five voices of acupuncture southend

The Sound of Chinese Medicine Part 2

To conclude my series of blogs on sound and Acupuncture, this week I’m looking at using the voice as a diagnostic tool.  Or, what does a person’s tone of voice tell us about their state of health?

When a patient comes in to the clinic to see me for acupuncture or tai na, there are a number of things I do before I’ve even asked a question.  Firstly I observe them.  I look at the way they walk; do they have a limp, favour one side or have any difficulty walking in general?  I also look out for any observable telltale signs of ill health, such as a sallow complexion or bloodshot eyes.  The quality of a person’s skin or hair can also be a giveaway sign of something else that is bubbling away under the surface.  I even take note of the colours a person wears.  All of these things, and much more of course, give me some idea of a person’s general healthy.

The 5 voices of Chinese Medicine

Next I will ask them about why they have come to see me for acupuncture.  And while they are speaking, I listen; not only to what they are saying to me, but also to their tone of voice.  A person’s tone of voice can tell us a lot about their state of health.  Differential diagnosis is a tricky business of course.  If someone raises their voice while telling a story, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are angry.  It could be just the punch line to a funny story!  So it’s important to take the context of what someone is saying into consideration.  Ask yourself, is the tone of voice appropriate?  For instance, if someone is telling me how happy they are but their voice is flat and lacking joy, alarm bells should be ringing.  

So let’s take a closer look at the five voices.

In line with the five element system of Chinese medicine, each of the tones of voice correspond to an internal organ and an emotion.

Wood – Shouting

The shouting voice is associated with anger, the Liver emotion.  Anger makes the Qi rise which gives the voice forcefulness.  Sometimes a loud and assertive voice is needed, especially when you want things done or you need to be heard, such as in an emergency.  Ever felt like you are being talked at rather than talked to?  This voice may not be loud, but could instead be abrupt and clipped, but the emotion behind it is still one of anger.  Anger is an important emotion, as you know, but without anger nothing changes.  Remember my blog about anger?  An effective general needs enough force to defend his territory, but not enough to start an all out war.

shouting acupuncture Steve Coster

An imbalance is Indicated when this tone of voice is used out of context.  Remember that the healthy Wood element has flexibility in its strength.  Someone who reacts to everything with anger or irritation clearly lacks flexibility.  Imbalance is also evident when anger (or assertion) is lacking when it is clearly called for.  This means the Qi is failing to rise.

Fire – Laughter

In a time long ago, in a universe far far away, I worked in an office.   I know, it’s hard to believe, it was another lifetime ago.  I remember during my initial training being told to answer the phone with a smile, which changes your tone voice.  And it does!  This is the same with Laughter therapy – the brain doesn’t know the difference between real laughter or fake, so by just pretending to laugh endorphins are realised.  Fake it to make it, as they say.  If you listen carefully though, I think you can tell if someone is truly happy.

laughing acupuncture Steve Coster

Laughter in the voice is different to actual laughter; it is simply having joy in one’s voice.  Listen to someone telling an amusing story and you will hear this voice.  There could be an imbalance if the voice is lacking laughter when telling a funny story.  Or on the other hand, when laughter is present when it is out of context, like talking about an upsetting experience.  In addition, some people laugh when they are nervous, or they laugh to mask their true feelings.   It can be an Earth laugh (sympathetic) or a Water laugh (masking fear), or a Wood laugh (laughing with anger).

Earth – Singing

singing acupuncture Steve Coster

The singing voice can be heard when we are cooing to a baby or speaking to a pet, or tending to someone who is in pain.  The voice is soft and modulates up and down.  There is an imbalance if you were to talk to everyone with this tone of voice.  But don’t get caught out; in some languages and dialects, such as Welsh, this tone of voice can be normal.  In these cases, you have to listen carefully to hear when the singing tone has more emphasis and whether or not it is appropriate.  

