Holistic medicine

Singing bowl therapy - process and effect

Singing bowl therapy - process and effect

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Singing bowl therapy, which is also referred to as sound massage or sound therapy, is a method of esotericism in which special singing bowls in different sizes are placed on the body and made to sound. The sound is supposed to be transmitted to the body and make it “vibrate”. The tones are said to calm the body and contribute to the healing of various diseases. Some users explain this claimed effect with religious constructs like chakras, others refer to the brain and nervous system.

Sound massage procedure?

A sound massage usually takes place in a quiet environment. Cell phones are switched off and there is no television or radio on. The participants wear loose clothing and pay attention to warm feet.

Depending on the technique, the "masseur" uses different singing bowls. Esotericists speak of a so-called “sound shower” when the user strokes the body with a bowl without touching it, which is intended to activate the “energetic field”.

The participants then lie down, usually in a prone position, on a mat or couch. The user now places singing bowls on the clothed body and strikes them to make them sound. Participants are often asked whether the sounds are perceived as pleasant. If the answer is no, other bowls are usually used.

What should sound massage help with?

Singing bowl therapies, like many esoteric techniques, are supposed to solve “blockages”, “harmonize energy fields” and additionally alleviate various illnesses. For example, they are supposed to relieve tension in the vertebrae, help against sleep problems and concentration disorders and reduce stress.


A one-hour sound massage costs around 60 euros, half an hour around 35 euros. As a rule, the costs are not covered by the health insurance companies. It is an exception if the sound massage is part of a recognized psychotherapy.

Alleged effects

Users explain the effect of the sound massages by the sound waves causing the water in the body to vibrate and thus massaging the body cells internally, which would release “tensions and blockages”. However, this contradicts the current state of science with regard to the functions of the human body. An esoteric explanation assigns sounds that the singing bowls produce to the various planets or chakras. Sometimes a mixture of astrology and chakra belief is spoken of, which is religious thinking.

An advocate of singing bowl therapy, Peter Hess, believes that the sounds would put the participants in a trance, that is, in a state of changed consciousness, as experienced by shamans in their rituals. This state could contribute to the healing of ailments. It is true that tones in a certain frequency that shamans use as well as visitors to techno parties actually have an impact on perception. However, there is no scientific evidence that this applies to singing bowl therapies.

Wellness, esotericism and astrology

Wellness providers rarely rely on ideological assumptions for singing bowls, rather they advertise that it promotes relaxation. The sound massages serve only the well-being, so that customers choose the singing bowls according to their own preferences.

Esoteric providers claim to bring the sounds into "aura" and "chakras" and thus to solve "subtle" blockages. While sound therapies in the field of wellness apparently promote relaxation, “aura”, “chakras” and “subtle substances” do not exist scientifically, they are merely religious imaginations. However, belief in it can trigger both the nocebo and placebo effects.

A special form of esoteric use of singing bowls are astrologers who believe that they can acoustically reproduce the orbits of the planets. They call their singing bowls planetary bowls and claim that they can give those affected access to the "holistic nature of the cosmos", which from a medical point of view is absolutely baseless.

History of singing bowl therapy

Esotericists market singing bowl therapies as "ancient knowledge" or "traditional healing art". However, there is no evidence of this “old tradition”. Historians suspect the origin of the singing bowls in Tibet, where the bowls used in sound therapy are probably used as kitchen ware. Another possibility is the use as a sacrificial bowl, whereby both applications cannot be excluded. It was only in the era of postmodern esotericism in the 1980s that the idea spread in Europe and the USA that singing bowls from Tibet could be used because they produce sounds similar to those produced by pots in the popular children's birthday game “pot beating”.

Singing bowls and music therapy

Sound therapy does not necessarily include the use of Tibetan metal bowls, since Australian didgeridoos, African drums, harps, sitars, guitars or synthesizers are also used. Even in ancient times, people believed that certain tones could alleviate or even cure suffering. Singing can also put people in a special state of perception.

