The simplest way to restore inner peace and vital energy may be as easy as uttering a vowel sound.
Medical doctors and scientific studies are documenting the profound benefits of “vocal toning” as a therapeutic activity that may contribute to reducing stress while at the same time restoring a sense of well-being.
Oncologist Dr. Mitchell Gaynor has written a book recording his achievements with the healing power of sound in working with critically ill patients. A national health newsletter reports how our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system responds to stress and is balanced by vocal toning. Biologists from the University of Missouri have even measured chemical changes in plants in response to specific sound vibrations.
The central nervous system automatically seeks to maintain balance and homeostasis. This automatic process is accomplished through the interaction of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Dr. David Williams superbly explained this complicated and involuntary process in his recent newsletter. The sympathetic nervous systemcontrols the “fight or flight” reaction to stress by increasing the production of stress hormones, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate. When the source of the stress subsides, the parasympathetic system then has the opposite effect and controls the “rest and digest” reaction to enable the body to recover and restore.
It is not necessary to be a rocket scientist to realize that most people are overly consumed by multiple forms of stress which causes the sympathetic nervous system to be in constant overdrive. Unfortunately, the parasympathetic nervous system typically does not have sufficient opportunity to restore balance.
According to Williams, the problem is that the body can only rejuvenate and heal when the parasympathetic nervous system is able to restore balance and turn off the “fight or flight” mechanisms.
Different meditation techniques have existed for thousands of years and enable the body to restore balance by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. But it is not necessary to be a Tibetan monk or to remember a complicated chant in order to experience a deep state of relaxation and vitality. The human voice can be a powerful healing tool. Vocal toning combines sound, vibration, and breathing to calm and balance the nervous system. Slowly repeating a vowel sound automatically causes the diaphragm to expand, the heart rate to decline, and all cells to resonate with varying vibrations.
A crystal or “singing” bowl can also be used to produce more vibrations and supplement the resonance of the human voice. At its most basic level, life is vibration. When cells cease to be alive, they stop vibrating.
When trying to meditate, the human mind has a tendency to act like a playful monkey constantly jumping from one thought to another rather than settling down. Vocal toning keeps part the mind active while it allows theparasympathetic nervous system to settle into a relaxed state. Vocal toning can resolve tension, release emotion and create personal clarity.
While there are no mistakes in vocal toning, it can at first seem strange to sit in a circle making sounds that are not words and have no musical tune. However, the good news is that the potential benefits of vocal toning may be easily experienced firsthand, without the necessity of conducting a double-blind scientific test.
For those who are able to sit, breath and make a vowel sound, the stress of the week can be easily transformed into a sense of peaceful energy. See the Natural Awakenings calendar section to find a local group.
To find a local group, see the Natural Awakenings calendar section.
Eric Friedman is an attorney with a local government consumer protection agency and a member of a small vocal toning group led by Neal Peacock and held twice a month at Unity of Gaithersburg.