Get to know this peaceful practice with a deep history — and powerful benefits for your mind and body.
Sound can be incredibly powerful. A favorite song can lift you out of a low mood. A violin concerto can bring tears to your eyes. The sound of the ocean can instantly transport you to your favorite vacation spot from childhood.
As it turns out, sound can be therapeutic as well. In fact, sound therapy is an effective tool for boosting the mind, body and soul.
Sound Therapy Basics
While sound therapy might seem like a wellness fad, it’s actually been around for centuries. Ancient Greek literature supports that music was used to treat mental disorders. Even Cleopatra may have turned to sound therapy.
“For as long as people have used their voices and musical instruments for prayer and chanting, people have used sound to heal,” says Valerie Oula, Director of Vibrational Energy Healing at THE WELL and author of A Little Bit of Reiki. “The ancient Egyptians used musical incantations for healing and were tapped into the power of sound — the temples and pyramids were built as resonant structures to amplify sound.”
Oula goes on to say: “Sound therapy is energy work — everything is energy and everything is vibrating at different frequencies. When there are blocks or stagnation in the body and mind, there is dissonance and a lack of coherence. Sound therapy helps to attune our bodies and our space to a more optimal frequency.”
“Various sounds and musical vibrations and frequencies are played to facilitate mind, body and spiritual healing, such as the reduction of stress, promoting relaxation and balancing our body’s energy centers, also known as chakras,” she says.
For as long as people have used their voices and musical instruments for prayer and chanting, people have used sound to heal.
What to Expect
Sound therapy often integrates bells, chimes, singing bowls and gongs into a practice — but the options are usually personalized for each session.
There are many ways that sound healers facilitate sessions, but generally speaking, there is probably a discussion of what the client needs support with first, Oula explains. Then, the client is invited to lay down and relax as the facilitator incorporates breathwork and sound to help move the energy towards balance.
Kitzes begins sessions by asking participants to lie down or sit in a comfortable position with their eyes closed. She’ll turn on light background music, lead participants through breathwork or meditation and continue to the sound healing portion, utilizing Tibetan singing bowls, chimes or a gong.
"One can anticipate becoming so relaxed they are liable to fall asleep, which in and of itself in addition to the sound healing is quite therapeutic in restoring one’s energy," she notes.
What the Science Says
Hundreds of scientific articles have confirmed that music has myriad benefits for the brain, such as improving cognitive performance, boosting mood and relieving stress. In terms of sound therapy specifically, one study showed that Tibetan singing bowl meditation can reduce feelings of tension, anxiety and depression while improving spiritual well-being.
Music can have a potent effect on the body as well. One study proved that low-frequency sound stimulation alleviates fibromyalgia pain. Another journal reported that soothing music has the ability to increase oxytocin levels for those who have recently undergone open heart surgery, resulting in improved relaxation. According to the American Psychological Association, while research in this field continues, there is great promise showing that sound and music can treat pain and reduce stress.
Research shows that music effectively relieves stress and improves mental health.
Who Is Sound Therapy Right For?
“Sound therapy works for everyone,” Kitzes says. “On a physical level, we are slowing down the breath, slowing down our heart rate and allowing our mind to quiet into a safe-feeling, serene state. As to spiritually, the more relaxed we are in body and mind, the better or more able we are to feel connected to ourselves, connected to others and connected to a higher power if we so choose.”
If you’re curious about Reiki or energy work but wish to just dip your toe into the water at this time, sound therapy is an ideal way to start.
“Sound therapy is especially good for those who are new to energy work and who may be even a bit skeptical," Oula adds. "It’s more tangible to be able to hear and feel sound vibration, allowing those sounds to work through your body, making it an approachable option in terms of energy work." And it might just end up being a powerful salve for your mental and physical well-being.