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They say music can soothe the soul, but thanks to science, sound therapy can also heal the body.


I am lying on a mat on the floor of a yurt at a health spa in Florida, and a man with waist-long dreadlocks is playing an Australian didgeridoo inches above my stomach.

“I’m going to open up your chakras, clear them out and balance them so your chi can flow,” says Joda Cook, a sound-vibrational therapist and didgeridoo master at Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Fla. “It will get rid of a lot of stress and tension.”

This is music to my ears, stiff neck and shoulders. As he continues to play, the deep “you, you, you” sound vibrations of the ancient wind instrument rumble through my body, and it’s not long before I begin to relax in an auditory massage.

For thousands of years, sound has been used to promote health and emotional well-being. The aborigines began using the didgeridoo as a healing tool more than 40,000 years ago, and other ancient cultures beat gongs, chanted and tapped Tibetan bowls. Even the Greek mathematician Pythagoras, who is known as the Father of Numbers, is said to have used music to heal the body and elevate the soul.

“Music is important in all cultures,” says Maria Krajnak, assistant director of the Therapy Center at Hippocrates. “It’s been a healing force for a long time.”

That said, today’s use of sound in medicine and healing goes beyond the melody, employing vibrations from objects that resonate like my didgeridoo experience. Vibrational therapists also use tuning forks, Tibetan singing bowls, crystal bowls and now special sound chairs and pillows that convert music into tactile sensations — not only to induce relaxation but to treat pain, anxiety and other ailments.

Sound therapy operates on the principle that our bodies contain energy frequencies that can be positively or negatively altered by external vibrations. “Every bone, tissue, cell and organ has an optimal frequency,” says Jonathan Goldman, a pioneer in the field of harmonics and director of the Sound Healers Association in Boulder, Colo. “When we say we are in a state of health, we say we are in sound health. We’re like an orchestra.”

But if a part of the body begins vibrating outside its normal frequency and slips out of tune, emotional disharmony and disease can result. Sound healers believe the deep vibrations created by the didgeridoo and other instruments, as well as by self-created sounds (such as humming and making elongated vowel sounds), can help bring the body back into balance by increasing oxygen and blood flow to the cells, which has a healing effect on living tissue. They also claim it lowers blood pressure, helps people sleep, reduces levels of stress-related hormones and releases endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.