Music As Medicine Pt. 2
Magical Music Experiences
I used to live in Montreal, considered one of the coldest cities in the world, yet one of the most alive ever, all winter long! A gorgeous city filled with musicians of all genres, professional dancers, a fine world-renowned symphonic orchestra, a top-notch International Jazz musical festival and all in all, one with one of the best music scenes in the world.
Any given night, at 2 or 3 a.m., any music or jazz nightspot would be crowded to the max. Music, quite good most of the time, would be blaring out of the thick, velvet, floor-to-ceiling curtains protecting the venue from the sub-zero temperatures persevering outdoors. People would be dancing on tables, and not having a care in the world. They were simply enjoying the moment, the tunes and the vibe orchestrated by the frequencies of the music elevating them all beyond their terrestrial worries.
I learned while living there that in 2006, the University of Montreal psychologists reported that singing, per se, didn’t help 8 people with speech difficulties caused by damage to the left side of their brains. But singing in unison with a recording did help. The researchers said the results suggest that choral singing might be good therapy for some speech disorders.
My friend PJ Wasserman, a professional musician/ guitarist in the genre of psychedelic/trance and electronica, shared with me that in recent gigs, he felt such a strong connection to parts of the audience that it was like he could touch the sound waves with his hands. He mentioned that the solid vibrations came from his guitar and vocals and to a lesser degree, from his background pre-recorded music. He feels strongly that it is the hand-made music from the musician’s heart that touches the listeners and dancers.
Lex Empress, another friend who is a professional singer/composer and known as the queen of “improv” who along with her partner who is a immaculate piano player, channels the current life-vibration of whoever sits in front of her so she can then sing their “SoulSong” (her own Trademark) and give them insights into their current life situations and how they can progress on their paths. This is a divine and magical experience I have witnessed that touches the hearts of everyone present in absolute awe. Lex shared with me that she feels music can be as much medicine as any other. Music brought in the right way it can even be the most powerful medicine in the world that goes beyond cultural limitations, race, language or gender.
“Music, in its purest form takes the musician and the listener into a non-conceptual viewpoint where we enter into a direct perception of reality without the involvement of the mind. It is a subtle and expansive state and it takes a degree of sensitivity and sincerity to be struck by its beauty. It is, to me, a great gift to receive this beauty, which is a type of enchantment riding the underlying rhythms of life. For as we uncover its essence singing about the world we catch it too, rising inside of ourselves. This may be likened to the inspiration of the Muses and it is no wonder Muse and Music have the same root in their etymology. So, start to become intimate with song, dance, poetry and the sounds around you and you will find that each one has a life of its own, a character, a personality and when you begin to listen to their voice they wake up something ancient inside of you – this is the medicine, it is ingested seemingly externally, yet, its magic moves from deep inside of us.” —Jayānanda (songwriter, composer, poet, philosopher, yoga, kirtankar, yoga teacher & ytt facilitator, capoerista, wallah to name a few)
The research I came across taught me so much about ancient cultures and their use of music for healing. Interestingly, I was not surprised to find out that the Chinese character for medicine includes the character for music!
While listening to a recording of “Music as Medicine: The impact of healing harmonies” a Longwood seminar published by Harvard Medical School, as well as reading a lot of research, I was stunned at the incredible recent research and findings by the world’s leaders, professors, pediatricians, psychiatrists, doctors and music therapists at what they had to say on the subject.
They collectively made it so crystal clear with more than sufficient scientifically-sound evidence that making and/or playing, music, singing, humming as well as certain frequencies has successfully been used to treat Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, stroke patients, heart conditions, depression and brain injuries. It also helps lower blood levels of the stress hormone adrenaline and the inflammation-promoting cytokine interleukin-6 pain; aid in the recovery of premature babies, improve the immune system, release stress, lift the mood, reduce tremors, enhance language skills; improve memory, and attention and improve our health in general; just to name a few.
