Many of us recognize that music has the power to improve our mood and reduce stress. We aren’t really able to explain exactly why it makes us feel better, but there is no doubt that listening to our favorite tunes somehow has a healing effect on our souls.
That fact was not lost on ancient civilizations either. Whether through prayer, chanting, or playing instruments, communities around the world have incorporated sound therapy for thousands of years. Cultures like Australian aboriginal tribes used the didgeridoo, and Tibetan monks had their singing bowls, integrating their instruments into spiritual ceremonies. They may not have known the science behind what they were doing, but they realized that sound, though invisible, directly affects our inner being, able to invoke trance-like states or kindle peaceful communion with the divine.
Enter sound healing, a form of holistic therapy that uses sonic vibrations to restore the mind and body. Today, many people are embracing the practice, seeking out sessions to improve physical, mental, and emotional health. The length of a typical session is 30, 60, or 90 minutes, during which healers use tools like a vibroacoustic bed and instruments such as gongs, drums, bells, tuning forks, singing bowls, cymbals, or chimes to create tactile vibrations at targeted frequencies. An educated sound healer consciously and intentionally manipulates the energy of sound—its physical vibrations—to promote wellness and achieve certain effects. Purported benefits of sound healing sessions range from reducing stress to alleviating pain to treating certain medical conditions.
So how does that work, exactly? Without getting too deep, it’s a combination of the science of sound and our nervous system’s response—but its potency seems magical.
Just ask Barbara Spaulding, a registered nurse and a master sound healer, who opened Sound Healing in Stuart after experiencing the transformative power of the practice for herself. In 2012, seeking relief from severe fibromyalgia, Spaulding discovered a demonstration of the pain-relieving power of crystal singing bowls by the now-late Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, a renowned oncologist and proponent of holistic healing. Gaynor inspired Spaulding to become a clinical sound therapist herself, who is now certified by the Globe Institute in San Francisco.
“Sound healing helps the body do what it does best by realigning on a cellular level to heal itself,” explains Spaulding. “It’s a scientific fact that everything in the universe is vibrating and everything has its own resonant frequency. When those resonant frequencies get misaligned, that’s when disease or illness happens.”
“It’s the frequency, or ‘sound speed,’ that molecules are vibrating to that actually puts all matter in the form that it’s in,” she continues. “The same is true of our bodies. Every cell—every organ, every bit of blood, your brain, your entire body—has its own resonance, its own specific frequency. Sound healers restore or maintain those healthy frequencies through a process called entrainment.”
Entrainment is a universal phenomenon wherein interacting systems tend to synchronize—and the science behind sound healing hinges on it. Sound healing engages the power of scientifically identified sounds to restore the body to healthy resonant
frequencies, which differ by organ. In other words, sound healers employ the energy of sound therapeutically. In the same way that a qualified composer utilizes perfect fifths,
a sound healer elicits intended effects through various sonic frequencies.
If it all sounds a little “woo-woo” to you, consider the scientific evidence. A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health noted that people with spastic cerebral palsy presented “significant improvement of motor function” when exposed to vibroacoustic therapy. And, as published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, a 2016 study showed that participants in a Tibetan singing bowl meditation reported “significantly less tension, anger, fatigue, and depressed mood.” Sound healing is even used in many traditional medical settings; some surgeons utilize the practice before, during, and after procedures to
reduce patients’ reliance on pain medication.
Spaulding explains that sonically lowering your brainwave state—entering frequencies typically reserved for deep sleep—triggers the relaxation response. “It reduces your oxy-gen consumption, decreases your blood pressure, slows your heart rate and respiration rate, and relaxes your muscles, clearing the mind from anxiety and creating a feeling of calm and inner peace,” she says.
If nothing else, professionally conducted sound healing sessions can mimic the effects of transcendental meditation, promising a period of calm. And for many, that alone is benefit enough.
Where to Heal
Experience the benefits of sound therapy at these serene local spots
Sound bath therapy and vibroacoustic sound bed with registered nurse Barbara Spaulding. One-hour private sessions start at $85, group sessions start at $35; private studio in Stuart (address provided upon booking); asoundhealing.com; 772.245.6515
HI Mindfulness Forums
Vibrational experiences in private and group settings with Deena Rahill at the Elliott
Museum. Cost varies; 825 NE Ocean Blvd., Stuart; hsmc-fl.com; 786.488.7782
Love Frequency Sound Healing
Community sound-healing events, kai chi do, reiki circles, art therapy, metaphysical classes, addiction counseling, spiritual life coaching. Most services $1 per minute, classes and events range from free to $40; 1000 SE Federal Hwy., Stuart; facebook.com/thecenterofthegalaxy; 772.807.0662
Acupuncture incorporating sound therapy, particularly tuning forks, with Hillary Morris Heidelberg. $135 for initial visit, $95 for follow-ups (all needed modalities included in cost); 7000 SE Federal Hwy. Suite 205, Stuart; stuartacupuncture.com; 772.266.8165