Healing lies in the music, says master yogi Shanell
At a retreat in California, Shanell Vaughn was amazed by the powerful vibrations that came from the yogis’ instruments.
“It was like a deep tissue massage without anyone touching you,” she said. “It was amazing.”
On her return to Bermuda she started making “sound baths” of her own with gongs, wind chimes, quartz bowls and other instruments, and discovered they also increased her mental clarity.
It is a practice that has been around for thousands of years, used in different forms by many different cultures.
“Everything is vibrating and making a sound including the table I am sitting at, my body and the pen you are holding. Everything is energy,” said Ms Vaughn, a master yoga teacher whose holistic health practice is called Shambhala.
“The ancient Egyptians would have sound chambers for healing. The aboriginal people would have didgeridoos. The ancient yogis believed that the whole universe was created by sound. Science calls it the Big Bang.”
Sounds baths can be especially helpful during stressful times, she added.
“There is a natural resonance of wellbeing for you. It might look different for you than for me. But when we become out of tune, sound baths can help regain that harmony. Essentially, we are all energy and we are all vibrating.
“It is using sound, particular frequencies and resonances, to return us to a natural state of equilibrium.”
Interested in incorporating sound baths into her practice she offered the experience to a few friends.
“I knew it made me feel centred and grounded. There was clarity of mind. I just experimented on a couple of people and they were blown away.”
As it turned out, the timing was ideal as Covid-19 initially cancelled any kind of hands-on therapy.
“This was just a perfect thing to offer,” she said. “You are still reaping the benefits of that energy work, and it is socially distanced.
“People need support and ways of administering self-care and self-nurturing. I do guided meditation first. Then that leads straight into the sound bath itself.”
It can be helpful for people who have a difficult time keeping their mind quiet during regular meditation, she added. Although everyone’s experience is different, people often become more relaxed and focused and less anxious.
“A lot of people get frustrated with that. With the sound bath, you are completely immersed in the sound. At first, your mind tries to figure out what is happening. Then the mind gives up. You are able to enter into a place of stillness much more effortlessly. That is where the real healing and restoration comes, when the mind just drops away.”
Even before Ms Vaughn learnt about sound baths she was drawn to sound healing through chanting and mantras. She began studying their impact in 2005 and started a chanting community that meets every Thursday at Spirit House in Devonshire.
“I used it with a loved one who at the time was going through chemotherapy,” she said. “It brought tremendous relief to her and a sense of wellbeing. We basically immersed ourselves in mantra for several months. That was the first time I saw that there was something to this. It is not just listening to music for fun.
“Some people have visualisations during the sound bath that are significant for them. People have reported experiencing release from physical pain and tension in their body. I have had people feeling the opposite, more energised. I had one person who was always tired and fatigued. I only did it with her for 20 minutes. At the end of her session she felt so energised. That is what her body needed.”
Although there are various certifications for sound healing she prefers to go with her intuition and research.
“Every sound bath is different,” she said. “You have to be able to ‘read the air’, as one of my friends say, and feel into what sounds and frequencies are needed in place.”
While there are many sound healing recordings and apps, Ms Vaughn prefers the in-person experience.
“Generally, I find that being where the vibrations are happening is more powerful,” she said. “But that is not to say that if you are listening to a recording, particularly if you have headphones, that you won’t derive some benefit. It is a personal preference.”
Shanell Vaughn holds sound baths on the last Friday of every month. Session generally take an hour, and cost $150. Private meetings can be organised. For more information visit www.healingyogini.com. Follow @shambhalabermuda on Facebook or contact Ms Vaughn directly: 703-9644; firstname.lastname@example.org