Music Heals

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

Q: I’ve been reading, also watching video clips, on how music can heal, or the healing power of music.  I’d appreciate it if you’d separate the chaff from the grain, or the beat from the raga, as it were, and help me get a better perspective, also understanding, on the exciting subject.

— A M, Vellore

A: Got a tension headache? Don’t gulp a pill. Just reach out to music. Your favourite tune, or melody. Research suggests that when you ‘tap’ into your much-loved music piece, you ‘will’ yourself to relax and ‘rip’ your headache buzz.

Or, do you suffer from asthmatic distress? Just ease your respiratory spasm with music. It works.

In an age replete with a host of pricey treatment options, music emerges as the most original, non-invasive, simple relief provider. It also comes at no cost — without side-effects.

Music has proven effective through centuries of use, aside from modern clinical studies. What’s more, all of us seem to savour melodies far better than bitter, or unpleasant, medicine — including sugar pills. Studies attest that music comforts the sick; it helps them cope better with the severity and intensity of their illness. It also helps us to deal effectively with the ill-effects of disease at the individual, family, workplace and financial levels, and fight fear, anxiety, or depression, while remaining socially active.

New studies eulogise the influence music has on our well-being. Music eases our pulse rate; it reduces our gloom. It helps us to achieve a relaxed, meditative state of body, mind, and spirit. It provides emotional comfort; it regulates our hormones and heartbeat. It improves our imagery, or visualisation, skills.

Ear For Music

All of us have an ‘ear’ for music — the reason being hearing is the first sense that develops within 140 days after conception. It is also the last to be naturally lost. Put simply, you’d use music to boost your health and well-being — from the womb to your last swallow of air.

Research suggests that orchestra conductors live nearly 30-35 per cent longer than the general population. It’s suggested they stay well, thanks to music and its therapeutic effects.

When healthy individuals listen to 20 minutes of music, their immune cells function with improved gusto — there is a bond established between music and the vitality of your immune system. In an experiment, a Johann Strauss waltz and a sitar recital by Pandit Ravi Shankar lowered blood levels of the stress chemical, cortisol, by 30 per cent.

Music is proposed to keep us well by ‘entraining’ our biorhythms. When our biorhythms get out of ‘tune’ with our daily agenda, it affects our entire being. It also puts our immunity on high alert — or, stress. When you let music beat in your ear, it helps your biorhythms to regulate and also ‘fix’ your daily plans and activities. Music bolsters the production of antibodies too — it makes you feel healthy, composed, upbeat, and energised.

Soothes. Heals

A study reveals that patients, after heart attack, decreased their heart and respiratory rates, including anxiety levels, by listening to soft, soulful music — viz., less than 60 beats per minute. Likewise, patients, in intensive care units [ICU], showed a significant drop in their [high] blood pressure levels. They also improved on their emotional status reviews than fellow patients who did not listen to music.

For many of us the thought of — not actually visiting — the hospital means getting ‘under the pump’ and feeling dull. Therapists suggest that sudden, sharp, or needless, clatter in a hospital situation is equally damaging, while soft, melodious music is beneficial during visits, confinement, and convalescence. Noise essentially increases blood levels of the stress hormone, adrenaline — and, cortisol too. Result? Prolonged despair, inflammation, or infection. The duo is a major impediment to our healing processes and normal immune function.

Balanced Resonance

Listening to melodies puts us back on our feet too, following immobility. It stimulates our nervous system like no other. Musical notes send electric signals to your muscles, even before you begin to move. They also ‘fine-tune’ your sense of co-ordination and ambulatory skills that you’d have, perforce, lost during a protracted illness.

Music soothes your aches and pain syndromes. It takes your mind off the twinge — as you stay ‘afloat’ with a violin piece, or hum your special song. Listening to music helps distract patients from unease on the dentist’s chair — or, during kidney dialysis. Therapists aver that when you choose your own pain-fighting music, you take control of intimidating, or unsympathetic, situations and also the environment.

Music is nothing short of magnetic resonance imaging [MRI]. It allows sound frequencies to balance resonant energy in your heart, lungs, nervous system, muscles, organs, tissues, cells, your mind, thoughts, and feelings.

The next time you listen to music, try to scan the tangible and intangible workings in your body. You’ll not only quickly feel in sync with your entire being, you’ll also feel well and melodiously transformed.

A Short Music List: Sound Therapy For Mind, Body & Spirit

  • Vedic chants, slokas, stotras, mantras, and hymns
  • Mozart, Divertimento
  • Beethoven, Symphony # 9 in D Minor; Opera 125
  • Bach, 6 Symphonies
  • Mahler, Poco Adagio
  • Vivaldi, The Four Seasons, 4 Concertos; Opera 8 #1-4
  • Igor Stravinsky, Symphony in 3 Movements
  • Carnatic classical music: Vadya Lahari, featuring A Kanyakumari on the violin
  • Carnatic classical music: Laya Vinyas, featuring Trichy Sankaran on the mridangam
  • Affirmed, therapeutically-effective ragas: Abheri, Anandabhairavi, Chittaranjani, Hari Kambhoji, Lalita, Sahana, etc.,
  • Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, Ragas
  • The Beatles
  • Soft, lilting melodies from old Hindi films — or, the regional language of your choice
  • Shankar-Jaikishan, Raga Jazz-Style.
Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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