This week systemic coach Zita Tulyahikayo and barrister James Pereira QC explain the benefits of sound therapy.
There was a time when The Gong Bath was the preserve of the New Age Hippy Californian Tech Billionaire Guy, quickly followed by movie stars and celebrities. But now finally we mortals of earth have inherited access to the healing wonders of The Gong. Now there are “Sounders” taking their vibrational healing into senior corporate offices from China to Stockholm to Brussels and now London. The vibrational sound of the Gong lowers heart rate, alleviates stress and anxiety, and brings relief to the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder by gently recalibrating our brainwave activity from Beta to Delta to Alpha to Theta, and back again.
As wellbeing rises to the top of the agenda for anyone who intends to have a long, happy, successful life, the door has swung open to a wider range of practises we can use to resource ourselves, maintain balance, strengthen emotional stability and support mental health as we seek to stay on top of our game.
The relationship between brain waves and sound waves
To best support our wellbeing it is important to understand how our brains function. It is a healthy mind that secures the foundation of a healthy body. It was Dr Helen Lavretsky, a psychiatry professor for the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behaviour at the Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA who introduced the use of Sound Therapy for adults with neurological problems.
Our brains display five different types of electrical patterns or ‘brain waves’ across the cortex: Beta, Alpha, Delta, Theta and Gamma. All of these can be seen clearly on an Electroencephalograph (EEG). The EEG is able to detect each brain wave using a sensor on the scalp. The easiest way to understand brain waves is as a continuous spectrum of consciousness; from slow, loud and functional, to fast subtle and complex.
Think of brainwaves as musical notes and depending on what we are thinking, feeling or doing the notes played by the brain changes accordingly. When slower brainwaves are dominant we can feel tired, slow, sluggish, or dreamy. The higher frequencies are dominant when we feel wired, or hyper-alert. Each brain wave has a function and purpose to support our optimal mental functioning.
It is the ability of our brain to be flexible and move through various brain wave functions that plays a significant role in how successful we are in managing stress, focusing on tasks, thinking outside the box and getting a good nights sleep.
Beta brainwaves dominate our normal waking state of consciousness when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta is ‘fast’ activity, present when we are alert, attentive, engaged in problem solving, judgment, decision making, or focused mental activity.
Alpha brainwaves are dominant during quietly flowing thoughts, and in some meditative states. Alpha is ‘the power of now’, being here, in the present. Alpha is the resting state for the brain. Alpha waves aid overall mental coordination, calmness, alertness, mind/body integration and learning.
Delta waves are generated in deep meditation and dreamless sleep. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state, hence why a good nights sleep is akin to rebooting a computer, it neatly restores all the operating systems to premium functionality.
Theta brainwaves occur most often in sleep but are also dominant in deep meditation. Theta is our gateway to learning, memory, and intuition. In Theta we are in a dream; vivid imagery, intuition and information beyond our normal conscious awareness. It’s where we hold our ‘stuff’, our fears, troubled history, and nightmares.
Gamma waves are important for higher processing tasks and cognitive function. Learning, memory and information processing involves gamma brain waves.
We all vibrate in accordance with our brain wave activity, and if it is out of balance then so too are we. Sounders use the Gong Bath as a way to restore the equilibrium of our brain wave activity, which in turn reduces stress and creates a deep sense of peace and wellbeing. The Gong Bath is one of the most soothing, relaxing, holistic tools to rejuvenate mind and body. As the equilibrium of your brain wave activity is restored, negative thought patterns are also neutralised and this adds to the growing popularity of the Gong Bath as a simple, effective way to easily restore balance within, enhance one’s sense of wellness and wellbeing. This in turn serves to keep us motivated and inspired to be our best self at all times, even while we sleep
What happens in a Gong Bath?
In the typical Gong Bath setting you will lie down on a comfortable matt with a pillow and a blanket for additional support, warmth and comfort, and then you just relax and listen as the sounds of the Gong wash over you.
After about 20 minutes the endless chatter of the mind stops and your body is able to fully relax as the brain exercises its brain wave flexibility to shift through different states of consciousness. Your body will do what it needs to, for some it may be falling asleep, for others the universal mind takes over and seeks to resolve problems or issues that are too complex for your conscious mind to comprehend.
The sessions usually last about an hour, although people often experience a distortion in time lapse much like being asleep. We can rarely accurately gauge how long we have actually slept for without looking at a clock. Once the bath is over it is generally advised that you drink a good amount of water to support the healing process set in motion by recalibrating brain wave activity.
How can sound support my wellbeing?
Our brain wave profile and how we experience the world are inextricably linked. When our brain waves are out of balance we will experience corresponding problems in our emotional and neuro-physical health. Current research has identified brain wave patterns associated with anxiety disorders, sleep problems, hyper-vigilance, anger, aggression, ADHD, depression, OCD, bi-polar, and panic attacks to name but a few. As a rule of thumb, any process that changes your perception changes your brainwaves. The varied tones of the Gong meet those of your brainwaves and change them and so change your perception. Regular sound therapy can support the release of toxic thought patterns and emotions. The brain’s neuroplasticity means that it is capable of tremendous growth and change no matter how young or old we are.
Time for a Gong bath?
If you are experiencing difficulties in your life then the Gong Bath is a simple way to start supporting yourself. Or if you are just looking for a simple way to de-stress and bring your brain to peak performance, then a Gong Bath might be just what you need. If you would like to experience the Gong Bath for yourself, the Crystal Sound Lounge offers regular sessions in Central London. Feeling shy? Some practitioners hold private sessions.
The authors welcome feedback from anyone concerned with the issues raised in their writing, and are also interested in hearing from anyone with suggestions for future articles. You can reach them at @LifeTherapyZita and @JamesPereiraQC.