From a more modern perspective, the term “sound healing” has grown in popularity in the last 15 to 20 years as an alternative form of healing. It is a practice which corrects imbalances in the physical realm. Sound healing is based on the assumption that the human body is not solid; rather it is energy held by sound. Any disease or condition indicates that some inner sound has gone out of tune.
Ayurveda, a 5,000-thousand-year-old tradition health system from India believes that where ever there is pain, inflammation discomfort in the body, Prana, our vital force is NOT flowing accordingly, therefore, AMA (toxins) accumulate causing further damage to the whole system.
From my perspective, the concept of sound healing has, in modern times transformed into its own discipline as Music Therapy. My good friend and work collaborator Nigel Agger, (Dentistry, hypnotherapy / NLP, currently studying for a MSc in applied positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology at UEL, and musician shared), “Music and sound have been used in the healing arts for thousands of years, whether practiced by an individual or in a group setting. Music therapy is widely used as a psychological tool, but it requires the interaction of a therapist who uses music in the therapy session.”
Music is a very personal thing. Our music taste develops along with our personality based on our inner and outer realities. According to research, the type of music that could help heal someone may differ completely from another. Experts advise to simply choose whatever type of music resonates best with you! and even better, to learn to play an instrument and if possible to join a singing group!
Physician, writer and former Dean for Harvard’s Medical School, Mr. Oliver Windows Home once said, “Take a music bath once or twice for a few seasons and you will find that it is to the Soul what water is to the body.” Music and therefore sound are rooted in vibration and all things in nature vibrate to sound and light, therefore, sound affects everything about us.
One of the most significant studies and breakthroughs on the power of sound was conducted by Dr. Masaru Emoto, a graduate of the Yokohama Municipal University’s Department of Humanities and Sciences and author of the best-selling book “Messages from Water”, a study which took our world by a storm. Dr. Emoto proved that indeed water takes on the expression of sound, and considering that we are over 80% water (give or take) Dr. Emoto’s findings helped us understand the dynamics of sound used for healing in modern times.
I was very content to read that one of Dr. Emoto’s conclusions from his ground-breaking experiment included that the human voice can be a form of healing energy. Thoughts also emit vibrations at frequencies we can’t yet precisely determine, therefore having the power to heal. At that time, his findings serve as a reminder of the importance of surrounding ourselves with beautiful music, word, affirmations, people, vibrations, feelings, thoughts and further more, to emit the most positive of vibes we could in order to invite healing and harmony all around.
Many papers concluded that falling ill, developing a condition or inheriting one stems from an out-of-balance or out-of-tune state with our micro cosmos, the natural tendency for the body and all its intricate physiological processes to maintain harmony and equilibrium, a state called: homeostasis, which can easily be distorted causing our vibrations to go out-of-whack. The right music and sound have the potential to assist the process of returning our micro-cosmos back to a natural sound state of health.
The vibrations from the music will not only affect the body, but also the environment in which it is played in.
Ayurveda and the Vedas
I was not surprised to read that Ayurveda and the ancient knowledge from the Vedas or Rishis was deeply rooted in the concept of entertainment and in that there is a greater vibratory experience where absolutely everything in existence originates and eventually goes back to, one that is not tangible and cannot be seen.
According to the Vedas, the most sacred and ancient texts known to humankind and a series of mantras themselves, there is only one celestial/universal sound called: Raga and Gandharva, the most ancient healing music taught to the Rishis by Shiva himself. Dear Maya Tiwari aka “Mother Maya” a humanitarian, world peace leader, author and international teacher of Ayurveda says, “According to Vedic thought, every raga has existed since the time of transmission from Shiva; thus musicians who are said to have composed ragas, in actuality discovered a particular musical piece that was already known to the universe.”
Maharishi Gandharva Veda music is a system designed to be played during specific doshic (constitutions) periods or times of the day. Nature’s vibrations naturally change during cyclical parts of the day and the music is written in synchronization with those vibrations. The vibrations from the music will not only affect the body, but also the environment in which it is played, neutralizing negative vibrations in the immediate area and creating a calm, peaceful atmosphere.
