Simone Vitale
Category: Voicework

The Healing Power of Your Voice




Thehealing power of your voice




Whenit comes to Sound Therapy, it is always important to remember that weare born with our own in-built sound device: our own voice!


Manyof the effects we can achieve with Sound Healing instruments can beexperienced through the voice. In fact, it is often more powerful andtransformative to work on oneself with one's own voice than withexternal instruments.


Sure,instruments can produce a wider variety or timbre and pitch and thatcan prove very useful in various contexts. But the way we respond tothe human voice has deep roots in our whole neuro-physiological makeup.


Ourhearing is particularly sensitive to a specific range of frequenciesthat corresponds to the human voice. However, in this article, Iwould like to focus on the direct effect of the sound vibration onthe body.




Touchat a distance


Ilike to think of sound as a form of “touch at a distance”.


Froma purely physical point of view, sound produces waves of pressurethat move through air (as well as through other media). These wavestravel from the sound source to a receiving end. So whenever we makea sound, the receiver of that sound is being “touched” by thosewaves of pressure.


Whenusing your voice to affect your own body, the relevant medium is nolonger air, but rather living tissue, bones and fluids. Bones areexcellent sound conductors (in fact we use them to amplify the voice)and so are fluids. Considering the high percentage of water thatmakes up our bodies and the fact that sound travels faster and moreeffectively through fluids than through air, the “touch” qualityof sound becomes even more evident as it is intimately directed tothe inside of your own body.




Physiologicalbenefits


Let'shave a look at some of the beneficial effects resulting from usingthe voice in a focused, intentional way.


Whenwe are engaged in singing, chanting or toning, our exhalationinevitably becomes longer than the inhalation as we control theamount of breath we release in order to control our voice. This kindof breathing pattern (exhalation longer than the inhalation) tends toactivate a parasympathetic response in the Autonomic Nervous System(ANS). As a consequence, we feel more relaxed and we facilitate thefunctioning of that branch of the nervous system that is normallyassociated with nourishment and restoration.


Furthermore,singing reduces stress and promotes bonding by decreasing the levelof adrenocorticotropichormone (ACTH) and the increasing the level of oxytocin(1) and it promotes the release of endorphins, which causes a senseof elation as well as raising the pain threshold (2).


Thevoice is a direct expression of our intimate self, at an emotional aswell as physiological level. The voice can change significantlydepending on whether we are feeling happy, peaceful, sad, angry, etc.


InStephen Porges's Polyvagal Theory, this is explained by the fact thatthe muscles that control the larynx and the pharynx are part of aregulating circuit that links the heart, the lungs, the muscles ofthe middle ear and the muscles of the face. Physiological states aretherefore detectable in the sound of the voice, especially in thepresence or absence of prosody (vocal melody or “contour” inspeech) (3)




Self-SoundMassage


Thevoice can also serve as a “sound massage” tool in two ways.


Oneway is to practice the ability to direct the physical vibration ofthe voice into different areas of the body. This is done by usingdifferent sounds, especially vowels, and combining them withvariations in pitch and amplitude (volume). We change the shape ofour mouth externally and internally in order to produce the sound ofdifferent vowels and this determines each vowel's quality ofresonance and internal projection.


Theother way is to use the feedback pathway of the afferent fibers ofthe vagus nerve to influence the internal organs. In fact, 80% offibers in the vagus nerve are afferent/sensory, most of them carryingsignals from the organs to the brain. (4)


Byaffecting the Vagus Nerve with sound, it is possible to influence allthe areas that it reaches.


(Checkmy article SoundTherapy and the Vagus Nerve).




Atechnology-free way to stimulate the vagus nerve


Thispathway from the organs to the brain can potentially influencemental, emotional and physical health.


Apilot study of 2011 (5) shows how the practice of chanting OM, atypical component of meditation practices, causes limbic deactivationin a very similar way as artificial Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS).More specifically, significant deactivation was observed in theamygdala,parahippocampal and hippocampal brain regions. Interestingly, theseregions become hyperactivated in patients with depressive disorder(6) for which VNS is used as therapy. This suggests that the ancientpractice of OM (or AUM) chanting, or toning, may have been passed onas a tool for the neuro-physiological regulation component ofmeditation.


