By Debbie Adams
If relaxation and stress relief for you equates to collapsing on the couch and zoning out in front of the TV, there are better options available. One of the newest– in Vinton– is the ancient art of Himalayan Singing Bowls.
Singing bowls are a type of bell that vibrates and produces a rich, deep tone when played. Also known as Tibetan Singing Bowls, they are said to promote relaxation and offer powerful healing properties.
Ginger Quinn is an Atma Buti Sound Healing Practitioner in Training who offers classes in “Meditation with Bowls” at the Lancerlot each week to members and the public. Instead of a warm bath for stress relief, she suggests a sound bath of “pure, harmonious tones that resonate and that sooth and relax our minds.”
Quinn’s classes meet on the third floor Yoga Studio at the Lancerlot. Students stretch out on mats or sit on a chair facing a collection of metal singing bowls of various sizes she has placed at the front.
The lights are dimmed. Quinn uses mallets to strike the sides or stroke the rims of the metal bowls individually in a prescribed series producing distinctive singing sounds. She elicits beautiful tones reminiscent of chimes, hand bells or a muted gong.
“Their sound has been used to induce meditation, promote relaxation, and manage pain for centuries,” Quinn says. “The tones and vibrational properties of the singing bowls enhance relaxation, reduce anxiety, and promote self-healing.
“The harmony between sound and vibration energizes the body on a cellular level allowing emotional and mental healing, clearing and rebalancing of the body’s energy fields, and helps clear emotional blockage,” she explained. “The energy system of the human body has its natural state of vibration which can fall out of harmony. The beautiful sounds and vibrations of the bowls dissipate negative energy and balance the body’s energy system.”
While that may sound esoteric, in reality the sounds are truly beautiful, unique, and calming. One preliminary study has shown that a directed session with singing bowls showed a greater reduction in blood pressure and heart rate than a silent relaxation session.
Science has confirmed that sound can directly affect mood, brain waves, the nervous system and body chemistry. The vibrations of singing bowls stimulate the body to help produce the alpha waves that are present in the brain in deep relaxation.
The sound of the singing bowls is used to focus the attention rather than focusing on the breath or a mantra as occurs in most meditation classes. The sounds can transport you to a different plain, into an almost trancelike state.
Student Pat Beckner says she definitely finds the singing bowls help her to focus when meditating.
Quinn’s singing bowls produce a resonant sound that seems to linger in the air, vibrating for a long time after being played or struck. If you look closely, you can actually see the bowls vibrate.
The bowls themselves are beautifully handmade, hammered from an alloy of seven metals– silver, mercury, copper, gold, iron, tin, and lead– creating a range of different sounds and tones. Quinn says she has been told that monks pray over the bowls as they are made. She has acquired her collection of bowls one by one. They cover the musical notes A-F.
In the Far East, the singing bowls are tied to Buddhist traditions and have been used for thousands of years, sometimes used with the mantra “Be pure in body, mind, and speech. Follow the path of wisdom with love and compassion. Buddhahood will result.”
In Western society, the bowls have become most associated with the practice of meditation, not with a particular religion.
In fact, Quinn has used the bowls at a church women’s retreat with Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church where she is a member. On that occasion, she read a verse of Scripture, then struck a bowl. She then read the Scripture from another version of the Bible, struck another bowl, and so on. Jana Heck, who experienced the bowls twice on the weekend retreat says, “they were incredible.”
Quinn is a native of Roanoke and a graduate of William Fleming High School. She works for VDOT in the Salem office in the safety field.
She first became aware of singing bowls over a year ago when she took a meditation class that changed her “life and attitude.” She learned to unwind when her mind “used to run a hundred miles an hour.”
She went to Cheryl Purser Murphy’s studio in Botetourt and was hooked on the singing bowls from her first exposure. Murphy is a Certified Soul Healing Practitioner. Murphy, Quinn, and fellow practitioner in training Denise Legg are the only ones currently conducting the sessions here in the valley.
Quinn learned the technique taught at the Atma Buti (which translates from Sanskrit as Soul Medicine) International Sound and Vibrational School founded by Suren Shresta, who is originally from Nepal.
He wrote “How to Heal with Singing Bowls” in 2009, which has become the standard teaching reference on the topic. The school is located in Boulder, Colo., certified by the State of Colorado’s Higher Education Board and the National Massage Therapy Board for Continuing Education. Quinn plans to travel to Colorado next summer to attain the next level of training.
She currently teaches the “Meditation with Bowls” classes on Wednesday nights at the Lancerlot at 7 p.m. (there is a minimal charge for non-members); they last about 45 minutes.
Quinn volunteers at Springtree Health and Rehabilitation on a monthly basis sharing the singing bowls meditation classes as well.
The singing bowls can also be used for healing therapy where the bowl is placed directly on the body and the vibrations heal the body. Sometimes the bowls are filled with warm water.
Quinn offers these individual sessions through her new business “Restoreath Sound and Vibration Healing, LLC” at Whole Body Health Massage Therapy, located on the second floor of the Lancerlot Sports Complex.
“Himalayan Singing Bowls, when placed on the body, offer waves of sounds and vibrations to induce a tranquil harmony of the mind, body, and spirit,” said Quinn. “Throughout the session, the practitioner in training stays in a constant meditative state which provides a restorative flow of positive energy with the client.
“The soft sounds and soothing vibrations of the Himalayan healing bowls is an excellent way to improve emotional wellness by reducing stress and anxiety, brings inner harmony and peace, and eases arthritis pain as well as high blood pressure,” she notes.
“Therapeutic vibrations relieve muscular and emotional tension at a cellular level, improve circulation, joint function, spinal alignment– enhance energy flow through the body and balance and align the body’s energy system,” she said.
Private sessions through Restoreath Sound and Vibration Healing, LLC range from 30 to 90 minutes, depending upon individual needs.
Call 344-6000 or 540-588-2938 for more information or to make an appointment.
Himalayan healing bowls can be used directly on anyone except those pregnant or with pacemakers.