Metal – Weeping

weeping acupuncture Steve Coster

People with this voice can sound as if they are about to cry.  There might be a faltering in the words, or a chocked sound as if they are struggling to keep control of their voice.  Some people with a weeping voice might also sound weak, as if they are struggling to be heard.  A good example of this type of voice is that of Theresa may.  This voice indicates a weakness in Lung qi.  Theresa May not only has the voice, but she also has the grey, ashen skin associated with a Metal element imbalance to accompany it.  The emotion associated with the Metal element is sadness and grief, so such a voice would be appropriate in the right context, i.e. someone has died.

Water – Groaning

unhappy fish acupuncture Steve Coster

The groaning voice lacks animation and can sound as if it is dragging, much like someone who is lacking laughter (Fire).  The element associated with Water is fear.  As fear sets in and the Qi descends, the voice descends too, losing it’s force and vibrancy.  Think of someone trying to alert someone that there is a spider on their back people – in order not to panic them they speak in a quiet, flat tone.

 

I hope you have enjoyed this series of blogs on Music and sound in Chinese Medicine.  Let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them.

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.

Sound Steve Coster Acupuncture

The Sound of Chinese Medicine

In my last blog we touched on the sounds associated with the five elements and Acupuncture.  So this week I would like to take a closer look at Chinese music and it’s relationship with healing.

Music is important in all aspects of our existence.  We play music at every opportunity, at weddings and funerals, ceremonies of state and sporting events.  It also plays a huge role in religious ceremony, whether singing hymns in church, reciting from the Tora or the Koran, singing Sufi devotional songs, or the chanting of Gregorian monks. There isn’t a ceremony or an event that doesn’t involve some sort of music or singing.  And as I mentioned in my last blog, it has a role to play in healing.

Chinese Music

In Chinese culture it seems like every thing is done for a reason and nothing is done just for the sake of it.  Chinese music is no exception.  The five notes of the pentatonic scale in Chinese music coincide with the five elements, and the twelve tones correspond with the months of the year and the hours of the day.  Even Confucius had something to say about it.  He taught that the five notes of music should blend (like the ingredients of a dish) into a harmonious whole, no one tone dominating over the others, each contributing to the benefit of the group as a whole.  So, just like the five elements, balance is the order of the day.  

Music and Acupuncture

The first note is “jiao” and corresponds to E in Western music. It belongs to the wood element, is the sound of spring, and promotes the smooth functioning of Liver Qi, helping to relieve depression. The second note, “zhi” corresponds to G.  It belongs to the fire element, is the sound of summer, and helps to nourish the Heart and invigorate blood flow. The third note is “gong” and corresponds to C.  It belongs to the earth element, is the sound of late summer, and strengthens the Spleen. The fourth note is “shang” which corresponds to D and belongs to the metal element.  It is the sound of autumn, and protects and nourishes Lung yin. Lastly, the fifth note is “yu”, which corresponds to A. It belongs to the water element, is the sound of winter, and helps to nourish Kidney yin, protect Kidney essence, and reduce Lung fire.

The Six Healing Sounds

In Qi gong (which is itself believed to have originated from shamanic dance) sound is used to purge the major internal organs of noxious and stagnant qi by cooling and cleansing them.  There are six sounds (known as liu zi jue) and each is performed with a set of physical movements. Each sound effects an internal organ. Performing these healing sounds can cause yawning, burping, or passing wind.  These are all beneficial, so don’t suppress them.  Just be careful where you perform them!

1. SSSSSSSSS

The first healing sound is SSSSSSSS (like a snake) which benefits the Lungs.  Of all the organs the Lungs are the most in contact with the outer world and all its negative influences, such as germs, viruses and pollutants.  Making this sound is good for colds, flu, toothaches, asthma, emphysema, or depression.

2. WOOOOOOO

The second healing sound is WOOOOOO (as if you are blowing out a candle with rounded lips) which is the Kidney sound.  Practicing this sound is good for fatigue, dizziness, ringing in the ears, or back pain.  It could also be used for issues with reproduction.

3. SHHHHHHHH

The next healing sound is SHHHHHHH, the sound related to the Liver.  This sound is used to expel anger, clear the eyes of any irritations, removing a sour or bitter taste, or detoxifying the liver.  This sound also controls the quality of blood.