Thesame centers in the brain that can cause the limbic system to behighly activated and result in symptoms of anxiety and depression canalso send calming signals to the same area and create a sense ofpeace and wellbeing. Combined with other healthy practices such asmeditation, exercise and positive mental habits, the use of the voicecan promote additional support to the creation and consolidation ofneural pathways geared toward mental and emotional balance. In otherwords, the more we keep ourselves in a calm state, the more the brainlearns to maintain that state.


Someof the benefits of such practices can include improved problemsolving, improved sleep, motivation and restored energy.




Anancient path


Thepower of the human voice has been used since times immemorial. Clearexamples are the “medicine songs” of indigenous people all overthe world. These songs are used to interact with the nature of thingsat the underlying order of reality. They can be used to communicatewith the spirit of medicinal plants as well as with other spirits(e.g. the ones believed to be responsible for illnesses). Song isalso the way human beings have passed on information generation aftergeneration for thousands of years. Incantations and magic spells seemto always have a component of loud utterance as if the act ofengaging the voice brings in a manifesting power. Prayers, hymns, andchants (enchantment!) are also an omnipresent element of anyinstitutionalised religion.


Theself-healing power of the voice has been brought to the attention ofthe wider public by the deep fascination that the western world hasfor eastern philosophies, especially those of Indian origin, whichinclude such practices as the chanting of mantras, singing devotionalsongs in the vast community of people dedicated to yoga practices.Amongst these practices, toning (the practiceof vocalising long, sustained sounds as in the well-known sacredsyllable OM) can provide an invaluable resource to reach ameditative state as well as providing a positive influence at aphysiological level.


Infact, a recent study (7) shows how toning can be more effective thanmindfulness meditation in reducing mind wandering and intrusivethoughts, although no significant differences were found in otherpositive aspects of meditation such as relaxation and feelingpeaceful. It also helps in increasing the awareness of body vibrationand Heart Rate Variability (HRV).




Theimportant message here is that the human voice is by no means meantto be used primarily as a speech tool to convey verbal information.This is the case in most people's lives. Many people enjoy singingfrom time to time, but not so many do it consistently. However, if welook closely at those primal sounds that we make on a wide variety ofoccasions (sounds like aaahh, mmmm, hhhhh, etc. to express sensationsin the body) we find that we all have subconscious wisdom around thetherapeutic use of the voice. If we bring this wisdom to ourawareness, we can start using the treasures of our voices consciouslyand intentionally.




Imagineif every day you would allow yourself to use the healing potential ofyour own voice, even for just 2 minutes. What possibilities couldthat create?




Notes


1– Jason R. Keeler, Edward A. Roth, Brittany L. Neuser, John M.Spitsbergen, Daniel J. M. Waters and John-Mary Vianney – Theneurochemistry and social flow of singing: bonding and oxytocin


2– R.I.M. Dunbar, Kostas Kaskatis, Ian MacDonald, Vinnie Barra –Performanceof Music Elevates Pain Threshold and Positive Affect: Implicationsfor the Evolutionary Function of Music


3 –Stephen Porges – The Polyvagal Theory


4 –Stephen Porges – The Polyvagal Theory


5– Bangalore G Kalyani, Ganesan Venkatasubramanian, Rashmi Arasappa,Naren P Rao, Sunil V Kalmady, Rishikesh V Behere, Hariprasad Rao,Mandapati K Vasudev, Bangalore N Gangadhar – Neurohemodynamiccorrelates of ‘OM’ chanting: A pilot functional magneticresonance imaging study


6- Malhi G..S, Lagopoulos J., Ward P..B, Kumari V., Mitchell P..B,Parker G..B, Ivanovski B., Sachdev P. – Cognitivegeneration of affect in bipolar depression: an fMRI study


7– Adapted from: Peper, E., Pollack, W., Harvey, R., Yoshino, A.,Daubenmier, J. & Anziani, M. (2019). W –Toningquiets the mind and increases HRV more quickly than mindfulnesspractice




Copyright2020 – Simone Vitale

















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