I have in several occasions, walked into a Yoga studio to discover that they were playing a “Raga” for that particular time of the day, which is always a great indication that the studio follows traditional Vedic practices 🙂
Sound and Yoga
In the ancient yoga tradition exists a more esoteric branch called: Nada Yoga which in fact stems from the most ancient and traditional styles of Yoga called Raja Yoga, (meant to be practiced mainly by advanced pupils due to the advanced levels of concentration required). Nada translates from Sanskrit as: ‘sound’, more specifically: internal sounds.
The practitioner is meant to transcend the different layers of being, from the gross to the most subtle level (AKA KOSHAS). In Nada Yoga, “sound” essentially works to transform, restore and reconstruct the energies of the soul which have been distorted via channels which abound in our system called Nadis, the rivers of energy, subtler channels of the chakra system, connected to our soul’s infrastructure.
External music, such as the different forms of sound healing as well as more spiritual based ones such as kirtan, satsang, mantra repetition, ragas, all lead one to these celestial inner sounds. But it takes practice. The practitioner has to learn and raise above the yoga limb of “Pratyahara”, the withdrawal of the senses (the 5th limb among the 8 stages of Patanjali’s Astanga Yoga path and sadly the one practiced the least) in order to transcend the external sounds that often keep us from going further inward.
Then and only then will the celestial inner sounds be heard. These sounds are not produced like external sounds are, rather they are heard by pure consciousness, in silence.
My friend and former teacher of Sanskrit, Nada and Hindu philosophy for my Yoga school, Sir Ram Vakkalanka, had something valuable to say about Nada yoga. “In India, music was recognized as a form of medicine since ancient times. Music was part of the Yogic system and known as ‘Nada Yoga’. Ancient Musician-Yogis of India devised 72 parental scales which have specific psycho-somatic impact on the listeners. Ancient Sages and Seers of India considered three sciences as healing sciences – Ayurveda, Vedic Astrology and Raga Ragini Vidya (Music). Every Doctor had to have a knowledge of these three sister-sciences. Stories abound in India as to how ancient musicians cured different diseases using different music melodies. There are instances of great musicians of recent times (such as Muthuswamy Dikshitar of 17th Century) also preventing spread of epidemics by using Musical melodies.”
Here is a little introspection into a massive ocean of information and research on the subject of music being used for healing purposes. My own perspective of music has now changed forever, not to mention being more aware and conscious of all sounds around me and how they influence me at any given time. It’s most applicable for me now that I’m becoming a mother, carrying a being of light within, thinking of how I can start to enhance the quality of her life by what sounds and music I expose her to!
If you have not already, I encourage you to make a playlist which inspires you. Spice it up with some tribal drumming, classical, mantras, oldies, funk and soul!
Remember that it is the sounds that touch your heart, shift your energy, harmonize and ground you that are best! Enjoy and let yourself be taken by the frequencies and sound waves to return your being back to your nature.
– Music as Medicine: The impact of healing harmonies, Longwood Seminars, April 14, 2015
– Various excerpts from The Harvard Health Publications division of Harvard Medical School, issues from the Harvard Men’s Health Watch
– Dr. Anthony Komaroff, Harvard Medical School / Harvard health Publications
– California College of Ayurveda, “The Sound Healing” by Dena Jackson
– The Use of Sound in Healing—An Ayurvedic and Western Perspective By Parthena Rodriguez
– Lee Bartel, PhD, a music professor at the University of Toronto
– The hearing ear, www. answersingenesis.org
– upliftconnect.com (“The NeuroScience of Music”)
– Campbell River, Hearing Clinic (online)
– Uplift connect – Science channel online
– PJ Wasserman www.pjwassermann.com
– Lex Empress www.soulsongibiza.com
www.lexempress.com TED TALK: https://youtu.be/TqPAJ8GrBbs
– Jayānanda james Roland https://www.facebook.com/Jayajiii
– Ancient Echoes” online source.
– Nigel Agger www.nigelagger.com/
– Attuned Vibrations” an online source
– Thomas Keller www.facebook.com/songfishersongbooks
– Ram Vakkalanka www.aksharayoga.com
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