People used music to heal or to put the mind in a positive mood very early on. In archaic cultures, chants and playing on instruments were used to drive out demons, which in the ideas at that time triggered illnesses. Music was used to put yourself in a trance and to come into contact with spirits and gods in this state. In Roman-Greek antiquity there was the idea of ​​a harmonious order of the body. If this got out of hand, this led to diseases, the harmony of which could be restored by certain music. It was by no means pure superstition, but measures that are still considered therapeutically useful today. This is how music should dissuade sick people from their negative thoughts.

In the advanced medicine of Arabia, music was used to heal the mentally ill and to distract toddlers from their pain and to relieve fever caused by grief. In Cairo, musicians played in the hospital to comfort the sick at night.

Music therapy - scientifically

In order to alleviate or even cure diseases, the use of music is scientifically proven as well as recognized. Music therapy is interdisciplinary between medicine, education, psychology, social and musicology. Scientifically, it is a form of psychotherapy that has nothing to do with "chakras" or "planets".

The integrative music therapy is part of the integrative therapy, which is based on deep psychology and psychodynamics. Behavior-centered music therapy is part of behavior therapy, in which music serves as an amplifier for behavior changes. Creative music therapy, like therapeutic writing or therapeutic painting, is one of the psychotherapies in which people with psychological problems discover and live out their potential. A singing bowl therapy that is not esoteric is most likely equivalent to music therapy relaxation training. It is not an independent therapy, but an accompanying measure in a larger package that helps to reduce stress, manage fear and gain self-confidence.

Fields of work in music therapy

Music therapy can be found in both preventive and follow-up care and in the treatment of acute psychological problems. It is particularly about psychiatric, psychological and psychosomatic disorders. Music therapy is particularly important for psychoses, borderline disorders and addictions. In addition, she also achieved good results for anxiety and eating disorders, depression, impaired social behavior, ADHD and developmental disorders.

In rehabilitation, music supports therapy after strokes, for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and for awake patients.

How useful is singing bowl therapy?

With regard to the wellness area, the use of singing bowl therapies is not a problem unless you intend to cure serious ailments. It is entirely up to you whether you want to undergo such treatment or not. In the medical-therapeutic area, singing bowl therapy only makes sense in the context of serious music therapy, where it is part of the overall therapy. In this respect, a certain amount of skepticism is always appropriate when providers advertise that they can remedy serious illnesses with singing bowl therapy alone. You should also distance yourself when advertising with "vibrations of the planets", "cosmic energies" or similar. Music therapy can be of great importance as part of psychotherapy, but it must be implemented by reputable therapists. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Hofinger Peter: Esotericism, Spirituality and Healing, Books on Demand, 2007
  • Goldsby, Tamara L. et al .: "Effects of Singing Bowl Sound Meditation on Mood, Tension, and Well-being: An Observational Study", in: Journal of Evidence-BasedComplementary & Alternative Medicine, Vol. 22 (3) 2017, sagepub.com
  • Hess, Peter: The healing power of sound massage: relaxing, relieving stress, relieving pain with singing bowls, Südwest Verlag, 2009
  • Goldman, Jonathan; Goldman Andi: Healing Humming. Sound massage for body and soul: With exercises for conscious humming and breathing, Mankau Verlag GmbH, 2018
  • Ogba, Francisca N. et al .: "Effectiveness of music therapy with relaxation technique on stress management as measured by perceived stress scale", in: Medicine (Baltimore), 98 (15), April 2019, NCBI
  • Landry, Jayan Marie: "Physiological and Psychological Effects of a Himalayan Singing Bowl in Meditation Practice: A Quantitative Analysis", in: The American Journal of Health Promotion, Vol 28 Issue 5, 2014, sagepub.com
  • Weymann, Eckhard et al .: Music therapy lexicon, Hogrefe, 2009

Video: Sound Therapy: How to Play Tibetan Singing Bowls to Reduce Stress (June 2022).


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