17th July 2018

Fire – Will and Science

The sound of the gong creates deep relaxation, clears the mind, and stimulates the glandular system to a higher level of functioning, it also aids in the re-organisation of emotional energy and feelings that are tied into the body structure and consequently affect the mind.

Mehtab Benton

            Western science has taken an increasing interest in the transformative power of sound; sound technologies are used in a range of applications from the medical uses such as dissolving kidney stones to military applications while research has been carried out on the nature of sound’s relationship to physiology and psychology.

The correlation of vibratory frequencies to activity in the brain was discovered by the Austrian psychiatrist Hans Berger in 1908, he observed four key groups of frequency of activity within the brain: the Alpha state that corresponded to frequencies of 8 to 12 Hz that correlate with an alert and relaxed state of mind which is both creative and productive, the Beta 13 to 39 Hz which is a normal waking state, the Theta state 3 to 7hz which is sleep and the Delta 0.5 to 2 Hz corresponding to a coma, drug overdose or near death experience. While this is the measurement of brain activity itself an area of increasing interest has been the way in which exposure to external frequencies are able to effect the brain.

The science of vibration and sound reveals the phenomena of entrainment whereby in the physical world rhythmic movement will, over time, fall into step, a phenomenon observed in a rooms of pendulum clocks that eventually adopt a uniform pattern. This process of entrainment can be affected in the human brain whereby the frequencies first discovered by Hans Berger can used to change mental and emotional states. A similar process occurs within physical objects and the body whereby vibrations will transfer onto other objects – this is called resonance, and is acutely demonstrated in the apocryphal tale of opera singers being able to explode wine glasses with their voice!

A popular application of acoustics to change the brain is the entrainment with binaural beats. Building on the ongoing research into brain wave frequency (this has continued to evolve and develop since the initial work of Berger over 100 years ago) techniques have been developed that work with the frequencies of sound.

Within the world of musical and therapeutic instruments, sound produced is necessarily rich and complex to a greater or lesser degree. When a sound is made with an acoustic device the result is a “fundamental” tone or note and a series of “partial” harmonics – it is the pattern of partials that would distinguish a piano from a violin. When tones come together some interesting things happen – the sounds can combine to form combination tones. When two tones very close in pitch are played together we may start to hear a combination note that is the result of the difference between the two and this can be used as a way of generating sounds that frequencies that align with the frequency of a meditative mind state. These combination tones are called ELF or Extremely Low Frequencies and are considered to be physiological phenomenon synthesised in the inner ear by cochlea hairs.

Sound yoga is based on these principles of entraining the mind with sound and using the resonance to affect the body in order to facilitate the flow of energy between the dense and the light.