Sound massage, also known as sound therapy or sound healing, is an increasingly popular wellness practice that uses sound waves via various instruments, such as Tibetan singing bowls, gongs or chimes, to promote physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Sound massage involves placing the instruments directly onto the body, whereas at a sound bath experience, practitioners play their instruments in the same room while people relax and take in the sound. 

We spoke to two Nairobi based sound healing practitioners, Cendra Tisun-Lépinoy and Ornella Hutchison, to delve deeper into the practice, weaving together the scientific and the spiritual aspects of sound healing.

Q:  Tell me about sound healing: what is it and specifically what is it to you?

Cendra: I always say that for me sound healing is my mind hack. I had a sound massage, and experiencing sound with singing bowls let me experience for the first time this peace of mind; this moment of peace where you’re just connected within and the sound brings you back to this present moment, to this calmness where there’s nothing in your mind anymore.

Ornella: Everything Cendra said is true. For me as a practitioner, it’s a chance for people to just fully let their walls go down. As soon as the bowl gets placed on your body, your mind can’t really go anywhere else, it has to just focus on that sound. And as soon as that happens, as soon as you start being present, you just go into this deep relaxation and nothing else goes on in your mind. Once the walls are down, I can work on energetic healing, focussing on the chakras (the seven centres of spiritual power in the body). 

Q: Can you talk about your journey into sound healing as a practitioner?

Ornella: I went to Nepal to do my yoga teacher training and at the ashram, they also do sound healing certification. So as a gift for all of us during the yoga training, we were taken in to do a sound bath, which is different, and it was beautiful. And it was the first time I’ve felt so relaxed that you leave somewhere; it feels like your cells are buzzing!

We asked to also do the sound healing certification and that’s when I learned all sorts of different sound massage techniques. They taught us how to put it on specific points of the body. All up the back, shoulders, the legs, feet, around the heart, all the way down to the womb. As soon as the bowl was placed on my heart, I just started crying and crying, but it was not painful. It was a really beautiful space to let my emotions come out. And it was through the sound. So for me, I was like, wow, this is incredible. And I really want to learn and take this through to other people.

Cendra: After that first experience my awareness focused on places that offered different sound modalities. I was on a business trip to San Francisco one time and there was sound bath taking place in a cathedral. I was like, wow, I have to be there. There were different instruments: crystal bowls, Tibetan bowls, harp, flute, gong. And different people playing at the same time. It was like a concert, but with healing instruments. The sound was quite impactful because of the huge space that it was in. And it was the first time where I felt how sound is also vibration. Because your body is mainly water, more than 70%, you actually feel the sound with your whole body. It resonates within the whole body and vibrates. I felt this emotional release as well. The sound penetrates all layers of your energetic body, your physical body and then down to your core self. It really does something to you. You cannot be immune to it when you’re totally immersed in that sound.

You know how when something works for you, you go down this rabbit hole and you really want to dig deeper and understand? I was really open to energies and chakras and everything, but my rational mind still was getting the upper hand and so I wanted to explore the scientific route.

So I studied and certified in the Peter Hess Method. When I came here to Kenya I started practising first within my own community and then I spread out to Nairobi. I really see this very open mindset here, because Nairobi is a place where there are so many people from different cultures and very diverse. I’ve grown a lot through these experiences as well – I’ve opened up to a more spiritual side and the chakras and so on.

Q: You touched on the scientific rabbit hole you went down: what is the scientific basis of sound healing? How does it actually work? 

Ornella: It’s based on the law of vibration, everything vibrates at a certain frequency. So the bowls that you get are tuned to different notes. And each note has its certain frequency. The human body vibrates at a certain frequency, but then also the emotions, energy in motion; they also vibrate at a certain frequency. If you have any illnesses or trauma, for example, that’s also vibrating. When a bowl is placed on you and played, it’s such a strong frequency that the cells have no choice but to match that frequency. So anything that doesn’t match has to get discarded by the body. That’s why a lot of times when people come for sound healing, they cry or they shake, you get a lot of shaking, or little spasms.

Cendra: I would add that it has an effect on brain waves also. You can actually see and measure the brain waves. For people who get into this relaxed state, and altered state of mind, the waves appear in alpha state which is much, much slower, indicating the brain is active but relaxed. Being in this deep, meditative zone  is regenerative.

As Ornella says, the sound vibrations also allow the body to relax and let its guard down. It allows the parasympathetic nervous system to be in rest and digest mode, away from fight or flight mode. So just being in that state for the hour long duration of the sound massage can sometimes feel more restful than a full night’s sleep, to some people.

