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updated: 7/26/2019 12:37 PM

'Awakening' for the soul, spirit and psyche: Vibrational sound healing grows in suburbs

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The sound waves from the gong seem to spill out, then retreat.

The vibrations feel like they are pushing and pulling at the same time.

More instruments -- crystal bowls, handheld shakers and hanging chimes -- add to the mix as people lying on the floor in a semidark room at the Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital Health and Fitness Center in Geneva enter a state of relaxation and meditation, healing and cleansing.

"It's a deeper awakening. It's a subconscious awakening. It's definitely not a gimmick," St. Charles resident Hansa Patel said of the vibrational sound healing sessions. "When I get up and walk out of that room, my mind is clear."

Patel regularly attends and says it has improved her memory and made her more in tune with love, gratitude and generosity.

"The sound has ignited these qualities I already had and brought them out," she said. "This practice has elevated me. It made me a better person."

Yoga instructors and other experts say vibrational sound healing -- which can heal by lowering blood pressure, decreasing anxiety and easing chronic pain, and help those suffering from PTSD or other mental disorders -- is becoming more prevalent in the suburbs.

Elburn resident Jenny Bergold uses a full assortment of instruments during the weekly "Sound Healing" sessions she has held at Delnor in Geneva for five years. A certified yoga instructor, Bergold was taking a class years ago that introduced her to the gong, and she ran with it.

"It has medical benefits. A lot of people think you come and take a nap and that's it," said Bergold, who noted the practice is not religious. "People wanted to try it more. That's why we started it at Delnor."

Restore body harmony

Dr. Shaun Mathen, a family medicine and integrative medicine specialist at Delnor and Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb, said the human body has an innate ability to heal itself.

Meditation, relaxation and vibrations from sounds can help restore harmony to the body, Mathen said, making its cells and functions more efficient. A person will feel better and may also find relief from chronic pain, insomnia, high blood pressure and other ailments, he said.

"What sound healing is, is creating an environment of harmony so the body heals itself. Sound healing is a modality that allows the human body to find harmony again," he said. "Sound healing affects people not just at a personal level. It affects people at an atomic level. It's beyond our conscious state."

In addition to traditional prescriptions, Mathen prescribes acupuncture, nutritional counseling and sound healing for some patients.

"Sound healing is an excellent adjunct to complement people's attempt at improving their wellness," he said. "The body heals when it's in harmony. When there's chaos, it doesn't heal so well."

Ruth Day Elliot is a Naperville-based yoga teacher and trainer who added sound elements a few years ago.

"It's more mainstream now. We're taking this outside the yoga studio and into the world," Day Elliot said. "I've seen a lot more people doing it. Even small bowls -- it's something you can bring into any yoga class or meditation. Jenny (Bergold) is like a full concert."

' Sonic soul cleansing'

About a dozen to 15 people go to Bergold's classes, for which a Delnor fitness membership is required. Other sessions are held at local studios, such as the Prana Yoga Center in Geneva, for a fee.

Dan Shanahan of Batavia regularly joins Bergold at Delnor and other locations, and the two complement each other's sounds and vibe.

Shanahan describes himself as a musician who uses sound as a "sonic soul cleansing."

"It's a healthy alternative to pharmacology's approach to relaxation," he said. "People are aware there are alternative modes to traditional Western science and medicine, and this is one of them."

Indeed, there's no fine-print warning of adverse side effects from meditation, no copays or primary care provider referrals needed.

"We do it when we sing. We do it when we dance," Shanahan said. "It's not a happy, fad, new-age thing. It's just a method of reconnecting to those seven notes we've known since conception and before. Those notes are in our DNA."

Patel marvels at how Bergold and Shanahan work together.

"They're so well-tuned together," Patel said. "Those two are in perfect synchronization -- that's what makes it interesting."

Patel brought her husband to one session, but he fell asleep and didn't like it.

Bergold and others say a person needs to open up and let the vibrations in before it benefits can be realized. But even if a person in meditation falls asleep, the sounds and vibrations are absorbed by the body.

Lynette Dubovik first met Bergold at an "Earth Hour" event in Batavia about five years ago when Bergold was doing a sound healing and meditation seminar.

Dubovik, of Geneva, said she had suffered chronic back pain for years because of a slipped disk, but she found the results from the session were quick and tangible.

"That evening, I slept really well and I was like, 'I gotta try that again,'" recalled Dubovik. "I hate to miss it because you feel really relaxed from it. It really helps with my chronic pain."