Sound therapy for chronic pain can be used in healing the fibromyalgia soul. What differentiates chaotic noise from therapeutic sounds? Ask your gut. Discovering the therapeutic effects of singing bowls played a role in my personal chronic illness healing.
My History with Singing Bowls
When I was recently contacted by Shanti Bowls to see if I was interested in writing about their singing bowls, I responded with an immediate, “Yes!” They gifted me with one a few months ago I’ve been enjoying it ever since.
This may surprise you, but I give an emphatic “No” to about 99% of the offers I receive. I’m – regularly – asked to pitch products, services, and protocols that I not only don’t use but wouldn’t ever recommend. This is why you rarely see product posts from me. If I’m going to spend my time researching an item in order to write about it, it must be something that both interests me and one that I’d potentially recommend.
The peeps at Shanti Bowls wouldn’t have known this, but I’ve listened to singing bowl CDs and recordings for more than a decade. As I was writing my book, FibroWHYalgia *, I discovered that certain types of music and sounds helped me to feel centered and creative. In layman’s terms, the non-verbal soothing sounds of singing bowls made things click for me.
I was hooked.
I didn’t question why, but I noticed that the tones of gongs, chimes, and singing bowls had a softening effect on my tightly wound body. They helped me to both concentrate and relax.
I had no idea that these sounds and vibrations gave my autonomic nervous system a swift kick –my parasympathetic nervous system response in particular.
Singing Bowls and Science
While the science of sound therapy is new, in practice it’s anything but. For thousands of years, drums, bells, gongs, singing bowls, and chanted voices have been used in religious, ceremonial, and healing practices.
So, how does sound as chronic pain therapy work and what does it have to do with fibro?
Fibromyalgia and all chronic illness/autoimmune conditions have a significant concern in common – sympathetic dominance (a near constant state of fight, flight, or freeze). Our nervous system response is overactive and the sympathetic nervous system (the stress response) rotates constantly through these pressure-inducing cycles.
Shifting the nervous system into a state of calm takes intentional practice. The parasympathetic nervous system response (also called the relaxation response) can be generated from anything that allows us to slip into a meditative state.
Sound therapy in general, and singing bowls in particular, can help to generate this relaxation response experience.
To clarify further, Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine, the Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in New York, has this to say, “If we accept that sound is vibration and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears but through every cell in our bodies. One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes. Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning and can play a positive role in the treatment of virtually any medical disorder.”
Sound therapy studies have shown interesting connections to various health benefits, including chronic pain therapy. Studies on psychoacoustics, the perception of sound, suggest that live performances of vibrational tones and musical sounds can be more “emotionally moving” but recorded sounds can also benefit the listener with improved physical relaxation, improved mental imagery, and positive moods among other benefits.
As I mentioned at the start, some sounds can grate on your nerves and drive you to distraction. What’s the difference between annoying and soothing? The answer is deeper than you may think. It’s in the frequency, quality, and vibration of the sounds and how they interact with you and your body. In a general sense, consider how they make you feel. In a specific sense, ask your gut. It’ll let you know.
When you listen to a specific tone, vibration, or sustained sound, tune in to your body. Allow the sounds to wash over you and just experience the effects. Do you feel more relaxed, peaceful, serene, and calm? Or do you feel irritated and agitated?
Keep in mind that what you’re doing at the time can make a big difference. The value of sounds has a LOT to do with receptivity. I once had a neighbor with beautiful wind chimes. I loved the sound of them in the breeze. But when I was exhausted and feeling short-fused, they drove me crazy.
The therapeutic value of healing sounds can definitely depend on the beholder.
Unboxing My Singing Bowl
So, what did I do when I received my singing bowl?
It came well-packaged and ready to go. I was given a link to a short and easy-to-follow video on how to play it and the rest is history.
From there on out, it was all about experimenting and putting it to use.
The singing bowl comes with a striking mallet and there are two ways, essentially, to use it. You can strike the bowl on the side to elicit an even tone that slowly grows softer. Or, you can use the mallet in a vertical position to go around the rim of the bowl making it “sing.” They’re both fun to do and easy to learn.
I wanted to experiment with different sounds, so I purchased (a very inexpensive) striking mallet that has padding on one end. I really like the tone it elicits and I love experimenting with it. I’m not as consistently good at getting the bowl to sing with the padded mallet as I am with the non-padded one, but that gives me something to work toward. I love that I can get different pitches depending on the method used.
My beautiful bowl sits on my desk and I strike it when I sit down to work as it helps me to feel centered and calm. I strike it before coaching calls and before online meetings.
One funny circumstance was that I was once waiting in an online forum by myself for others to arrive at the meeting. I struck the singing bowl knowing I was alone but forgetting that the meeting was being recorded. Later, I heard one of the administrators say to someone else, “I didn’t know that our recording software starts our meetings with a gong!”
What’s next for me?
I think I’d like to get another one (or more!) in a different size(s) so I can play them together and experience their beautiful harmony.
You can follow and learn more about Shanti Bowl here: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest – use the handle @shantibowl and hashtag #shantibowl.
I’m glad to say that I can endorse this product with enthusiasm. I’m impressed with the ethics of the company, their shipping experience, and of course, the product itself. I highly encourage you to purchase your own bowl or consider giving them as gifts.
This article was originally published on rebuildingwellness.com