To complement “Sound Therapies in Massage Practice” in the April 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: First described in ancient scriptures, sound as therapy has a long, rich history.
Up to 90 percent of physicians’ visits are stress-related, according to the American Institute of Stress. All of us have stress—it’s how we handle stress that matters most.
Peter Guy Manners, M.D., a British osteopath and sound therapy pioneer, spent more than 50 years on sound frequency research. Manners used the analogy of an orchestra for describing how stress affects the body. Imagine a gust of wind blows away the sheet music of the first and second violins. This stress causes a struggle for harmony in the string section of the orchestra. Left without a master pitch pipe, the lack of harmony spreads to other parts of the orchestra.
Likewise, in the body, stress or injury pulls cells out of their coherent structure. If the stress is not handled properly, a complex web of disharmonies perpetuates—the whole orchestra is soon out of tune. An out-of-tune body begins to experience a variety of stress signals, including anxiety, insomnia, allergies, food sensitivities, or physical and emotional pain.
Sound travels about four times faster through water than it does through air. Since our bodies are about 70 percent water, sound becomes a first choice for a natural therapy. Matching the frequencies of healthy resonance can provide stress relief. Adding sound therapy modalities is an easy, natural way to achieve this goal. Once stiff muscle and trigger-point areas are identified, the appropriate sound modality can be introduced for release and relaxation.
Sound in recent history
Sound in medicine is being researched throughout the world. In 2004, Smithsonian magazine introduced the work of Jim Gimzewski, Ph.D., of the University of California Los Angeles. Gimzewski coined the term sonocytology when he heard the sound of a cell.
Missouri University’s assistant professors and biological engineering team Xudong Fan, Ph.D., and John Viator, Ph.D., made news when they created a photo-acoustic device that can detect as few as 10 melanoma cells in a blood sample. At Duke University, biological engineer Kathy Nightingale is also detecting disease with sound.
Nightingale reports that “ultrasound maps differences in the acoustic properties of tissue. Muscles, blood vessels and fatty tissue have different densities and sound passes through them at different speeds.”
Another interesting report from a team of Danish scientists refutes the common view that nerves transmit impulses through electricity, saying nerves actually transmit sound. The Copenhagen University researchers argue that biology and medical textbooks stating nerves relay electrical impulses from the brain to the rest of the body are incorrect.
Sound in ancient history
Sound therapy has been around since the beginning of recorded history—the oldest surviving scriptural texts tell us so—and science may finally be catching up with sound-healing practices used by ancient civilizations.
Most cultures share myths of creation that begin with a sonorous event. In the ancient Vedic texts, Lord Vishnu rests on the cosmic, shoreless ocean. The silence is broken with the cosmic hum we know as Aum. In the Bible, John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word…”
At the first vibratory universal note a system of mathematics and harmonic ratios is revealed. From macrocosm to microcosm, we exist and live in a sea of sound. Geneticists have decoded the musical expression of our DNA; NASA has captured the sounds of all the planets, even the sound of black holes; and in November of 2014 the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe recorded the sound of a comet. It’s no wonder our bodies respond to therapeutic sound.
Built for sound
Throughout our written history we find references to healing temples built with the intention to harness the three most powerful universal forces: sound, light and magnetics. These temples were constructed on magnetic vortices with architecture designed to capture the power of sound and light waves. People would travel to these locations and spend anywhere from one to several nights for a resonant recalibration of body, mind and spirit.
Resonant architecture to assist in vibrational health can be tracked throughout history. Vastu Shastra, a portion of the Vedas, contains the art and science of construction and is still implemented today. Sitting or standing in this resonant architecture, one cannot help but experience a sonic realignment from head to toe.
Since 4000 B.C., sound, light and magnetics have been inextricably linked. Tracing the thread from the Egyptian pyramids, Greek Asclepian temples and the Gothic styles of cathedrals and churches, we see common themes of resonant architecture. Many of these ancient sites were built near the sea or river, which contains relaxing, therapeutic sounds. Some say these were our first hospitals and recovery centers, with priests and priestesses serving as medical staff.
Today, each therapist creates her own version of a healing temple.
Mandara Cromwell is the founder and board chair of the International Sound Therapy Association (istasound.org); producer of the Cymatics Conference: The Science of Sound and Vibrational Healing; CEO and president of Cyma Technologies Inc.; and 2013 nominee for the Edison Award for innovation in the category of Science and Medical for the AMI750®, an electronic sound therapy device.