Music therapy: A peaceful revolution

The ability of music to repair and encourage health and harmony is as powerful as noise’s ability to destroy them. It is so powerful, in fact, that there is an entire field called music therapy.

by Sam Pasco — 

We all know that we are exposed to more excessive noise today than at any other time in history. Modern life can seem like an ongoing struggle to rise above the din. Home life fills our ears with barking dogs, air conditioning units, televisions, boom boxes and the kitchen vent-a-hood.

What some have found, and the rest of us need to know, is that noise pollution is more than just annoying — it can be dangerous. Research has shown dramatic physiological effects from exposure to excessive noise. In addition to damage to the ears, Dr. Luther Terry, former U.S. Surgeon General, identifies a host of other negative health effects related to noise. A partial list includes cardiovascular constriction, elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, labored breathing and measurable changes in skin resistance.

The ability of music to repair and encourage health and harmony is as powerful as noise’s ability to destroy them. It is so powerful, in fact, that there is an entire field called music therapy.

The full benefits of music therapy are still being studied, but we know of quite a few already. Studies in mental health, for example, have shown music therapy effective in relieving anxiety and stress, promoting relaxation and treating depression. You are encouraged to create your own music therapy sessions. Here are a few of the basics of my own brand of music therapy. Take what you like and leave the rest.

When practicing music therapy, especially for relaxation, the first thing is to find a calming environment where you will not be disturbed or interrupted. Next, light incense or a scented candle, as aromatherapy helps calm the body.

Then, choose your music. This becomes easier as you learn about your body’s responses to different kinds of music. Sit on the floor in an upright position with your legs crossed and breathe deeply, inhaling and exhaling very slowly through your nose.

As the music plays, listen intently to the instruments, as if the players were right there in the room with you. Position yourself directly in front of the speakers, so you can feel the vibrations as well as hear the music. Some people use headphones, which is fine, but I recommend you feel the sound coming into your whole body, not just into your head.

Visualize the sound waves coming from the speakers and moving through you. Focus on the specific places where you want the healing vibrations to go. Listen as you visualize the sound waves beaming through your body and replenishing your cells, tissue and organs.

As you practice music therapy, you will develop a personal method that works best for you. Once you know how your body responds to certain instruments, timbres and musical styles, you can design sessions in the sequence you find most beneficial to you. It is an easy but very effective practice.

Music therapy can be as involved or as simple as you want it to be. The main thing is to begin. In this world of noise pollution, practicing music therapy may well be the way to start your own peaceful revolution.

 

Sam Pasco is a music therapy practitioner, as well as a composer and performer. As founder and director of www.InnerHealingMusic.com, he frequently leads workshops on the vast benefits of music as therapy. 

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 2, April/May 2006.

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