4. HAWWWWWWW

This is followed by HAWWWWWWWW (with mouth wide open), the Heart sound.  This sound can be made to alleviate sore throat, cold sores, swollen gums or tongue, jumpiness, moodiness, heart disease and mental disease.  

5. WHOOOOOOO

The fifth healing sound is that of the Spleen, WHOOOOOO.  This sound can be used to eliminate indigestion, nausea, diarrhoea and worry.  

6. HEEEEEEEE

Lastly, there is the sound of the San Jiao (aka the Triple Burner), HEEEEEEE.  This organ is unique to Chinese medicine and refers to the three energy centres of the body, or Dan Tien.   This healing sound harmonises the temperature between the three centres and the function of the associated organs:  the upper section (brain, heart and lungs) is hot; the middle section (liver, kidneys, stomach, pancreas, and spleen) is warm; the lower section (large and small intestines, bladder, and sexual organs) is cool.   

These sounds are performed sub vocally, so very quietly, as if on the breath, and just for a few minutes each.  In Qi gong it is the intension that is most important, so it is important that the mind is engaged and fully present.  Don’t worry about making a loud sound, you just want to feel a vibration in your vocal chords.  

Give them a go and see how they make you feel.  

The music theme continues next week when I look at how I use sound to make a diagnosis.

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.

Acupuncture Southend Steve Coster

Music to sooth the savage beast….or Liver Yang Rising.

What music gets you moving?  Is it the theme from Rocky?  Or Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries?  Music is really important to me and just about everyone else on the planet.  We seem to play music at every opportunity. When we are sad we play it.  When we are happy we play it.  Music is powerful.  It can get you up and moving, send you to sleep, or it can be absolute torture to listen to.  This week’s blog, then, is all about Music.

Why is music so important to us?

It wasn’t that long ago really that philosophers spoke of the music of the spheres – the concept that the movement of the sun, moon and planets produce a harmony.  Quite literally the sound of Heaven.  Unfortunately, they explain, we can’t hear it because the sound has always been in our ears – we’ve just got used to it.  I think it’s quite sad to think that the sound of Heaven is just white noise now.

Southend Acupuncture

The Chinese have known for a long time the power of music.  In the classic text the Neijing, the masters of Chinese medicine talk of different sounds and types of music associated with each of the five elements.

Wood – Shout – Lute

Fire – Laughter –  Pipe Organ

Earth – Singing – Gong/drum

Metal – Weeping –  Resonant

Water –  Moaning – Stringed

A diagnosis can therefore be made not only by what a person says, but also by their tone of voice.  For example, someone who is angry and shouts a lot could be soothed by the tone of the lute.  Likewise, sound can also be used as part of the healing process, like Gong baths or chanting. 

What is music? 

Well, basically it’s just noise.  It can be a sequence of noises, or it can be just one noise.  The noise might be pleasing to hear, or it may not.  I suppose it depends on what is trying to be communicated.  Primitive man would have started beating a log to communicate or simply entertain his friends.   But even that has the potential to be very sophisticated, just ask a drummer.  You may not like the sequence of noises I might like, but you can’t deny it’s music. When I was younger I remember playing dance music to an elderly relative and he just covered his ears up and said it hurt his ears!  You can’t please everyone I suppose, but you get my point…one man’s meat is another’s poison.

Southend Acupuncture Steve Coster

I always ask my clients if they would like music on while they relax with the needles in, and most people say yes.  But some prefer silence, usually people who are in the service industries such as hairdressers and shop workers, people who have to listen to music all day and now just want a bit of peace and quiet.

Over the years I’ve experimented with playing different genres of music in the treatment room: industrial, rock, folk, indie, world, classical, sounds of nature.  But like most things in life, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  Some people even bring their own music in.  Perhaps they are getting their own back, making me listen too.  However, a client once gave me a compilation of music that is totally neutral with no singing.  It goes down very well.  The only down side is I think I must of listened to it 10,000 times.  

The power of Musick

When I was researching for this blog, it seems the phrase ‘music to sooth the savage beast’ is in fact a misinterpretation of a poem by William Congreve (1697) in which he actually writes 

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.

