Sound vibrations can alter brainwaves and the state of your consciousness to help you manage stress better, points out ROHINI
several ancient techniques are incredibly powerful and we are yet to fully understand how they really work. Sound is one such tool which inhabits a curious space. Various cultures around the world including those from Hindu theology and Christian religion have used sound to invoke and transform consciousness. Creation stories identify sound as the creative force by which the Divine initially manifested light, followed by material reality. Whatever one might believe in, to some extent, we do know the power of the spoken word, chanting, and of melodies and the role of musical instruments.
The brain contributes to our state of mind. All humans display five types of dominant electrical patterns across the cortex known as ‘brainwaves’. The human brain also has the ability to transition through these different dominant brainwave frequencies and this might be the key in determining how successful we could be in using sound to manage stress, cope with challenging situations and achieve overall wellbeing. ‘Beta’ waves are the brainwaves of our normal waking consciousness which are involved in logical thinking and critical reasoning.
Though this stimulating effect may be important for effective functioning through the day, too much of beta can also translate into stress, anxiety and restlessness. Fast and stressful living often results in many of us constantly operating under this beta. ‘Alpha’ waves are present in a relaxed state, for example, while imagining or visualising. It is the gateway to the subconscious mind. So, conversely, when we are stressed, it can be assumed that our beta is actually blocking the alpha.
‘Theta’ waves represent the subconscious; we can see theta during meditation and in a deeply relaxed semi-hypnotic state. More importantly, at this frequency, we are conscious of our surroundings, yet, can retrieve information from the subconscious while our body is still in deep relaxation. ‘Delta’ waves are experienced in deep sleep and are important for restorative purposes. ‘Gamma’ waves are associated with higher level information processing and binding of our senses.
Even through the waking state, an EEG or electro-encephalogram will display all five types of brainwaves at the same time but one particular brainwave will be dominant and this depends upon the state of consciousness that the individual is in. Normal waking state is dominated by beta and the meditative states are largely dominated by alpha and theta. However, the real usefulness of sound for us is when we are able to tap into these alpha-theta brainwave patterns at any given time and this is referred to as brainwave entrainment.
This concept of shift in brainwaves using sound frequencies as an agent is similar to meditation which is regulated by breath. Although conventional medicine has employed frequencies in the ultrasonic range, alternative practices have embraced frequencies in the audible range — the alpha-theta band of waves. Not only is this wave band in sync with the frequency of earth’s resonation — Schumann (7-8 Hz), it is also that band where self-healing mechanisms of the body are activated often referred to as ‘being in the zone’. Jeffrey Thompson, founder of the Centre for Neuroacoustic Research, noted that as frequencies slow down, we can feel it in our muscles, joints and bones.
Singing bowls are an ancient technology; the bowls create a pulsation of sound to entrain our brain. Traditionally, these bowls are made of seven metals — gold, silver, quicksilver, copper, iron, tin and lead. All these metals produce individual sounds and together they result in this exceptional singing sound of the bowl.
When these bowls are struck and the mallet is gently glided along the edge of the bowl, they resonate and produce vibrations that are said to relate to this alpha- theta wave band thus influencing our nervous system, engaging our relaxation reflex and alleviating the stress or pain response. Thus, it doesn’t come as a surprise that several pain and stress management centres around the world have now started to use singing bowls in their practices.
Although pure science has not entirely evidenced how these bowls help alleviate pain and stress-related conditions, multitude of human experiences right from ancient to modern times have indicated that they can and they do help. Therefore, it is perhaps time to stop pondering over how and why something helps and simply learn to accept that which works.
The author is a UK-based educationist and holistic wellbeing consultant.
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