Effect of Raga Therapy on Human Body

by - Dr. T V Sairam

Raga TherapyNow a days, music assumes a vital part in each human life. Because of overwhelming work weight, people listen music to relax. Music increases the metabolic activities within the human body. It accelerates the respiration, influences the internal secretion, improves the muscular activities and as such affects the "Central Nervous System” and Circulatory System of the listener and the performer.

A Raga is the sequence of selected notes (swaras) that lend appropriate ‘mood’ or emotion in a selective combination. It’s a yoga system through the medium of sonorous sounds. Depending on its nature, a raga could induce or intensify joy or sorrow, violence or peace, and it is this quality which forms the basis for musical application.

A whole range of emotions and their nuances could be captured and communicated within certain rhythms and melodies. Playing, performing and even listening to appropriate ragas can work as a medicine. (Bagchi, 2003) Various ragas have since been recognized to have definite impact on certain ailments. (Sairam, 2004b) [4]. Raga therapy works in conjunction with a music therapist. The music therapist assesses the emotional and physical health of the patient through musical responses and then designs music sessions based on the client's needs. There are different types of music therapy that are used according to a patient's needs. Each patient is different and is assessed on an individual basis. Music therapy can be loosely divided into the following categories:

  • Music therapy to help develop communication, language and intellectual development
  • Music therapy as support, for people who are grieving, going through a crisis time or who are in pain
  • Music therapy to lower stress and tension
  • Music therapy as a motivation for rehabilitation
  • Music therapy to encourage movement
  • Music therapy as a means to identify with cultural and spiritual identity
  • Music therapy to assist memory and imagination. Etc

Rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS) Therapy
Music therapists use techniques that stimulate brain functions – a common one being rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS). This relies on the connections between rhythm and movement, wherein, the patient is stimulated to relax or move through the use of music of a particular rhythm. Studies have shown that RAS therapy improves the walking speed of a patient by an average of 14 metres per minute, compared to standard movement therapy. It helps patients take longer steps. In one trial, RAS also improved arm movements, as measured by elbow extension angle. Other Raga therapy techniques, including listening to live and recorded music, are employed to try to improve speech, behaviour and pain in patients with brain injuries; outcomes were mostly positive. Depression Raga therapy has been the subject of study for reasonable period of time now. As one knows, music is a powerful form of expression that delivers messages by the combination of rhythmic sound and words. Raga therapy depression researchers are confident of the effectiveness of music in therapeutic applications.

To be rendered effective, Ragas are used in a combination with Ayurveda, the ancient science of Vedic healing. A Raga must be played or sung to a patient keeping in mind his/her physical nature of vata, pitta or kapha. The time assigned to the Raga during the day or night is also important. Moreover, it is to be seen whether the time of the day or night is naturally suited to vata, pitta and kapha.
Let’s take an example. Early morning is the natural kapha time for Ayurveda. A kapha-type person should be treated to an early morning Raga like Bhairav, to cure physical imbalances. The later part of the morning and afternoon is pitta time. Raga Bilawal can be used during these hours to treat patients. Late afternoon and evening is vata time, when Raga Pooriya Dhanashri and Marwa can be used as a cure. It is very important, however, that the Ayurvedic constitution of the patient be kept in mind – as to whether he or she is a vata, pitta or kapha person. The people at the core of this treatment would be the music therapist, the client, the clinical facility whether at home or in a hospital, and music providers. Music therapists interact with their clients and the use of music. They assess their clients and create a clinical plan for treatment in coordination with the team and client goals. This is what determines the course of clinical sessions. A music therapist works within a client-centered, goal-directed framework.

The importance of raga therapy on human body are numerous. Here is a recent scientific paper which presents the effect of music on our human body. Raga therapy contributions to psychological, psychosocial and academic improvement. It provides practical guidelines to use music to accommodate children with disabilities also high blood pressure patient, pregnancy women, diabetic patient etc. There is a growing awareness that ragas could be a safe alternative for many medical interventions. Simple iterative musical rhythms with low pitched swaras, as in bhajans and kirtans are the time-tested sedatives, which can even substitute the synthetic analgesics, which show many a side-effect. They are capable of leading to relaxation, as observed with the alpha- levels of the brain waves. They may also lead to favorable hormonal changes in the system.

Download the Scientific Paper from here.

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