Eyes closed, the sounds flowed over them – the deep tone of the Aboriginal didgeridoo wind instrument; the sonic reverberations of the Tibetan singing bowls; the whistling of air passing over the two reeds in the drone flute; the aquatic sounds of fingers rubbed along the top of the dolphin bowl.
This day in the Integrative Care Center at the Program in Women’s Oncology at Women & Infants Hospital, the sounds were the therapy, offering a unique feeling of wellness to the women, all of whom have battled, or continue to battle, cancer.
“I thought I was relaxed at one point, then another part of my body would go down,” says Dori Gerhardt of North Kingstown after the session.
That was music to Rosie Warburton’s ears.
“When you feel the sound resonate in your body, it’s definitely having an effect. When the frequency of the bowl is the same as the body part, it vibrates and vibrates and vibrates until the body lets it go,” explains Warburton, a licensed massage therapist and sound therapist who has started conducting sessions at the Integrative Care Center.
Holistic sound, she continues, is a non-invasive blend of healing modalities using sound, music and frequency to restore balance and harmony to the physical, mental and emotional bodies.
For the sound therapy group session, she sat for a bit surrounded by the tools of her trade – bowls of metal and crystal, flutes, a Freenote xylophone that operates on the pentatonic scale so there’s no wrong note. During the session, she walks quietly and slowly among the women, often standing before each to create various sounds ranging from high-pitched to lower and more primal. Periodically, she offers soft words encouraging the journey.
The goal is to release tension and even pain, balance the body’s energy and calm the spirit.
“Sound just does it. You can go so deep in a short amount of time,” she says simply. “Take the didgeridoo. It stills the thoughts and when your thoughts come back, it’s connecting you to your feelings. You feel more grounded. And, as it’s grounding you, it’s taking you out of your body at the same time.”
Different sounds speak to different parts of the body because of their frequency. If she knocks a tuning fork against the palm of her hand, for example, she can place it on joints, muscles and various acupuncture points to render relief from aches. It worked for Roxanne Lucas of Providence, who has neuropathy in both of her feet. Placing the vibrating tuning fork on the joints in each foot brought her instant relief. Minutes later, Gerhardt was experiencing the same relief when the tuning fork was placed on her wrist, which requires a brace for the effects of her Lyme Disease.
“I can feel it tingling down in all of my fingers. That’s great!” she exclaims.
Warburton smiles as she works on helping people understand the healing powers of sound.
“All matter has a resonant frequency it will vibrate at, including the bones, organs and other parts of the body. When you can find that frequency, you can release trauma from the body,” Warburton explains. “One tuning fork has the same resonant frequency as nitric oxide, and therefore stimulates the relaxation response, increasing oxygen flow, activating the parasympathetic system, and decreasing pain, stress and anxiety.”
In addition to the group sessions, Warburton also offers private sessions at the Integrative Care Center, using a combination of tuning forks, massage and craniosacral therapy. The results are “incredibly relaxing” and can help to increase range of motion while decreasing inflammation in the client. She also visits with women hospitalized with cancer at Women & Infants to help ease their discomfort.
Anyone interested in group or individual sound therapy sessions through the Integrative Care Program at Women & Infants, integrative therapies are offered in Providence, Middletown, and South County, RI, and Fall River, MA. For appointments in Providence, call (401) 274-1122, ext. 7143; in South County or Middletown, call (401) 846-0042; or in Fall River, call (508) 235-3500.
About Women & Infants Hospital
Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation’s leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine, Women & Infants is the 12th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year. A Designated Baby-Friendly® USA hospital, U.S.News & World Report 2014-15 Best Children’s Hospital in Neonatology and a 2014 Leapfrog Top Hospital, in 2009 Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country’s largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.
Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation’s only mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation’s only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.
Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center for In Vitro Maturation Excellence by SAGE In Vitro Fertilization; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.