A didgeridoo concert reveals the instrument’s powers to reduce stress, blood pressure, and pain and promote an intense feeling of peace and wellbeing.
I’m sitting in yoga position in a darkened room lit mostly by candles surrounding a Buddha altar in the corner. On the mat to my right Julie says, “My boyfriend would never attend something like this. He says it’s too woo-woo.” She sighs and tucks a lock of hair behind her ear.
“This” is the didgeridoo concert we’ve come to experience. About 25 people have drifted into the room and set up their mats. Speaking in hushed tones, one by one they settle into a comfortable position and prepare for what will be an hourlong meditation to the sounds of the ancient aboriginal instrument played by Richard Wyzanski.
It’s a Sunday afternoon in South Florida circa 2014, but the “didj” was developed about 1,500 years ago by indigenous Australians in the northern part of the country. A sort of wooden trumpet, the didj usually comes in the form of hardwoods, especially eucalyptus. The instrument is literally crafted by termites that attack a living tree, removing the dead heartwood. Afterward, the tree is harvested and cleaned out, the bark removed, and the exterior shaped. Some instruments look like a long pole. Many have elaborate carved decorations or are themselves carved into elaborate shapes.
The traditional purpose was to use the didj as a musical instrument during ceremonial occasions. These days, however, because of its low-frequency ultrasound waves that can be both heard and felt, the didgeridoo is also used as a healing instrument to promote both relaxation and energy. The biggest benefits come to the musicians themselves through the circular breathing practice necessary to play the didj. This fast, sustained, pulsating rhythmic breathing (which engages continual movement of the muscles controlling the diaphragm, stomach, cheek, mouth, and tongue) is equivalent to a low-impact cardiovascular exercise, which means it can contribute to improved blood flow, stamina, and overall health.
Wyzanksi explains, “Circular breathing is the beauty, the ‘magic’ that enables a player to experience the full potential of self-healing benefits from playing the didgeridoo and maximal therapeutic benefits for others being played for….To circular breathe is to be completely in tune with your breath and the instrument as one, a simultaneous harmonious flow of awareness between the breath and the air pressure, vibrational, and energetic shifts.”
Playing the didj also promotes a deep understanding of the body and its breath function, creating a heightened sense of awareness and breath/body connection. The relaxation achieved after playing combats tension, stress, and anxiety. It can even—according to an article published in the British Medical Journal—be used as a complementary treatment for sleep disorders. According to Wyzanski, after playing he has “a feeling almost beyond description. A true earth connection and deepest expression. I feel alive, plus an amazing amount of deep love and gratitude. Also, I feel that I am nourishing my spirit and whole self every time I play. I believe I feel all of this because it is within the clear and deep intention that I play: I play to share love, be a part of the healing process, and share a greater awareness with others; sharing from the heart. I believe when the intention within is so clear and resonates the highest vibration, the universe blesses and allows for someone to share this connection because it is not about self; it is about building and connecting all as love, as one.”
Many of the didj benefits stem from the effects of Vibroacoustic Therapy (VAT), so dubbed by Norwegian therapist/educator Olav Skille in the 1980s. VAT functions on a very scientific (as in, not woo-woo) theory: The body is more than 70% water. Sound travels five times more efficiently through water than air. Your brainwaves clock in at 2 to 20 Hertz, while a typical didj records 50 to 200 Hertz. The result is that sound frequency stimulation (especially when applied directly into the body) efficiently stimulates the body on a deep cellular level.
For didj listeners, then, vibroacoustic sound healing offers many benefits, including:
- low-frequency, ultrasound-induced deep meditation that promotes theta and delta brainwaves
- stimulation of blood circulation
- blood pressure reduction
- decreased sensation of pain and overwhelming or intense emotions related to stress
- reduction of nausea, headache, anxiety, fatigue, and depression
- promotion of calm and peace
- reduced hyperactivity
- sensory awareness development
- stress-hormone level reduction (cortisol, beta-endorphin and ACTH)
- central nervous system, auditory, and physical stimulation
In his work, Wyzankski has witnessed the didj’s effectiveness for “musculoskeletal pain relief, clearing chakras, breaking up energetic stagnation, and increasing injury recovery time… [Plus a] positive sensation of tingling throughout the body (cellular and nerve stimulation), intestinal cleansing after [a] session, deep emotional release, relief from pain caused by arthritis or bone injury.”
I settle onto my mat, close my eyes, and wait for the didj concert to begin. Wyzanski has placed a quartz crystal at the head of my mat to increase the sound’s resonance. I’ve been instructed to point to a particular place on my body if I want it to receive special attention when he plays the didj over me personally. I hear him take a deep breath and then the music begins. The sound of a didj is difficult to describe. Part underwater electric bass, part rubber-band twang, with occasional higher notes that sound almost elephantine—all occurring simultaneously. It’s easy to hear why a meditative state results: The sound circles the room and also in on itself. There is the constant rhythm of the bass to keep you grounded and focused, and then accentual sounds that rescue your mind from monotony. While the sound itself is intriguing and hypnotic, when Wyzanski plays the didj over me I feel the full impact of its resonance. He begins with my feet. Immediately I feel the sensation of waves moving over my skin. As he moves up the core of my body (along the chakra line) the sensation deepens: It is warm and rolling and radiates out in all directions through my body from where the original sound hits me. In its wake I relax deeply, my body limp and languid, my mind empty of all but the good feeling.
By the time the concert has ended, Wyzanski has worked his way twice around the room, playing on each of us and using four different didgeridoos (each with a different sound). When, in the post-concert silence, he softly says, “Blessings to you,” it’s clear no one in the room is ready to move. We all continue to lie still. It seems almost sinful to utter a word and break the spell.