By Erika Taylor
Sound healing is one of the oldest forms of wellness practice we know. Ancient healing rituals often involved chanting and drumming.
Modern versions of these rituals include the gong bath or singing bowl session at your local yoga studio, drum circles, and singing alongside a congregation in church.
A basic explanation for how sound affects our health offered by the National Center for Biotechnology Information is that our ears turn compression of air molecules (vibration) into electrical signals which are transmitted to the auditory nerve.
As we discussed last month, our nervous system transmits information both electrically and chemically. One nerve connected to the ears is the vagus nerve that wanders throughout the body; this can profoundly affect numerous systems.
When you feel annoyed because a jackhammer has been tearing up your street all day, this is the process you are experiencing. I have made much progress since my long- COVID infection and in the first months after, but I still struggle with the anxiety and depression it produces. So when my friend and local therapist, Betsy Clark, who you met last month, described an auditory therapy she works with, I was intrigued.
“The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a noninvasive listening application of the Polyvagal Theory shown to regulate the autonomic nervous system to help you regulate your emotions, build resilience, think more clearly, and connect more easily,” Clark said. “It can be used in our therapy or as a stand alone treatment for some clients. The SSP is vocal music that has been filtered to send signals of soothing and safety that trains the ear (and therefore the vagus nerve) to be able to pick up more cues of safety. The SSP ‘retunes’ the nervous system to a sense of safety, making it easier for our nervous system to return to calm.”
Clark counseled me to start with 15 minutes at a time and tune into any sensations or anything I noticed. She said it would be “like a workout for your vagus nerve.” I had several breathing exercises from physical therapy, including box breathing, in my back pocket. And I used them! I didn’t feel anything unpleasant, but a slight buzzing in my chest made it difficult to lie still after a few minutes. I did my breathing and some gentle stretching and the rest of the 15 minutes flew by. I couldn’t wait to do it again the next day!
As the sessions went on I was able to sink into them without wondering how many emails I was missing. I thought, even if all I am doing is practicing focusing for 15 minutes at a time, then so be it.
Then, a true test. I had overexerted a couple days in a row and the weather shifted dramatically: the perfect storm for post-viral infection symptoms. But because I had been practicing regulating my nervous system, when the threat of symptoms had subsided, I was able to quickly feel safe again.
It is important to note that, as Clark said, “what regulates each of us is different, and once we find it, we have to practice this over and over to regulate our nervous system.” I couldn’t agree more. In wellness, there is no miracle cure. We each get to do the work (and play!) required to discover what we need and what we are willing to sustain to keep ourselves well.
Nothing happens in our bodies without our nervous system knowing about it. If you think you or someone you love could benefit from this kind of therapy, please let me know or reach out directly to Betsy Clark of Shine Integrated Therapy right here in North Denver.
Even if your nervous system is functioning perfectly, keep it that way with my favorite form of therapy, a dance party! Queen’s “Don’t Stop me Now” is my current go to, but find your favorite on the list of “10 Happiest Songs Ever” on Spotify, according to neurologist Dr. Jacob Jolij, whose list of songs can be found at shorturl.at/aFIP5. We all deserve the gift of feeling safe and sound. This holiday season, that is my wish for you.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant. Visit facebook.com/erika. taylor.303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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