Sound has been used as a tool to promote healing and meditation for millennia. Tibetan singing bowls have existed for more than 5000 years. When these bowls are scraped, shaken or struck, they produce sound through vibration. Singing bowls come in a broad array of sizes ranging from a few centimeters to more than a meter in diameter. The smaller ones produce more delicate sounds, while the larger bowls produce deeper, full-bodied sounds.
Tibetan bowls contain several different metals; therefore, they vibrate at different rates, producing various tones from a single bowl. The knowledge of their metalwork was passed on from one generation of monks to the next. This information was kept secret—so much so that the monks’ sacred text, called the Tibetan Buddhist Canon, did not contain any mention of the bowls. When the Chinese invaded Tibet in the middle of the 19thcentury, monks fled the monasteries with their most valued possessions, including the Tibetan singing bowls. Today, the bowls are available in the Western world so their physical and emotional healing benefits can be shared with us all.
The sounds the singing bowls produce create a kind of energy medicine that is said to fix the broken frequencies of the body, mind and soul. The holistic qualities of gongs and singing bowls induce a natural meditative state in the mind, supporting an emptying process for the sub-conscious mind. The Tibetan singing bowls have been found to have a calming effect on our brain waves. The sounding of the bowls increases the Alpha brainwaves that are dominant during quietly flowing thoughts, and in some meditative states. Alpha is “the power of now,” when we are here, in the present.
In two studies by the National Institute of Health, the benefits of Tibetan singing bowls—primarily in relieving stress, anxiety, and pain—were found to last up to three days. The effects have been attributed to the vibrations produced when the bowl is struck with a mallet. When these vibrations pass through our tissues and cells, the resulting physical vibrational phenomenon positively influences wound and bone healing.
“The bowls are really spiritual objects,” says Marie Menut, a practitioner who has been working with Tibetan singing bowls for more than 25 years. “They help you heal spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically from trauma. When you heal a broken bone using the Tibetan singing bowls, the bowls help the bones to vibrate so they attract each other, kind of like electricity, helping the bones heal faster. It also takes away pain, swelling, inflammation and infection.”
Other studies show that in sound therapy, healing effects can be achieved by finding the ideal resonance between the vibrations of the singing bowls and those of the client. The resonance of the bowls’ vibration with the body of the client prescribes the optimal type of sound treatment need to treat pain, anxiety and stress. “The vibration increases our vibration,” Menut explains. “We vibrate, everything on earth vibrates.” Sound therapists typically abstain from melodic structures that could recall previous experiences, however, since this could bring up sad memories and cause a detrimental reaction.
When a practitioner works with a client, the bowls may be placed on and around the client. They are sounded in a certain order that strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, creating a soothing experience. The sounding of the bowls may release a blocked emotion, which can be quite cathartic and may even lessen pain. Often a practitioner will integrate hands-on energy work, which further heightens the experience. A healing session with the bowls can be a therapeutic experience or just a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.