The Healing Power of Sound

Crystal bowls being played to create a sound bath. Photo: Ally Boothroyd

The Link, Autumn 2018
| by Elizabeth Palermo |

Finding new ways to achieve relaxation is ever important amid the increasing cacophony of daily life – even if it means looking to centuries ago for alternative healing practices and some of the oldest medicines known, like sound healing. From yoga studios to auditoriums and church basements, people are finding their way to “sound baths” to relax at a profound level as the transcendental tones of quartz crystal singing bowls are washed over them.

Similar to Tibetan brass bowls, crystal bowls are played with a baton along the sides and have become popular for their sublime frequencies and resonance. Sound baths can be considered a meditation or a journey. Sound healers might begin with a seated meditation or gentle movement before people settle into restorative savasana – the quintessential “corpse pose” in yoga that’s supported by bolsters and blankets to facilitate deep rest – to take in sound vibrations that can reduce stress, pain and anxiety.

“…relaxation is ever important amid the increasing cacophony of daily life…”

“Sound is immediate and has a way of having a direct impact on our whole being,” says sound healer and yoga teacher Megan Marie Gates of Wild Heart Healing Arts in Picton, Ontario. From drumming to chimes and sometimes a ukulele, Gates plays a plethora of instruments to create a magical space. “We all integrate and listen to sound differently, so it will affect people in different ways. If there’s a real sense of lethargy, there are instruments I use to bring the energy up. If people are exhausted and just need to go in deep, I’ll use harmonics, chanting mantra, toning and singing.”

Gates started off in musical theatre in Toronto before exploring the healing arts realm. She credits renowned sound healer and musician Darren Austin Hall for introducing her to crystal singing bowls. They became friends and started jamming when they met at yoga teacher training and he inspired her to follow this path. Quartz crystal is used in many technologies like computers and clocks, and is formed in the earth with highly pressurized water. Gates makes the connection with healing because the human body is 70 percent water.

“Water is sound’s greatest conduit. Sound moves through water the quickest, most steadily and deeply,” says Gates. “We don’t just listen with our ears, but our entire bodies, which pickup sound so fast because there’s no way they can’t. It’s good and bad. People in cities are picking up soundscapes of sirens, garbage trucks and construction – things that don’t exist in the natural world.”

While sound baths are meant to be restorative, shifting from an active state of mind to a more relaxed, dreamlike state, Gates says they can be both meditative and ecstatic – some people need to roll into bed afterwards and others can be their most creative for weeks. She says it’s available to anybody whether or not they practise yoga or meditation.

“That’s why I love this. People have their own frequencies that they either enjoy or are triggered by, so everybody’s response is different. The medicinal effects are unique to the listener,” says Gates, who offers weekend immersions called Sound Work and one-on-one Sound Alchemy sessions designed for the individual. Whether it’s for taking in a beautiful soundscape, clearing tension or experiencing healing, there’s an invitation to go slow.

“There’s a difference between witnessing and integrating an experience, and intellectualizing it. After a sound bath, I encourage people to stay with the felt sense instead of analyzing it. Don’t rush. You have time to be here.”

Elizabeth Palermo is a writer and yoga instructor living in Campbellcroft with her husband and two boys.

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