Four Principles of Sound Healing

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If you have had joined us on any of our sound healing retreats or events, you are familiar with the sound healing environment. But you may not understand how sound actually accomplishes what it does. While this topic is a deep study, this post is designed to help you understand a little bit better.

Sound healing, which is sometimes referred to as sound meditation or a “sound bath”, is based in ancient practices and traditions, as well as modern scientific principles. Whether you attend a weekend sound healing retreat or a quick 90-minute session after work, the principles behind what you are doing remain the same. They are concepts that sound healing practitioners have been studying and working with for millenia.

1. Harmonics

Sounds are actual vibrations that travel through the air at certain frequencies. Human ears can pick up some of those frequencies, which are subsequently interpreted as sounds by our brains. Harmonics is the principle of similar sounds vibrating at different frequencies to create what our brains recognize as harmonies.

All musical instruments naturally create harmonies. For instance, the G major chord utilizes all six strings on the guitar. At the top and bottom are notes that both register as E notes on the scale. But the note being played on the bottom string is twice the frequency of the note being played on the top string. This creates harmony. All the notes on the other strings add to the harmonics.

You may have heard of “thirds” and “fifths” in music; these notes are harmonic with each other. A third means that it is two notes up from the base note, and a fifth is four notes up (a fifth is considered to be perfect harmony). For example, with a base note of C (which is considered “Om”), the third would be E and the fifth is G. This is a good concept to incorporate when playing a set of crystal bowls, for example.

2. Cymatics

The second principle of sound healing is the cymatic principle. Cymatics more or less describes the effect sound waves have on matter. Again, sound is a vibration that moves through the air at a certain frequency. This concept has been famously demonstrated using liquid in a shallow container or sand on a flat metal plate to create geometric designs. It’s fascinating to watch each of the frequencies consistently make the same shapes, time and time again—showing that the sound waves always move the same way at each frequency.

In sound healing, we can use a variety of sounds to stimulate how participants feel physically. Sound waves have an actual impact on their bodies. Some of that impact is felt, some of it is not. But it’s always there.

3. Entrainment

The entrainment principle has to do with how sound waves affect one another. If they can affect physical matter, then they can also affect other sound waves, right? Absolutely. Sound healing practitioners take advantage of the natural phenomenon of two sounds at different frequencies coming into contact with one another and eventually vibrating in resonance.

Science doesn’t fully understand this principle or how it works. Nonetheless, we know the phenomenon exists. We also know that when two sound waves are vibrating in resonance, they have a different impact on physical matter. 

4. Binaural Beats

Binaural beats is the most difficult principle to explain. As simply as we can put it, binaural beats create an illusion in the brain. If you were to hear two sounds, at slightly different frequencies, playing in each of your ears simultaneously, your brain would attempt to make up the difference.

Hearing one sound at 430hz in your left ear and another at 440hz in your right ear creates a 10hz disparity. Your brain would attempt to make up that disparity by syncing up between the two, at 10hz. The interesting thing is that brain waves measuring between 9 and 14hz are known to help people relax.

These four basic principles are a good foundation of sound healing. If you have ever attended a sound healing retreat, the practitioner was helping you based on their knowledge of these principles.

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