Q: What can be gained from sound massage or sound healing?

Cendra: From the biological point of view, because your body is letting go, you reduce your stress. You can improve your sleep because the mind is less active. Because your nervous system is in this rest and digest mode, your body goes into healing and repair mode. Your heart rate also gets slower. It’s like a domino effect of getting into this repair and restoring mode of your body, and it knows what to do itself, to get back to 100%.

Ornella: I feel like you state the biological or scientific side effects really well. So I think I’ll go into more of the internal world. The sound makes you very present, because your eyes are closed and you go into this sort of dream, in-between, sleep state, so you’re able to see your internal world.A lot of clients have said it’s really softened their gaze on their body, on the way they are or their emotions and they’re able to sort of hold themselves in a more gentle way with a more tender or soft awareness. And I think that is very healing in itself.  Just the emotional release, I think, is very profound for a lot of people.

Q: Do people ever feel negative effects from sound healing?

Ornella: Yeah, well, sometimes, if you’ve gone through a really hard time in life, sometimes it can all come out and sometimes healing doesn’t feel great. Sometimes it feels really heavy and really draining in a way. It is what we call a vulnerability hangover. You feel all these things and it’s hard to deal with afterwards. So I think the aftercare, having support after, is really important. And sometimes it can be physically uncomfortable, like having the shakes. It can be scary for some people if they don’t understand. It’s a detox, so the cells are shedding. You’re literally shedding whether that’s physical, emotional, spiritual, or whatever, it’s shedding. 

Cendra: And for some people who are really tired after a session, they feel it’s not usual, that normally they are never tired. But this is because they haven’t listened to their body and their body was actually tired. They haven’t seen the signs of soreness and all these things because they shut down their minds. They’re on autopilot and they don’t feel they don’t allow themselves to feel. 

Q: And people need to go through the side effects to get the benefits….

Cendra: Yes, one client said, it was for her the first time she allowed herself to feel her body because her body didn’t feel safe before. And for her it was like a revelation. She can actually get into this feeling and it’s safe for her, or I created the safe space for her to get into her body. I think there has to be either a strong emotional trigger or physical pain. Then the change can arise.

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Q: It sounds like there is a link between connecting to the body and wholeness, feeling whole. Can you talk to that idea?

Cendra: I know that sound massage works on elderly people who are struggling with for example, dementia, Alzheimer, Parkinson… to feel connected with their body again. They are able to escape these unpleasant thoughts or feelings they have and just feel safe again in their bodies and revive that kind of energy they have still within, this little light that still wants to experience joy and peace.

So it depends on the intention that the person sets, but it can definitely create a space to experience or to get out of their struggles in life and get away from their anxiety, get away from the stress and the pain they feel in their body. 

I learned in Peter Hess Method training about people with disabilities, who had lost limbs. If the bowl was placed where the leg or the arm was supposed to be, there was still an energetic field of the part of the body which they can connect again with. Like they’re feeling whole again. The feeling of wholeness is really something quite strong in your well being, if you don’t feel whole, you feel like you’re missing something.

Q: Why do you think sound healing is becoming a more popular modality within the wellness industry?

Cendra: I think society is slowly waking up; COVID changed quite a lot. People started to question their lifestyle. We come from a system which glamorises disconnecting, numbing, dissociating from your body. This creates a sort of holding inside your body which is not good, creating chronic stress, disease, cancer, and the like. 

Sound is an easy way to reconnect with your body because there is actually not much effort involved. You just lay there and open up to the experience. 

Ornella: I agree with you about COVID. It was the first time we had to stop and actually sit with ourselves without distraction. So yeah, I think people have awareness now that rest is actually really important and an integral part of survival.

I’ve asked a few people why they chose sound healing.  A lot of people aren’t ready to talk about all their issues and their pain. So this is a therapy where you don’t have to talk. You can let the sound just do its thing and heal that way. So I think that’s a really nice and accessible way to come into therapy or healing. 

And I think that feelings and crying are being more talked about and accepted, not as a weakness but actually as a strength, as an essential part of just letting the body release like it has to do that to come back to balance. I think that’s also making sound healing more prominent.

If you’d like to know more about Sound Healing or Sound Massage, or book an appointment, you can contact Ornella or Cendra on the contacts below.

Cendra Tisun-Lépinoy @sound_massage_kenya |

Ornella Hutchison @ornella.selflove |