As I lay on the massage table on my stomach, Cheryl Corson, my practitioner, put a singing bowl on one foot. She gently tapped the bowl with a felt-tipped gong mallet. I felt a subtle vibration up my leg. She moved the bowl to the other foot. Then she repeated the process up my torso on strategic locations (about 20 to 25 minutes). I rolled over and had a bowl placed in each hand, on my heart and on my belly (about 15 to 20 minutes). Each bowl she used (she has 13) has a frequency range and vibration characteristics designed for the corresponding parts of the body. “Our singing bowls are made of 12 metals. The alloy is produced according to ancient recipes,” she told me. The bowls are based on founder Peter Hess’ experiences with sound massage since 1984. Production of the bowls is controlled by experts including an experienced metal engineer.
I’m not sure if I drifted into a sleep state, but when the hour was up, I felt calm and relaxed, yet energized and awake. For the rest of the day I had an inner peacefulness. I did not feel tired, but floaty and light. I had a terrific night’s sleep.
Cheryl Corson is an accomplished landscape architect, an author and a writer. She moves at lightning speed, is very organized and is a successful multi-tasker. Like many Washingtonians, Cheryl has spent lots of hours sitting in front of a computer.
About four years ago Cheryl decided to take the plunge and commit to the 84 hours of study and practicum to become a sound massage practitioner.
“My desire grew gradually,” she explained. Cheryl had her first sound massage eight years ago. She was studying for her licensing exam for landscape architecture. “It’s the only thing that could turn my mind completely off,” she said. “That’s saying a lot. I’ve got a busy mind.”
Her instructor invited her to be a model for sound massage when she held training sessions. She regularly got sound massages. “Sitting at the computer was taking its toll on me. I had to get out of my head and back into my own body. I had to find that peaceful place for myself.” She describes sound massage as a way of tapping into a body’s inner wisdom that is non-invasive, yet so effective. “We need now more than ever to become centered. We need to learn how to maintain an inner calm and self-awareness and emerge from that place. I like the idea of contributing to that.”
I never heard of anyone doing that kind of body work before. When I met with Cheryl to talk about her experience and practice I found out why – only two teachers train others in this method in all of the United States. “Sound massage is based in Germany, and we have institutes all over the world,” she said. “I had to go to Wisconsin for my classes.”
What is Sound Massage?
Sound massage is the sound and vibrations of singing bowls positioned with care on different parts of your fully-clothed body. Gentle and harmonious sounds are absorbed and as a result, you can achieve a state of deep relaxation.
In the early 1980s Peter Hess, a German engineer, became interested in the science of vibrational fields in the human body. He began studying the effects of sound, in particular traditional music, on the mind and body of people in Tibet and Nepal. This led to his work with singing bowls and the creation of Peter Hess Sound Massage as practiced by Cheryl.
During a sound massage, Cheryl creates a soothing atmosphere where it is possible to release stress, anxiety, worry, doubt and feelings that have a negative impact on your health.
How Sound Affects Our Daily Life
The most elemental state of vibration is sound. Everything has an optimum range of vibration (frequency). Wherever we go we are surrounded by sounds. Soothing sounds of a river flowing can stimulate serene chemical reactions in your brain. Sounds of jack hammering can do the opposite. Sound can hurt or heal.
The effects of sound are complex. I found it fascinating that researchers at Princess Grace Hospital in London have been exploring the possibility of destroying cancer cells with sound. Using High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), they have successfully destroyed prostate cancer cells in their test patients, using only sound waves to heat up and kill the targeted cells. This technology was applied to 159 men with prostate cancer, and after one year, 92 percent of them did not have a recurrence of cancer. Further tests have to be carried out to confirm the success and reliability of this exciting technology before it can be used by doctors.
Businessman Julian Treasure has done a TED talk on the four ways sound affects us (TED.com). He is doing research looking at how sound and well-being are linked.
Who is Sound Massage good for?
“Everyone gets it. I don’t have explain much,” said Cheryl. “A sound massage offers something no matter where you are in your beliefs in the efficacy of holistic health practices.” Cheryl said it is good for children and it can be used on dogs and other animals as well. Every day Cheryl says she gives herself some sound. She equates it to ‘sonic acupuncture’. Only two contraindications for sound massage exist — women in their first trimester of pregnancy and people being treated for cancer. She points out that in Europe some hospitals are using it for its ability to deeply relax patients.
“Sound massage can help relax anyone or anything alive. All living beings – everything in this world – vibrates.”
To learn more about sound massage, to schedule a private session in her home or to sign up for her classes at the Corner Store contact: [email protected] or call her at: 202-494-5054.
Pattie Cinelli is a health/fitness professional who offers information about subjects on the leading edge of health and fitness thought. She has been writing her column for more than 25 years and welcomes column suggestions and fitness questions.
Pattie is a certified functional aging specialist who works with baby boomers. She also can provide lectures, private sessions and group classes in stretch, yoga, Pilates and her specialty: Balance and Mobility, for your church, home or office. She is also producing a podcast that highlights the choices we have in addition to traditional western medicine on how to stay well. You can contact Pattie at: [email protected].