If you’ve never heard Tibetan singing bowls, you’re in for a treat, and so is your dog or cat. This unique modality uses sound therapy to help heal and calm.
Sound can have a profound impact on our well-being, and that of our dogs and cats. Play some calming music or gentle nature sounds and you and your pet will soon feel calm and relaxed. Sound can also be used to help heal. Tibetan singing bowl therapy is a unique modality that utilizes sound for healing purposes, and it’s especially effective for animals.
What are singing bowls?
Tibetan singing bowls are handcrafted from a seven-metal alloy. While they’re being beaten into shape, a set of sacred mantras are chanted; these are believed to infuse the bowls with further healing power.
When you gently strike a singing bowl with a mallet and then rub the rim of the bowl in a circular motion, you create vibrational sound harmonics that have a positive effect on the sympathetic nervous system.
It’s believed that Tibetan singing bowl therapy originated during the time of Sakyamuni Buddha; Buddhist monks have used it ever since as part of their meditation practice.
Harmonics for healing
Tibetan singing bowl therapy helps reduce stress, alter consciousness and create a deep sense of peace and well-being. “These vibrations engage the relaxation reflex, slow down the respiratory, brain and heart rate, and disrupt the pain reflex, creating a deep sense of well-being,” says Diane Mandle, a certified Tibetan singing bowl therapist who runs the Tibetan School of Sound Healing in Encinitas, California, and has authored over 20 books on the subject.
“Sound has also been shown to be a vital part of the healing process, and for pain relief management,” she adds. Diane explains that sound tools like singing bowls entrain the brain to move into deeper alpha and theta brain wave frequencies, which induce deep meditative and peaceful states, clarity of mind and intuition. “Modern medicine can now measure and confirm the practice of sound as a means to promote healing.”
While sound healing helps both people and animals, therapists believe animals especially benefit from it because they can hear and respond to many more harmonics created by the bowls than we can. Singing bowl therapists use bowls with lower tones for animals because they hear many more overtones that humans do, and sounds with higher frequencies annoy or agitate them
What is a singing bowl therapy session like?
Most sound healing therapists work intuitively. Garnering the trust of the animal being healed is at the core of any session, which is why no two sessions are alike.
“I start by setting up my bowls and then have the owner bring the animal to the room for an introduction,” says Michelle Marie Sawtell, a sound and energy healer from Cambridge, Massachusetts, who has used both Tibetan and crystal singing bowls to help heal pets. “I allow the animal to come to me; nothing is ever forced. Once we establish a connection and feel comfortable, I gently start playing the bowls. When the animal begins to feel the vibrations, he often lies down and falls asleep.”
“Animals react so intuitively to sound healing, and you can see them let go of that coiled-up stress and stretch out into deep slumber,” agrees Almas Lokhandwala, a holistic healer from Pune, India who specializes in Tibetan singing bowl therapy.
The way a healer plays the bowls will depend on the situation or issue that needs to be addressed. “If an animal is depressed or transitioning, then different patterns will be used than if he’s skittish or recovering from abuse,” says Diane.
Singing bowl therapy for aggression
In animals, negative behaviors such as aggression, are often based on triggers. Diane says that singing bowls can help erase these triggers and create new behavior patterns in an animal.
“They provide an interface that helps neutralize the triggers so new behaviors can be learned,” she says. While it can take several sessions spread over weeks and months to help an animal let go of aggression, it does work.
Michelle Marie shares the story of a ten-year-old rescue Chihuahua/rat terrier mix who was aggressive with strangers and children. He not only barked uncontrollably and had bitten a few people, but he also suffered from pain in the right paw. “Since we began treatments, he is much more relaxed when engaging with strangers, and he no longer needs pain medication,” says Michelle Marie.
Integrative veterinarian Dr. Anne Smith, who has also trained in Tibetan singing bowl therapy, saw a friend’s selectively aggressive pitbull/Lab cross become calmer after just a few sessions of sound healing. Formerly, he would take a whole day to calm down after his aggression was triggered, but now he “comes back” within minutes, according to Dr. Smith. “My friend had been working with him for over two years, but the inroads the bowls made on his aggression are beyond words!”
Tibetan singing bowls to the rescue
Lambert and Mishti are two mixed breed dogs who live together with their “pet parent”. Distracted by the smallest of sounds in their neighborhood and often in discomfort because of certain health issues, they barked and yipped through the day and even the night. They were easily triggered by each other and were hyperactive all the time.
After experiencing five sessions of Tibetan singing bowl therapy, each lasting anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, Lambert and Mishti have become much calmer and more affectionate. They sleep better and aren’t distracted by the sounds around them. “Their skin and ear issues have also cleared up,” says “mom” Rijuta Gautam, who after attending the sessions with her dogs also found ease from her own leg pain.
Lara, meanwhile, is a 14-year-old Labrador retriever with arthritis who found relief from her pain and slept better after Tibetan singing bowl therapy. “I could see Lara’s body relaxing as I played the bowls for her in four 20-minute sessions spread over a week,” says Almas.
Finding a Tibetan singing bowl therapist
Because Tibetan singing bowl therapy isn’t as common as many other alternative modalities, you’ll probably have to do some searching to find a therapist near you. Be sure to check the therapist’s credentials and find out where they trained. If you can’t find anyone nearby, you can buy CDs of Tibetan singing bowls at Amazon.com or learn how to do the therapy yourself. Diane’s school (tibetanbowlschool.com) offers a certification program and includes distance learning options.