagnant emotions, blockages and supporting balance in body, mind, and spirit.

Group sessions at various London locations cost between $32 and $45.

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