With busy schedules and hectic lives, it’s easy to feel overcome with stress. When you’re stressed, your brain sounds the “fight or flight” alarms, triggering a surge of hormones, an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar. It alters the immune, digestive and reproductive system and according to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress can cause tension headaches, migraines, increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack and stroke, lead to stomach ulcers and more. The Mayo Clinic says it can also lead to anxiety, depression, sleep problems, weight gain and impair memory and concentration.
Many of us have go-to stress reducers like exercise, spending time outdoors, socializing, massage and maybe meditation. Another option, although not new, is the ancient practice of sound therapy.
For years, people have used soothing sounds to assist in meditation, relaxation or even sleep. Sound therapy, a healing practice used in many ancient cultures, takes these healing sounds a step further, using vibrations to possibly heal physical aches and pains, reduce stress or other mental and emotional issues. It also is believed to relieve blockage of the chakras, or the energy points in the body.
“So many of us need to slow down and relax,” said Maria Dummermuth, a fitness instructor and certified Tibetan singing bowl healer who has been using singing bowls for healing for the past two years.
Dummermuth, 42, earned her certification in singing bowl therapy from the Atmabuti School of Vibrational Healing in Boulder, Colo., in April of 2016 after teaching fitness classes — from yoga to BodyPump and everywhere in between — for years.
When we are in pain or are ill, she said it may be because our cells have “vibrated out of balance.”
“Sound and vibration brings you into a more centered space,” she said, explaining that the therapy can release pain and tension by vibrating those cells “back into balance.”
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In Dummermuth’s home therapy room, clients lay face down on a massage table while she uses seven Tibetan singing bowls — one for each chakra — and chimes to send healing vibration through their body.
Each bowl, made from seven metals, produces a different pitch and vibration. The bowls are placed on or near the person’s body or sometimes waved above them while she strikes or rubs the sides of the bowls with a mallet. Bowls are played in a particular order to produce specific tones throughout the session. Other tools often used in sound therapy are tuning forks and gongs.
The sounds and vibrations are thought to have a relaxing and hypnotic effect on the brain and body, relieving physical and mental stress.
“You really feel it radiate through your body, you can literally feel the vibration,” she said. “It’s really therapeutic.”
“I just sink into the table and let that sound and vibration surround my whole being,” said Kathy Broghammer, 65, a client of Dummermuth’s and a Lisbon-based sound healer herself. “It feels like I’m just melting. I feel relaxed and like I’m just emptying my mind and letting everything go. The bowls just invite me into deeper relaxation. You really have to experience it to understand it.”
Dummermuth also uses energy work, or Reiki, to transfer healing energy during a session. Private sessions take place in her home and are typically one hour. They cost $65. Dummermuth also offers group sessions for $25 per hour.
After the treatment, some people feel relaxed. Others might feel energized, like Amanda Mikesell, another client and yoga instructor from Cedar Rapids who, despite falling asleep during her session, said she felt more awake afterward.
“It feels amazing,” Mikesell said. “It will keep me going all day.”
Some people experience relief from pain, improved sleep or an overall sense of well-being and health after a treatment.
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“If you’re in a greater sense of relaxation, that facilitates natural healing in the body,” Broghammer said. “Walking around stressed and crazy in this chaotic world, we need something to bring us down to the ground. ... I just think when the body is allowed to relax, we just function better.”
Dummermuth is not a doctor and doesn’t claim to be, but said she is “just here to help people.”
“It’s changed my life — helped bring balance to my life,” Broghammer said.
Doing sound therapy not only help clients, but Dummermuth said performing the therapy also helps her.
“The bowls really help to ground me, center me and keep things in my life calm,” she said. “It’s a beautiful gift both ways.”