Our ears – a miniseries on our five primary senses (part 3)
As the year draws to a close, I have been thinking about how we can lower our stress levels, manage discomfort, and which practices have been effective in this regard. In this blog, I would like to share three simple, yet beneficial, self-care techniques that I use regularly. Speaking from personal experience, our ears play an important role in enhancing physical and emotional well-being.
I often hear from my clients that December and the winter holiday season are the most stressful time of the year:
– they can feel the changes in weather and decreased sunlight,
– even just the thought of concentrated family time over the Christmas holidays or loneliness due to a lack of positive relationships with family members can have an impact on stress levels,
– there is often more focus on food and alcohol,
– routines that keep us steady during the rest of the year change: workplaces shut down, friends go on vacation, kids come out of school, and
– often more money is spent.
Vagus breathing – breath becomes sound
One of my favorite daily routines is conscious breathing. After 20 years of being an experienced yoga and Pranayama practitioner and teacher, I had an important insight: there is no single right way to breathe. We have different states of our nervous system and each one helps us cope with different situations. Amongst all the different valuable breathing techniques, I found conscious vagus breathing especially helpful in counteracting stress. When we practice vagus breathing, by using an audible haa-tone on the exhale, an acoustic signal reaches our ears and brain.
Acoustic signals enter consciousness when they are received by higher cerebral areas such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobe (located at the front of each cerebral hemisphere) and the parietal lobe (positioned above the temporal lobe and behind the frontal lobe and central sulcus). See more under: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frontal_lobe
The haa-tone sound is like a relief with the possibility of a noticeable release of muscle tension, pain relief and a balance in our mind. This audible haa-tone becomes a signal that makes us attentive and mindful. We thereby create a connection between our body, breath, mind, and soul. Listening to our breath means creating these connections.
Please check out how to do vagus breathing on my website.
I often use bi(o)lateral sound in therapy sessions. Biolateral sound was redefined by Dr. David Grand and used in Brainspotting sessions. Both sound concepts allow clients to process their stress through auditory stimulation. For best effect, they use headphones and listen to an alternating sound at a very low volume that moves between the left and the right ear, gently rocking between the left and right hemisphere of the brain.
This sound accompaniment has proven to be very effective for treating anxiety, stress, trauma and for relaxation. Bi(o)lateral sound can also be used out-of-session to help clients relax, control anxiety and to drift into a deep sleep. Due to its distancing effect, problems seem smaller and further away, and it often helps to find a solution where they were not able to find one previously.
Bi(o)lateral music and sound can easily be found online and through popular music platforms.
Sound bath – the healing power of sound
There is another wonderful way to calm our nervous system through our ears that I would like to recommend not only to my clients but also to my fellow therapists. Last summer, I visited the Verbier Festival and attended a number of enjoyable concerts. During my time there, I had the opportunity to meet talented, international musicians and got to know Zofia Neugebauer, a brilliant flute soloist. Listening to Zofia play gave me goose bumps. The beautiful sounds of her flute calmed me and brought my consciousness into the present moment.
One evening we were talking about our shared love for yoga and meditation, and we realized that we share another passion: sound baths. In general, sound baths are an ancient concept with roots in various cultures around the world. Sound baths are a meditative experience. When bathing in sound waves, the sound penetrates the whole body as well as the nervous system. A sound bath has no melody or rhythm. Instead, it is created with a careful selection of instruments and voice, that are reverberated through a frequency to release tension and stuck energy. This helps us reconnect with our body, mind and soul, and boosts our immune systems. As with other forms of meditation practice, a sound bath creates the atmosphere of a safe space, one in which our discomforts can be released and melt away.
Zofia and her partner, Alfredo Ferre (a gifted Spanish cellist with international recognition), combine their talents and create sound baths of unique experience. They weave their voices into the sound waves of their instruments (cello and the flute) and fill the room with Tibetan singing bowls. For me, this generates a blissful feeling of higher consciousness and being centered.
Please visit Alfredo’s website Onomeya.
On Youtube you can get a little taste of their work.
Let us ends this year in a calm and positive manner and have a fresh start to the new year with conscious breathing, bi(o)lateral sound, and sound baths.