• Theta Space

The singing bowl and the parasympathetic nervous system

Since I was a child, music has been a big part of my life. The radio was my constant companion and I noticed the effect of music on my mood. Music is an intrinsic part of man's history and considered a form of universal language. The link between music and emotion is well established in time, and has the ability to provoke responses and change the way we feel and move (Trimble & Hersdoffer, 2017). It also facilitates social learning and emotional wellbeing (ibid).

One of the reasons why sound and vibrations fascinate me is because of its uncanny ability to relax the mind. The vibrations of a singing bowl sounds great and, when projected onto a medium, looks amazing too. This is a concept known as cymatics, which will be explored in a separate post. Just listening to the sound, and even seeing it, can be very therapeutic.

While researchers are unable to pinpoint why singing bowls ease pain, they attributed it to the effect of binaural beats from the bowls. When the ears perceive binaural beats, which are two tones with a slight frequency difference, it activates brainwaves associated with deep relaxation. During a 2016 observational study by Goldsby et al., participants experienced reductions in tension, pain and depressed moods after attending a singing bowl meditation session. They concluded that this form of meditation may be "a feasible low-cost low-technology intervention".

In a singing bowl therapy session, blood pressure reduces as the mind relaxes, which is indicative of an activation in the body's parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is one part of the central nervous system. In that state, the body's regenerative and reproductive systems are primed to repair and renew the body, thus the term "rest and digest" mode, in contrast to the "fight and flight" that happens when we are under stress.

When you fall ill, you would have noticed how rest is prescribed as part of the healing process. When we switch the body away from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) mode and into the parasympathetic (rest and digest), we allow our immune system to do its job in its most ideal environment.

Similarly, our bodies need to repair itself from the wear and tear of daily use. Sleep is regenerative, precisely because you're doing nothing but allowing yourself to rest. In doing so, you allow your body's regenerative ability to do what it instinctively does.

Singing bowl and gong soundbaths are my favourite classes to attend, because the tones and vibrations sends my hyperactive mind into a state of deep relaxation that I am unable to achieve by myself in regular sleep. It is an inside-out experience that helped me cope with the stressors of daily life.

References & Further Reading: