This weekend, I bought a ‘sound bowl’ in a bid to reap the rewards of sound therapy at home. It was no insubstantial investment; it cost £68, which is, granted, a ludicrous sum for a metal bowl and a piece of wood with which to strike it, but hear me out.
Like many, I’ve always found sound to affect and amplify my mood. As a child, mum would have to play Brahms’ Lullaby or else I wouldn’t fall asleep. When I was a teenager, listening to Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill album perfectly complemented my angst. And, more recently, I've found that if I’m feeling a little exhausted on my commute, the Superman Theme works wonders at powering me up.
But it was at VIVAMAYR in Altaussee that I was first introduced to concept of sound as therapy. There, they insisted I try ‘Singing Bowl Therapy’, whereby metals bowls are placed all along the body and rhythmically played. The effects were profound: while I’d expected to spend the session sniggering quietly into the pillow, I instead fell into a deep meditative state, waking to feel as if I’d had a full night’s sleep.
They explained it in these rudimentary terms to me: vibrations from sound will effectively move the water within cells, promoting a stagnant circulatory system to speed up, and encourage the overwrought body to switch from alpha to beta, silencing stressful thoughts, and allowing healing to occur.
But the effects may run more deeply than that. Denise Leicester, Ila’s founder, has long been a sound therapy proponent and has responded to the thirst for healing sounds with Soul Medicine, an online hub of sound therapy tracks that'll be live from May and can be downloaded and listened to at home or on the go.
Her aim? To create tracks that act as a tonic to a host of modern ailments from exhaustion to anxiety to straight up stress. Once she'd created the sounds, she asked hematologist Dr. Cori Carter and specialist in neuropsycho-physiology Dr Lesley Parkinson to test the benefits of listening to the music. They found the physical benefits to be varied and considerable, among which are an increased immune response, with improved blood circulation and oxygenation, as well as a 33% reduction of stress patterns in the liver and Gall bladder, and a 3% strengthening of spinal nerves.
While the science seems, ahem, sound, it’s likely that the reason for sound therapy emerging as one of the most popular wellness trends of 2018 is as much to do with the relaxation it promotes as anything else. Jasmine Hemsley and Toni Dicks, Founders of Sound Sebastien, believe they've seen a surge in demand because ‘the bowls are an effective way to treat anxiety and similar disorders, and to achieve a meditative mental state by changing brain waves to those that allow deep relaxation.’ In so doing, the shift from an alpha, testosterone-producing state can occur - hence its popularity with busy, computer-bound Londoners.
This busy computer-bound Londoner is hoping that instating my extortionate bowl at home will send me into a more zen like state whenever I’m stressed - or, at the very least, keep my neighbours entertained.
Three Places To Get Your Sound Therapy Fix
1. Sound Sebastien. Sound Sebastien can be found at Re:Mind Studio, Ecclestone Place for a six-week residency from 2ndApril.
2. Crystal Sound Lounge. Based in Paddington, Crystal Sound Lounge hold regular sessions throughout the week at£16 for one session, 3 sound baths for £39.
3. Soul Medicine. Download Denise Leicester tracks to induce calm, balance or a sense of security from the beginning of May.