Singing bowls are artificially or handmade bowls made from metal that produce a deep and rich tone when the wooden stick is rubbed around the rim in a circular motion. These singing bowls promote relaxation and offer powerful healing properties. Singing bowl therapy is a 2500-year-old Tibetan technique practised to soothe the body, mind, and soul.
A Brief History:
Although it is hard to say exactly when a bowl commonly used in kitchens became a tool of meditation and bodily relaxation, its origins can be traced back to Nepal and not Tibet, unlike some popular beliefs.
There used to be a lot of trade and exchanges between Nepal and Tibet to boost diplomatic relations. Araniko travelled to Tibet with 80 other Nepali artisans to promote Nepali culture and art. They took with them a lot of knowledge of metals.
A metallic bowl or bata in Nepali was used as a rice bowl or Janai bata. These bowls are made from seven metals: copper, tin, zinc, lead, iron, silver, and gold. It is said that eating from such bowls provides minerals to the body, especially for pregnant women. Many Bhrikuti must have taken one of these to eat healthy during her pregnancy.
Salil Subedi, an author who has written two books on singing bowls and sound therapy, says the verb ‘singing’ wasn’t associated with these bowls until after the 1960s. Through his research, he found that the term ‘singing bowl’ was coined by Jit Bahadur Shahi, a trader of handicrafts.
“He said there was no name for the bata and that he had named it singing bowl because of the beautiful sound it made, and now the name is used everywhere in the world,” said Subedi. The name might have evolved as Tibetan singing bowls when Tibetan refugees started selling them to earn a living.
These bowls are now found all over the world and are popular for meditational purposes and their healing benefits. They are also one of the most sought-after souvenirs for tourists visiting Nepal. One can easily find these bowls in Thamel in Kathmandu or any other popular tourist destination and local art shops.
How it works
The singing bowl usually comes with a stout, wooden stick. When the stick strikes the bowl or rubs around the bowl in circular motions, a deep and rich-toned sound comes from it. The sound and vibrations work as a kind of music therapy for people. There are many theories and studies about why singing bowls are considered therapeutic. All of these usually suggest that:
- The bowls produce vibrations that affect the mind and the body.
- The sound of the bowls creates brain waves that induce deep relaxation in people.
- They may give the same benefits as listening to soothing and meditative music.
Ancient sound therapy uses pulsing sounds, drumming, singing, and clapping for spiritual and health purposes.
Today many businesses revolve around sound therapy and healing through music not only in Nepal or Tibet but all over the world. The ‘healers’ believe that the music from the bowls releases pressure from various spiritual focal centres (chakras) in our bodies. It cleanses our souls and relieves stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It also helps regulate the menstrual cycle. The practitioners usually have many students and visitors come to them to get away from their materialistic and busy lives for a day of calm and serenity.
Uses of singing bowls:
- Anxiety Relief: In a study of singing bowls, scientists recorded their sound. They discovered wave patterns that were similar to the alpha waves produced by our brain. This gives us immense relaxation when a singing bowl is played. Our brain loosens up and we are relieved of stress.
- Meditation: The music from singing bowls is meditative and therapeutic. Many healing practitioners help people meditate and become mindful with the assistance of singing bowls. The alpha waves and vibrations help people stay focused and let go of any tension in their bodies.
- Helps with insomnia: Calm music never fails to stir people deeply inside and push them to deep relaxation. Because of their contribution to easing anxiety and depression, singing bowls also help people with insomnia to doze off.
- Lowers blood pressure: In a study conducted and published in the American Journal of Health Promotion in 2014, a 12-minute relaxation session with singing bowls directly impacted lowering blood pressure and heart rate.
- Stimulates the immune system: People believe that singing bowls impact our brain waves and stimulate our immune system directly. They also improve blood circulation and eliminate toxins from our bodies.
- Harmonizing the body: The deep vibrations and tone of the singing bowls may help balance our body’s spiritual energy (chakras) and harmonize the cells. Many people vouch for such spiritual benefits of these singing bowls.
- Pain Relief: It is found that singing bowls help relieve pain in the joints, muscles, and shoulders. They also ease any tension and blockages in the digestive system and help regulate the energy flow.
- Eases Migraines: Although loud and piercing sounds are the root of migraines, singing bowls seem to do the exact opposite. People with severe headaches and migraines claim the singing bowl therapy to have helped them with it.
- Other health benefits: Some other health benefits of singing bowls include easing asthma-related issues, regulating the function of the adrenal gland, and improving synaptic responses in our brains. They also help children with hyperactive disorders.
Most of these are theories and beliefs and need to be backed by solid research. But when millions of people in the world are attracted to this technique of therapy, it must say something about it. Singing bowl therapy might not be the cure to depression, anxiety, and joint pains, but they do help people feel relaxed. Even if they don’t erase people’s pain and stress, they certainly stave off anxious thoughts and put people at ease. Even deaf people who can’t hear the music coming from the bowls can feel the vibrations and feel similar healing experiences.
However, ringing sounds and deep vibrations may trigger seizures in vulnerable people. And the effect of singing bowls on pregnant women is not known yet. So, anyone looking for a therapy session might want to research the potential dangers and disadvantages of singing bowls.
In any case, the benefits outnumber the dangers by a vast number. People will continue to seek these sessions and book appointments with expert practitioners. Scientists will continue their research on them. But they will always hold a big place in south Asian culture and ancient therapies.