by guest blogger Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrative medicine pioneer
These winter days are so magical. We bring light into the darkness and warmth and cheer to the cold stillness. We offer thanks and give gifts and rejoice with our loved ones. Within these time-honored traditions and rituals, music has always played an important role.
Music can evoke memories, connect us with our history and traditions, and bring us closer together. In fact, music, harmony, and rhythm have always played a central role in ritual celebrations, stirring the subconscious and, ultimately, promoting healing on all levels—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Music and sound are actually the world’s first medicines, used by shamanic healers to cure illness and regain one’s spirit. The effects are instant and tangible, with the power to reveal realms in our consciousness we may not have known existed. That’s because rhythm and harmony are more than musical elements—they are the energetic foundation of life, nature, our universe. Their vibrations can expand the heart, transform the mind, and heal.
Today, song-healings are practiced throughout the world as more health seekers learn that singing, playing an instrument, or listening to certain music can bring deep healing, peace of mind, spiritual growth, and a greater connection to nature. As an integrative physician and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, the healing power of music has always been an important part of my practice and family life.
Harmony and tempo help synchronize the rhythms of the natural world with the “music of the heart”—each person’s individual energetic pattern, expressed in his or her pulse. The heart pattern is best understood through the lens of traditional Chinese medicine, which teaches the diagnostic qualities of different pulse patterns in analyzing health and disease. And music may have the power to influence these biological rhythms more than any other factor.
Music in Medicine
What’s truly exciting is that science has begun to explore these ancient rhythmic connections that have stood at the heart of culture, spirituality, and healing for millennia. Today, the study of music in medicine is a rapidly expanding field, and it’s taking it beyond complementary, supportive therapy. A growing number of published studies show that music can play an active role in health and disease. An even larger number of books have been written for general readers, highlighting the numerous and remarkable benefits of music and sound. From increased healing, spirituality, and personal growth to improved cognitive ability and greater emotional stability, music and sound therapy can make a powerful difference in people’s lives.
An interesting review of recent clinical studies of music and physiology was published this year in the journal Nutrition. The article, titled “The Impact of Music on Metabolism,” explores the ways that music can affect various physiological and metabolic pathways to improve cardiovascular health, pain management, post-operative recovery, gastrointestinal health, metabolic health, vital energy, exercise recovery time, and more. Listening to music was shown to increase growth hormone levels, decrease the stress hormone cortisol and inflammation markers, and regulate adrenal pathways to improve responses to stress.
In one study reviewed, music therapy reduced the occurrence of acute and congestive heart failure events in cardiovascular disease patients. In another, pre-term infants exposed to music therapy showed numerous benefits, including improved respiration and oxygenation, increased weight gain, reduced pain, greater nutrition intake, and a shorter hospital stay. Other studies of music’s effects on gastrointestinal health and metabolism showed that music therapy improved digestive function and efficiency, increased metabolism, and may support healthy weight. Studies on music and athletic performance showed that listening to music while exercising may help to improve cholesterol and total lipid profiles, as well as total body fat ratio.
The Power of Music
Modern science has just begun to scratch the surface of music and sound’s healing potential. However, traditional medical systems from around the world have long revered the beneficial vibrations of music, harmony, and rhythm for health and vitality. While the effects are instant and tangible, they are also powerful and long lasting.
Last but not least, I want to share just how inspired I am by my daughter, Amity, who has been creating original music since she was young and just recently released a powerful, uplifting song titled “Me and My Guitar.” In it, Amity tells a story of the healing power of music to help express your inner nature and find your spirit’s truth beneath the layers of obstructions. Needless to say, as her father and as a healer, I am beyond proud of her.
So make a cup of tea, sit back and relax, and play some music you love. It may be one of the best things you can do for your health.
Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrates Western medicine with his extensive knowledge of traditional Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic, homeopathic, and complementary medical systems. With more than 25 years of clinical experience and research, Dr. Eliaz has a unique holistic approach to the relationship between health and disease, immune enhancement, detoxification, and cancer prevention and treatment. For more information about his work, visit dreliaz.org.
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