The Miracle of Music Therapy
By Aarthy Iyengar
The effect of music is universal. Its healing properties have been described since the ancient
times. Music is part of nature and every organism relates to it; music is even used to nurture crops and increase harvest! Human minds are impacted by music from the prenatal-infancy stage -a common example for this would be the response of a newborn to a lullaby.
Music operates not only superficially but it also has deeper impacts, on the physiology. Music
therapy works at several levels; psychosocial, cognitive, affective etc. The techniques used
include playing instruments, singing, composing and lyric substitution. This kind of treatment is lately gaining ground and music therapy has been accepted even by the orthodox English medical practices.
Music therapy , simply put, involves using music as medicine. It can be used by anyone without much consideration since it has no toxic side effects. India has a long history of music being used for treatment. In the Indian classical music, there are designated ragas for different hours of the day, different moods as well as for different ailments. These ragas resonate with the glandular and hormonal functions which secrete enzymes in ways that ensure homeostasis is maintained and the body remains disease free.
Music affects the body by stimulating the pituitary gland, whose secretions affect the nervous
system and blood-flow. By vibrating the cells of the body, it touches the unconscious and heals. For instance, playing instruments, for a child who has developmental delays, or a person who has had a brain injury or any other type of motor impairment, improves motor skills, impulse control and group cooperation. Making improvisations while playing an instrument, say the drums become a non verbal expression of emotions. Singing songs help in articulation. Practicing to sing without losing the tempo enhances breath control. Remembering the lyrics as well as the melody is an activity that helps in sequencing for stroke victims and patients suffering of intelligence impairment. Composing words or substituting the lyrics of a popular song aid the steps of systematic desensitization for fears and phobia and helps in letting out any hidden negative feelings. Listening to music enhances attention and awareness. Music is used to complement the process of guided imagery to evoke situations, emotions, symbols, pictures etc. Music helps in
exploration and mindful experience of feelings. Both vocal and instrumental music bring about changes that are not musical in nature. Singing and playing instruments not after learning them but simply based on intuition enables expression of repressed feelings. In the restrictive world of a seriously ill child, where words are inadequate, music provides choices, a sense of control and boosts self esteem.
Though music therapy is used to treat deficits, it can be used by healthy people as well to relax, reduce stress and to accompany exercise given that there are no harmful effects of it. Playing light music alongside while working can also improve work efficiency. There are endless ways of using music in life. With time, newer and more innovative ways of using this natural gift in treatment of mental and physical health will be discovered and explored.
Today, it has been proven beyond doubt that certain kinds of music therapy models have
conclusive treatment benefits for specific problems. The future of music therapy also seems to be bright. In the United States the state-of-the-art music therapy research in physical
rehabilitation, Alzheimer’s disease and psychoneuroimmunology is documenting the impact of music therapy in ways that are important in the medical area. Finally, Music Therapy is being recognized globally. Many new avenues and batches of music therapists are emerging lately. The future seems exciting for those who wish to explore in this arena.