Healing with Music

The entire universe is vibration; those vibrations that we `hear' are sounds. "Every sound has a physical effect upon your body. Sound is very important. It's the physical part of the spiritual". During any day there are many sounds, but all sounds, of course, are not music.

Music is the mind's direct connection to the vibrations of the Source, since the whole universe is made up of vibrations. This is why music has the power to heal. “The way music heals is that it brings the body and its cells into coherence. Music sets up a resonance between the parts of the body and the whole universe”.
In India, schools such as 'Yoga' and 'Tantra' equate Nada Brahman, the primordial sound, with the Absolute. The origins of Indian music can be traced back to the chanting of the Sama Veda nearly 4,000 years ago. The primacy of the voice, and the association of musical sound with prayer, were thus established early in the history of Indian music. Perhaps the most important aspect of sound in the Indian context is the word 'Aum'—considered the manifested sound of the Divine, and said to hold a powerful influence over the human mind. It is believed that vibrations created by the circular structure of the syllables define the entire cosmos.

Music has effects on our body chemistry. The proteins in our bodies are the information substances. Within the proteins are peptides; they are the messenger molecules, or “molecules of emotion.” Cells are biochemical factories that produce behavioral chemicals. Those chemicals can produce peaceful, restful, calm behavior or angry, destructive behavior. For instance, after a summer Rave concert using heavy metal music, police had to be called when most of the audience began destroying stores in the local Sunnyvale, CA shopping mall. (San Jose Mercury News, 2000).

Music affects not only the psychological state, but also the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the immune system. It's known that negative states such as grief or anger can suppress the immune system. Music changes the peptides that change emotions and thus the immune system. The Institute of HeartMath, USA did experiments on these effects of music on immunity. As per the studies undertaken by HeartMath Institute, if grunge rock music is played, cortisol and adrenalin are produced. These are stress hormones for the immune system. Conversely, if a person listens to designer music for one month, DHEA will go up 100%. DHEA is a hormone necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system.

Music therapy has helped in treating many people with problems like dementia, dyslexia and trauma. Many children with learning disability and poor coordination have been

able to learn respond to set pieces of music. It has been observed that with music therapy there is also a marked improvement in the child's social and interpersonal skills.
That the human mind is affected by music is no longer a vague notion. "Music is produced from sound, and sound affects our sense perception in many ways. Even fish in an aquarium were once made to listen to different kinds of music and it was found that their movements corresponded with the beat of the music. Mind you, fish do not hear, they only felt the vibrations of the sound through water. So you can imagine what a profound effect sound and music might have on the human mind."

"Heart ailments, high or low blood pressure and respiratory problems are disorders brought about by physical disharmony. Music restores harmony and thus health."
"More than anything else, it is the amount of concentration the music can elicit from you that matters. A concert of a classical raga has a structure, it takes you to a point and brings you back. Pop tunes last not more than three minutes, how much can you relax in that time, it would probably be fleeting from one state of consciousness to another.
In India, music has long been believed to cure diseases. The pitch, tone and the specific arrangement of swaras (notes) in a raga stimulate, alleviate and cure various ailments, inducing electromagnetic changes in the body. As per practising doctors, "The endorphins released while listening to music affect a person's mood. Since mental state, hormonal activities and immunity are related to each other, music can help cure problems. Psychosomatic disorders can be treated very effectively with music."

Music therapists assess the emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills of a person through musical responses. Once the illness/problem has been diagnosed, the therapist selects the appropriate ragas. The patient's musical taste is also taken into account to some extent. The patient need not have any knowledge of music to benefit from this therapy. Indian classical music is preferred for therapy since it is more melody-based than Western classical music. Indian classical is also capable of creating specific moods. One can use ragas depending on the time or season to balance moods. It is important to induce an appropriate mood in the listener before initiating the musical treatment. For example, Raga Kaafi evokes a humid, cool, soothing and deep mood, while Raga Pooriya Dhanasri evokes a sweet, deep, heavy, cloudy and stable state of mind.

Women in labour reportedly benefit from music therapy. Children, especially infants, respond exceptionally well to music therapy since they are not conditioned. Since it is non-verbal, music therapy is particularly useful with autistic children.

The therapy is provided either early in the morning or evening/ night. The one-hour session is split into two or three short sessions with breaks. One should avoid long music sessions on an empty stomach. This therapy mostly complements the main treatment and is rarely offered as stand-alone. The benefits of music therapy have been researched and the results published in the Journal of Music Therapy, Music Therapy Perspectives promoted by The American Music Therapy Association and other organisations.

However, music therapy is no recent invention; it is said that even ancient philosophers such as Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle were aware of the prophylactic and therapeutic powers of music.

- Ashish Sable BE
Awarded SURMANI by
Sursingar Samsad, Mumbai
for Hindustani Classical Music (Vocal)