I’m lying on my stomach on the floor of a treatment room at Seven Wellness, a yoga and wellbeing center on Reem Island in Abu Dhabi.
Vera Kamaeva has just placed a Tibetan singing bowl on the upturned arch of my right foot. She is tapping it with a felted tool and, as a result, the sound waves are reverberating somewhere up into the middle of my calf.
As I often do when I’m at the start of trying out a new treatment, I ‘m thinking, “This is kind of dumb.”
But I’ve got an open mind, a few group sound healing sessions in my recent past and I know science is on Vera’s side. Her quest to create healing, calm, balance and equanimity right down to my cells through this Vibro-Acoustic Massage is actually backed up by science. At intervals, as she moves the bowl up my leg, the vibrations spread down and outward, and I feel self-conscious. The bowl sits on my right buttock for a bit, while she taps it repeatedly with her felted tool. By the time she places it on my lower back I’m getting more relaxed and somewhere during the left leg I fall asleep briefly.
The bowls are placed on each area of my back, too. I feel lulled, content.
The oscillating motions offer the different parts of my body a different frequency, intensity and amplitude. I can feel the vibrations through my muscles, tendons and tissues; I can feel them in my organs and my bones. I can feel my energy changing and as someone who is on the tail end of an anxiety surge that has lasted for weeks, that is a very welcome feeling indeed.
The singing bowls work in a variety of ways physically, but mentally the relaxation can in part be explained by entrainment, which is a biological process that happens when organisms synchronize to an external rhythm. It happens when birds fly in formation, it happens when a stadium full of fans sing along to the band on stage, it happens in drum circles. That resulting calm state, one that people find both meditative and peaceful, is ideal for mental and physical healing.
There is a growing body of research on the power of music to improve wellbeing, reduce stress and boost mood, including one 2013 review of 400 published studies. As for sound healing specifically, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine found that an hour-long sound healing session – using mostly singing bowls – helped reduce a variety of negative emotions and improve mood and overall wellbeing in those who attended.
Vera got her array of singing bowls and learned her craft from a Russian teacher named Ivan Konovalova, founder and manager of the Bali-based Sound Yoga. He’s coming to Seven Wellness in March to teach his craft to a group of new teachers. Vera explains that the sound waves penetrate right down to the depths of our cells, merging with the water that’s already in our body and altering it positively through frequency.
With about 20 minutes remaining in the hour-long treatment, Vera asks me to roll over. While I rest on my back, she continues to tap the bowls of varying sizes.
She told me that because of this I should drink a lot of water post-treatment, and I did, because I was really thirsty.
I feel mostly that the bowls sort of reset my nervous system, which I had been trying to achieve but could not find through my regular regime of exercise, meditation and journaling. Even a massage didn’t work..
When the Vibro-Acoustic Massage session wraps, I feel calmer than I have in weeks and I go home to sleep for 11 solid hours – an extreme and very welcome rarity.
• Seven Wellness is offering training with Ivan Konovalova to become a Vibro-Acoustic massage practitioner on March 5 and 6, no prior training required. Livehealthy readers get a Dh494 discount if they register before March 3, paying Dh1,950 + VAT versus the full price of Dh2,444.
• A 90-minute Vibro-Acoustic Massage at Seven Wellness costs Dh450 + VAT, but if you book before March 15, there is a 15 percent discount. At-home sessions are also available for Dh550. Book using the Seven Wellness app.
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is a journalist with 20 years of experience working in North America and the UAE, much of it as a writer, editor and columnist focusing on the areas of physical and mental wellness...