Music to treat Stress



Under a thatched roof in a cool yard of a Raja Annamalaipuram premises in Madras, a 72-year-old man is lying down on a wire-mesh cot, in the 'Shav-asana' (dead man's pose). He is lying flat on his back, with arms on the sides and legs stretched and apart, and his eyes closed.

Vibrations of the syllable, 'Om' in ragam Thillang and in consonance and harmonics, emanate from a huge speaker placed below the cot, They are also directed into the head-phone worn by the old man.

This is a new project undertaken by Brhaddhvani, an organisation which conducts research in Indian music. Dr. Bharathi, who is a practising doctor and a musician based in Pondicherry, heads this new programme. This programme calls for patience. The patient breathes through four energy centres (below the navel, heart centre, throat centre and eyebrows centre), combining breath and music and shifts awareness alternatively on these four centres. He becomes aware of these 'points' and breathes in and out of them, the doctor beside us explains. Vibrations from the speakers below the cot impinge on the spinal cord of the patient.

A patient is treated like this for anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour a day for one week, depending on the severity of his or her illness. After one week, the patient is given cassettes that unwind this form of music and he/she can be treated at home and come in for weekly follow-ups. A minimum period of six months of treatment is required, says the doctor.

Before and after the therapy, the patient's height, weight and BP are checked, besides a psychological assessment as well.

What kind of patients have volunteered for this therapy?
Brinda Jayaraman, the psychologist who is involved in this project, says that the patients are basically those with psychosomatic disorders. "They are patients who have physical problems with their health due to stress and psychological tensions," she adds. Anybody in the age group of 30-70 years is treated here.

Reasons for this kind of disorder, says Brinda, are mainly due to stress. "We have shifted to materialistic values in today's fast-paced world. Setting up of the family and settling down in a career is happening at the same time for many. Choosing between family and job adds to it." Brinda should know and she provides the link that this therapy project requires.

Says Bharati, "Many youngsters are unable to cope with the demands of the society. An imbalance between the inner need and the outer situation leads to a lot of stress and music gives the satisfaction to this inner need."

How do they choose the music that makes a difference to 'sick' people?
Initially to de-stress the patient, 'Om' vibrations are used. After de-stressing, depending on the patient, the therapy is continued with sequence of notes or swara patterns sung by a group.

Brinda says that this music therapy is similar to any other relaxation technique. It is similar to the western relaxation technique, 'Jacobson's Relaxation technique', whereby relaxation of the body is felt by tightening the muscles and then releasing them.

Similarly here, there is a stay held on one single note, then a combination of notes builds up tension and it returns to tonic, hence releasing the tension. Bharati and Brinda add that the music therapy is only complementary to allopathy. However, once the signs of relief are felt, the dosage of medication may be reduced.

Right now, about ten patients including retired people and housewives, are being treated here with music therapy.

Dr. Bharathi has been pursuing such treatment at various medical centres in the past, including a session held at the Madras Medical Mission. She has also produced a few music cassettes to deal with stress, sexual dissatisfaction and relaxation.

She has also run music therapy sessions in T. Nagar, Madras and claims that about 30 patients who went through it regularly have benefited from this therapy. The staff of Brhaddhvani have sung the songs used in the cassettes that are being given to the patients who visit the centre in R. A. Puram, Madras.

If you wish to be the 'subjects' of this therapy programme, call Brhaddhvani at 41, 4th Main Road, R. A. Puram. Phone: 4321127.

By Aruna. S / Madras