Sound therapy is the wellness trend everyone is talking about (and listening to)

Illustration by Natalie Rice

When you hear a siren, you probably tense up and become more alert—even if you don’t realize it. When you listen to tranquil music, your heartbeat slows and your body feels more relaxed.

That’s the effect sound has on us. It has the ability to create a physiological reaction. In scientific parlance, sound is a vibration or frequency. Our body’s cells have electric potential to resonate at specific frequencies and can be manipulated or changed by another frequency, which allows changes to happen on a physiological level, says Katie Brock, licensed massage therapist and owner of Haven Wellness and Spa in Overland Park. Brock is certified in vibrational sound healing.

“As far as feelings go, shame and guilt are at the lowest frequency,” Brock says. “Experiences like gratitude, joy, love—the more you practice these things, the higher you’re raising your vibration.”

Brock explains the various ways that sound can be meditative and manipulate the way we feel.

Sound Baths

Sound baths are group meditations where everyone gathers in a closed room and lies down in a comfortable position with their eyes closed. The sound bath leader plays various instruments like gongs, drums or, most commonly, singing bowls (often crystal bowls).

Different sized bowls give off various frequencies, she says, with each frequency pinpointing one of the seven chakras—or energy centers—of the body.

“The point is to fill the room with sound,” Brock says. “The frequencies and vibrations in the room are almost palpable. That’s why it’s a sound bath—because you’re literally bathing in the frequency.”

Sound baths are a form of meditation, so one might feel relaxed, have intuitive visions, receive insight on something that’s been troubling them or even visit repressed memories or situations.

Brock says sound baths are often intuitively guided by the host—they tend to feel the energy in the room to determine what frequency instruments to use.“There are usually no lulls,” she says. “Sound is constantly going—so much and loud enough that you can feel the vibration in the air.”

Tuning Forks

In sound healing or energy balancing sessions at her studio, Brock begins by speaking with a client and sensing what the issue might be (Migraine? Stress? Low libido?). From there, she says she determines what frequencies will balance the energy in the client’s body.

“I want them to understand that it will feel different than a massage because a lot of the work is hands-off,” Brock says. “I start them face down and I basically assess the seven chakras. I see if I can sense any blockages or if it’s underactive or overactive. I can sense if there’s an imbalance there of some sort.”

During a therapy session, she’ll use tuning forks based on their frequencies and hold them by clients’ ears to hear the sound or press them against their body to feel the vibrations.

“Specific frequencies can be used to encourage a specific outcome, like releasing energy blocks, improving sleep, mood or relaxation and relieving ailments,” she says.

Binaural Beats

When you search “binaural beats” on YouTube or Spotify, a number of videos and playlists will pop up with sounds best described as white noise. In actuality, these sounds are considered a healing tool.

When you hear a different tone in each ear that is slightly different in frequency, your brain creates a third beat at the difference of the frequencies, syncing the left and right brain hemispheres. This is the binaural beat.

Binaural beats are said to relieve anxiety and improve focus and are best listened to with headphones, as listeners receive one tone in the right ear and another in the left.

“I personally use sound when I’m going to sleep,” Brock says. “I know a lot of people need background noise to go to bed. You might as well listen to something that’s healing you while you sleep.”

Go: Haven Wellness + Spa 7211 W. 95th St., Overland Park

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