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Tibetan Singing Bowls for Healing

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Updated April 28, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Tibetan singing bowls are a type of instrument used for healing. Also known as Himalayan bowls, Tibetan singing bowls are considered a type of bell.

Buddhist monks have long used Tibetan singing bowls in meditation. In addition, some alternative medicine practitioners (including music therapists, massage therapists, and yoga therapists) use Tibetan singing bowls to aid in the treatment of certain health conditions.

How Do Tibetan Singing Bowls Promote Healing?

When played, Tibetan singing bowls vibrate and produce a deep, rich tone. Many proponents claim that these vibrations can produce beneficial changes within the body by reducing stress, "harmonizing" the cells, and "balancing the body's energy system." Some also claim that Tibetan singing bowls can stimulate the immune system and produce beneficial changes in brain waves.

Uses for Tibetan Singing Bowls:

People use Tibetan singing bowls for many purposes, including stress reduction and pain relief. Many people use Tibetan singing bowls in combination with other healing practices, such as meditation and deep breathing.

Benefits of Tibetan Singing Bowls:

There is currently a lack of scientific research on the potential health benefits of using Tibetan singing bowls. One of the few available studies is a 2008 report from the Swiss journal Research in Complementary Medicine.

For the study, 54 people with chronic spinal pain were assigned to either six sessions of singing bowl therapy, a placebo treatment, or no treatment at all. Study results showed that members of the singing bowl group and the placebo group experienced a significant decrease in pain intensity. The study's authors also found that both the singing bowl therapy and the placebo therapy had a stress-reducing effect on participants.

Given these findings, the study's authors concluded that singing bowl therapy's effectiveness for pain relief could not be confirmed.

How to Use Them:

To create sound with singing bowls, gently strike the bowls and then rub the accompanying mallet in a circular motion against the bowl's rim.

Where to Find Them:

Widely available for purchase online, Tibetan singing bowls are also sold at some meditation centers, yoga studios, music shops, and stores that specialize in new age products. Proponents suggest that using higher-quality bowls tends to produce more resonant sounds.

Should You Use Tibetan Singing Bowls for Health Purposes?

There's currently a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of Tibetan singing bowls for any health-related purposes. However, given its potential to promote relaxation, using Tibetan singing bowls in combination with healing practices like meditation and deep breathing could have a beneficial effect for some individuals.

Sources:

Wepner F, Hahne J, Teichmann A, Berka-Schmid G, Hördinger A, Friedrich M. "Treatment with crystal singing bowls for chronic spinal pain and chronobiologic activities - a randomized controlled trial." Forsch Komplementmed. 2008 Jun;15(3):130-7.

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