Music therapy: the therapeutic effects of Indian classical music (Raga Therapy)

Long before acoustic physics became the subject of study in Europe, the ancient Arab, Greek and Indian civilizations were already familiar with the therapeutic function of sounds and vibrations.

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Long before acoustic physics became the subject of study in Europe, the ancient Arab, Greek and Indian civilizations were already familiar with therapeutic function of sounds and vibrations. The ancient system of Nothing Yoga, whose origins date back to the time of Tantra, has fully recognized the impact of music on the body and mind, highlighting its healing aspects by highlighting how the vibrations of sounds can raise the level of consciousness.

The ancient Hindus relied on the music for its therapeutic role: chanting and chanting Veda mantras since time immemorial has been a way to cure disharmonies in the individual and in the environment.

The therapeutic effects of the ragas, the classical Indian compositions, have also been tested over time.

A very ancient manuscript, the Raga Chikisa, described its use and applications to combat common ailments.

But what exactly is the raga? Literally it means 'color of the mind'. In Indian classical music the term Raga or Raag indicates a melody or a theme, or more precisely, a continuum between a scale and a melody. The Raga is basically a structure on which melodies can be composed or improvised, a sequence of notes capable of producing a particular emotion.

Depending on its nature, a raga can induce or intensify feelings of joy or sadness, peace or violence, and so on, and because of these particular qualities, playing, interpreting or even hearing an appropriate raga can work as a medicine. But Raga therapy does not intend to replace medicine, rather to support it.

How it works

It has been seen, in fact, that the melodies of the ragas have a precise calming effect on the mind and body. Listening to a raga repeatedly produces a network of sound vibrations. The muscles, nerves and chakras (energy centers) of the diseased area contract when they receive an impulse and relax in the interval between two impulses. During the contraction of the tissues, the musical notes favor the outflow of blood from that particular area, while in the interval there is relaxation and reduction of pressure. In this way the blood flows to that area from the adjacent areas. This process is repeated over and over and the flow of blood and energy in that area is boosted, producing rquick therapeutic effect.

Several empirical studies have revealed the efficacy of Raga therapy in surgery, cardiology, oncology, pediatrics, geriatrics and hospices. L'Apollo Hospital Group, which includes a dozen hospitals throughout India, has a sector of Music Therapy applied in the medical field. A collaboration has thus developed between doctors, musicians, psychologists and behavioral therapists and, from the research carried out, it has been seen that thelistening to appropriate ragas reduces the need for sedatives and pain relievers, the tendency to vomit after chemotherapy treatments and stabilizes the symptoms of Parkinson's-related disorders, also produces excellent effects in treatment of insomnia, hypertension, anxiety, stomach, heart and respiratory disorders.

But not only that, Raga Therapy has also been successfully applied in cases of autism and infantile hyperactivity. In 2004 the musicoterapeuta Rajam Shanker, with a team made up of medical and paramedical staff, began an experimentation on a group of 15 autistic children and their parents, at the Sandipani wing of Little Hearts Children Hospital di Hyderabad. In just two months of therapy, the children were calmer, less hyperactive and irritable. Pranav, an autistic child who did not speak, after two years of therapy, became a skilled singer, able to communicate freely with anyone and sing without interruption for up to 45 minutes.

In the course of his activity, Rajam Shanker has also been able to verify positive effects on menopausal women with strong hormonal imbalances and in cases of severe depression. In pregnancy, ragas therapy reduces stress, relieves pain in labor and facilitates childbirth.

Today more and more research is being carried out on the development of techniques to treat diseases and discomforts with the help of music therapy based on raga.

Francesca Aragno

Overtones Massages

READ also:

Music therapy: a support for young people with cancer

Music therapy: healing with notes

Bibliographical references:

Alain Danielou, Music and the Power of Sound, Inner Traditions International, Rochester, USA, 1995

S.CHANDRA DEY, The Quest for music divine, Ashish Publishing house, New Delhi, 1990

RK SHRINGY PL SHARMA, Sangitaratnakara of Sarngadeva, Vol. III, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1991

HIREN BOSE, Philosophy in Indian music, Rupa & Co., Calcutta, 1988

P. KUMAR S ENGUPTA, Foundations of Indian Musicology, Abhinav Publ., New Delhi, 1991

P. M. HAMEL, Through Music to the self, Element Book, Dorset, 1986

Bagchi, K. (Ed.) Music, Mind and Mental Health New Delhi: Society for Gerontological Research

Crandall, J. 1986 Self­transformation through Music New Delhi: New Age

Sairam, T. V. 2004 a . Medicinal Music. Chennai: Nada Centre for Music Therapy

Sairam T. V. 2004 b. Raga Therapy. Chennai: Nada Centre for Music Therapy

Sairam T. V. Self­Music Teraphy: Musings on Music Therapy

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