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Sound Therapy: From Polyvagal Theory To Practice

science of sound healing Sep 10, 2020
Doctor holding a weighted tuning fork on a client's neck

A Medical Doctor who trained with the Sound Healing Academy outlines the theory behind integral sound healing and illustrates in 3 case studies how effective it can be for alleviating common chronic ill-health conditions such as back pain; insomnia and chronic fatigue.

Working with a tuning fork to tonify the vagus nerve

"Stress is everywhere. Most people would yearn for being at peace in the midst of busy city life, a crowded and noisy environment, and life can be especially stressful NOW when we are faced with huge uncertainties bought about by the greatest pandemic for the past 100 years." 

Andrew Wong, MD and Tony Nec, August 2020, Hong Kong Medical Diary

Early this year Andrew Wong MD, a specialist in infectious diseases in Hong Kong, and a graduate of our Level 2 Diploma in Integral Sound Healing, was invited to be the editor of the August 2020 edition of the Hong Kong Medical Diary. 

This is the official publication for the Federation of Medical Societies in Hong Kong.  It's a journal for medical professionals.

Tony Nec, our Principal, was delighted to be invited by Andrew to co-author with him an article for the lifestyle section of the journal titled "Sound Therapy: from Polyvagal Theory to Practice".

Here are some excerpts from the article:

"Let us not forget that doctors work in one of the most stressful occupations. We face life, we face death, we face people, and we face long hours.

Physician burnout is defined as a work-related syndrome involving emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment. Surveys in the United States and United Kingdom have found burnout rate among doctors as high as 80%!

A survey done in Hong Kong almost ten years ago showed that the rate for severe burnout was 30%. We believe that the current figure would be much higher now with escalating patient demand and workload! Serious and extreme burnout, if not dealt with properly, is associated with sudden death and suicide.

We also know that up to 80% of visits to doctors may have a stress-related component. Chronic stress is, therefore, not only an underlying factor in physician burnout. It also underlies many of the most chronic health challenges presented to physicians by their patients. It is our belief that being healthy is not only about 'physically not sick'.

To possess a sound and peaceful mind and a sense of purpose in life are as crucial as health maintenance through physical exercise and taking nutritious food. We should not ignore the phenomenon that sleep problems are getting more prevalent, affecting general wellbeing and functioning.

The first author has been pursuing with a keen interest in various topics on mind-body medicine for the past 25 years. When faced with patients with various medical illness, I observed that the psychological aspect of care often plays an important part in the therapeutic outcome on top of the medical treatment or physical interventions we provide for them.

Patients who are newly diagnosed with the critical illness have lots of fear and worries. Patients who have chronic illnesses easily become unmotivated to maintain their health. I believe that as healthcare providers, we are doing our best to cater for the physical and psychological needs of our patients.

However, wouldn't it be wonderful if there can be some simple tools that can help patients and we can teach to patients to help them relieve stress without any side effects?

To this end, sound healing is becoming accepted as one of the valid methods to alleviate stress, reduce burnout, improve sleep and improve general wellbeing.


There are sounds all around us. The vibrational forces of sound are emitted from the movement or vibration of all matter. They manifest in a constant cacophony of sound waves, endlessly resonating in the universal sea of consciousness.

These sounds are both audible and inaudible to the human senses. Regardless of our capacity to hear or feel sound waves, they manifest as cause and effect, not only to us as human beings but also to the wider world around us. Sound waves wash over us at every second of every minute and hour of every day and continue to vibrate endlessly.

A variety of instruments and tools, including the human voice, is used in sound healing. Positive intention through our dedication and devotion when working with these media is thought to play an important part in the overall healing effect.

By transforming and replacing old and unhealthy energies with new and harmonious energies, sound healing can help to balance and harmonise us. Stress, tension and disease are manifested as a state of disharmony. Positive wellbeing will ensue when our natural resonance and harmony is restored.

The human body is made up of 60% water on average. From the point of view of physics, the resonance created by sound can be transmitted to the water inside our body to cause vibration.

Sound healing works by :

  1. Sympathetic resonance: Using a sound healing tool allows an area of imbalance to be brought back into balance through a "like vibration", a vibration that matches the original frequency a given area most naturally wants to vibrate at. Through the projection of a sound tool's pure, vibrational sounds, the waves go to the area of imbalance, the weak or dissonant frequency is transformed, and optimal resonance is restored.
  2. Brainwave entrainment- Entrainment is the predisposition that two oscillating bodies have tendency to vibrate in harmony with one another. Entrainment occurs when two or more rhythmic cycles become synchronised.
  3. Balancing left/right brain hemispheres.
  4. Triggering the relaxation response to alleviate symptoms of chronic stress
  5. Releasing suppressed emotions associated with trauma from the past.
  6. Applying the principles of Polyvagal Theory to correct imbalances in the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).

The Autonomic Nervous System is our body's primary control centre.  It controls and regulates all vital functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and other body system functions.

Many diseases, including chronic diseases of physical and mental health, are diseases of the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

Polyvagal Theory is a new view of the ANS, going beyond the conventional view of the ANS having two branches: sympathetic and parasympathetic.

Polyvagal Theory was developed by Dr Stephen Porges PhD, a research scientist, in the early 1990s.

His Polyvagal framework is now increasingly used by medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and in other therapeutic modalities, including integral sound healing.

In the article, Andrew illustrates in 3 case studies how effective integral sound healing can be for alleviating common chronic ill-health conditions:

  • chronic lower back pain
  • chronic insomnia
  • chronic fatigue syndrome

To read the full article in the Hong Kong Medical Diary, please click here - you'll get a pdf download

The Sound Healing Academy offers an online course covering Sound Healing and the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

To learn more about the ANS course, please click here


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