Which seems quite apt in terms of the five elements.  Music is indeed extremely powerful, so powerful in fact that it can not only affect one’s heart, it can even break rock.  How enjoyable it would be to listen to music that can wear down rock and bend wood I’m not sure, but I’m certain there is a middle aged man somewhere who has it on vinyl.

But music that can wear things down?  This got me thinking (and googling).  Although sound per se can’t necessarily break things, we know vibrations can.  There are plenty of examples of singers shattering glass with their voice.  There is even a film with Alan Bates called The Shout where his shout alone is able to kill.  If you want to see someone shattering a glass with their voice, here is a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amuPoPkAlx8

Music as torture

There are plenty of examples in history of music being used as torture.  The U.S. Army famously played rock music non-stop to force the Panamanian dictator Manual Noriega into submission.  Similarly, in an attempt to flush out David Koresh and his followers at Waco, Texas, the FBI played rock music (with the added delightful sound of knives being sharpened and rabbits being slaughtered).  At Gutanamo Bay the inmates were tortured by continuously playing the theme tune from the childrens’ tv show Barney.  And during the Iraq war the building where interrogations took place became know amongst the inmates as ‘the disco’!  This is an interesting article if you want to read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jun/19/usa.guantanamo

Steve Coster Southend Acupuncture

The use of music as an interrogation method has in fact been banned by the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights.  But since when has that stopped anyone.  I had a massage once where the classical music was so loud the windows were rattling. Looking back I think the masseur must have been a bit deaf.

The Chinese Medicine bit

In Chinese Medicine anything that subdues Qi or moves it, is important.  Exercise moves Qi, as does certain foods and even other people’s moods.  Ever entered a room and straight away you feel a negative energy?

Qi needs to flow smoothly.  If it is suppressed by poor diet, poor mood, or even medication, the result will eventually be ill health.  And in the fast paced world we live in, we are constantly looking for ways to move our Qi, or indeed suppress it.   This might be through meditation and gentle breathing exercises, or by more extreme methods such as tranquillisers or recreational drugs such as marijuana.

But there is always a yang to the yin side of the coin.  Studies have also shown that listeners of extreme music such as thrash and heavy metal can positively influence the listener, inspiring calmness rather than anger. 

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jun/22/listening-heavy-metal-punk-extreme-music-makes-you-calmer-not-angrier-study

Music as medicine

The healing effects of music, however, is not really understood and experiment results are often contradictory.  For instance, one study shows that plants respond better to calming music.  The plants exposed to Hayden, Beethoven, Brahms, and Schubert grew towards and entwined themselves around the speakers. But another plant group grew away from a speaker that played rock music.  But in other studies involving music played to plants, jazz music had a beneficial effect, but country music had no effect.  

Southend Steve Coster Acupuncture

Plants can’t actually hear of course, they are affected by the vibrations created by the sound waves.  So maybe it’s not the genre of music that is important, but the type of plant and the frequency of sound they prefer.  Perhaps cacti prefer desert blues but abhor the sound of violins. I guess more studies need to be done https://dengarden.com/gardening/the-effect-of-music-on-plant-growth

Humans, on the other hand, can communicate how they are actually feeling so results are a bit more reliable.  Apart from being a powerful motivational tool and making exercise more enjoyable, music has also been shown to improve the recovery of stroke patients.  There is also evidence that music can help with chronic and acute pain, end-of-life care, and depression.  And much more it seems  https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/why-we-need-music-player-every-patient-room/2019-03

Enjoy the silence

Silence is very important of course, but is it ever possible to be in total silence?  If you have ever tried to meditate you will appreciate how difficult it is to escape noise.  Even if you were in some sort of isolation tank you would probably still be able to hear the beat of your heart.  Music is literally within us.  So rather than trying to escape sound, maybe it is better to embrace it.  Go for a walk and revel in the sounds of nature.  Listen to your breath.  Hear the waves lapping, the birds singing, the traffic humming.  Bathe in the experience of it all.  Feel joy that you are able to hear it. 

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.