The first time I saw the singing bowl
with a mallet placed inside it,
on display for sale in a tibetan
artifacts shop in Rishikesh,
it struck to me as if it is some magical
charm generating instrument.
A long time after that, I saw one shop owner demonstrating its intended use,
as a sound producing tool to a foreigner.
My inquisitiveness went on full blast on google!
That was the first time I came face to face with something known as sound therapy for healing the mind and the body of the related aberrations. Being a yoga teacher myself, I had to delve deeper into the concept as I also use the sound vibrations from chanting OM as a means to steady the mind in my Yoga classes.
Moreover, use of sound, as an aid to concentration of mind, is recommended by Patanjali in the initial stages of meditation.
History of the Singing Bowl
The singing bowl, has its origin in the standing , or inverted metallic bells which were used as sound producing instruments, when struck with a mallet, in the ancient Chinese history, Shang dynasty ( 16th to 11th BC).
Singing bowls are different from the struck bowls or bells in the sense that they are able to produce sound frequencies which can be sustained for longer duration in case the edge of a wooden mallet is continuously rotated around its outer rim. Buddhist tradition is famous for utilising the sound waves so produced from the bowl for the purposes of relaxation, meditation, making music and for chanting.
Thus, it is also known as the Buddha bowl. Music along with other natural elements can help relax too.
They were originally made from high grade bronze alloyed with traces of gold, silver, and iron. In modern times the singing bowls are being made from an alloy of copper and tin popular as the Bell metal. Today the best quality of these bowls comes from the region in and around Nepal in the Himalayas, they are also known as the Himalayan singing bowls.
Science Behind This Therapy
Sound, seen as vibrations is the source of the beginning of the universe. As per Samkhya philosophy the entire universe is made up of only two entities; pure consciousness and the bio force energy or the Prana.
Sound is nothing but the energy, prana vibrating at a certain frequency which falls under the audible range of the human ear. The practice of Mantra yoga is based on the same principle. All the basic elements which combine in different proportions to make up the various components of the material part of the universe are nothing but the condensed form of the same energy.
As per the quantum physics, at the core of the atom, the fundamental unit of any element is nothing but the electrons & protons ( electrically- energy- charges particles) vibrating at a certain frequency – resonance- for a particular elements.
The physical body , or the Annamaya Kosha, is also made up of the same elements and accordingly each cell which can be ultimately segmented into atoms is vibrating at its own frequency; a human body as a whole is a collection of millions of cells vibrating with their individual frequencies, which differentiate their functions in the body, in a perfect synchronisation with each other.
This synchronisation of the vibrating frequencies of the solidified energy ( flesh and bones) is what makes keeping different components of the body together in the form of a complete individual possible. We are unable to hear this resonance of the vibrating energy within us as their frequency falls out of the audible range of the human ear.
The harmony in this synchronisation is called healthy, and the disharmony in the same is known as the disease. The singing bowl uses the same principle for healing the human mind and the body. The exposure of the body to the frequency of the sound waves generated by moving the mallet around the rim of the singing bowl harmonises any disharmony in the orchestra of the vibrations of energy of individual cells of which the body is made of.
Singing Bowl Benefits
The harmonised energy within the body exhibits itself as the improved overall health of the individual. It rejuvenates the cells from within invigorating their internal functions. In some cases it will reinstate the lost homeostasis within the body. In certain cases it can positively impact the movement of the electrical impulse through the nerves which can increase the potency of the entire immune system.
The chakras, or the nerve complexes present at various points inside the human body are nothing but the congregations of nerve channels resonating with their own frequencies through which the circulation of energy in the form of nerve impulses is directed and redirected to different sections of the body systems.
Any blockage in the circulation of energy through these nodes, intersection points of the nerve channels can negatively impact the health of the body system to which the flow gets restricted. Sound therapy as given by the singing bowl can open these blockages, by harmonising the resonance therein, which helps with maintaining the healthy flow of impulses throughout the body. Thus the sound vibrations can heal the body of diseases.
The tones of sound waves from the singing bowl interact with the brain waves and prepare the mind, brain and mind are two entities, for meditation by calming it down, one of the many benefits of meditating. This is made possible when the frequency of sound emanating from the bowl enhances the Theta brain wave activity, Theta brain waves are responsible for the healthy functioning of the mind.
This also sharpens the intuitive, and creative abilities of the individual. Even a momentary exposure to the sound vibration from the bowl can sharpen the sense of hearing in certain people.
The harmonization of the energy present within the body relaxes the nervous system which acts as a potent stress relief mechanism. Dental issues like bruxism which is caused by stress can be healed effectively with this technique.
As per Buddhist tradition the sound generated fro the singing bowl is similar to the “sound of the void”, or the sound which created the universe from nothing or complete emptiness which was present prior to it. This sound or prana energy is believed to pervade the entire universe, all movements within the material creation can only be possible because of the presence of this energy.
We at the yoga sessions of Shahzadpur farm yoga classes use the Himalayan singing bowl as aid to meditation. We end all our yoga classes with a 10 minute singing bowl meditation session wherein the students feel and concentrate on the resonance being generated from the bowl while sitting in any cross legged position like the Padmasana or Sukhasana.
We also use this bowl while performing the relaxation technique of Nishpanda bhava where in we use it in the strike mode like a bell. The students after settling into the required relaxed body posture follow the fading sound starting from the loud bling is generated from the strike of the mallet on the inside of the singing bowl.
Singing bowls can also be used in different ways for enhancing the relaxation response in Savasana or the corpse pose.