Health Benefits of Singing: A Perspective from Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chi Kung

Ralph Lorenz


It is often said that singing is good for the soul, and recent medical studies show that singing is also good for the body. In this paper I will present a perspective from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Chi Kung on why singing is such an effective sound therapy.
Chi Kung (Qigong) is a Chinese term for energy work, representing a large body of exercises that have breath work at the core. A subset of Chi Kung focuses on specific sounds that are practiced to improve the health of internal organs; I will concentrate on one such routine, the Six Healing Sounds (Liu Zi Jue). Tao Hongling is credited with creating this exercise during the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 AD). Although these exercises originate from China, the universal sounds apply to languages and singers around the world.
Sound is a useful component of Chi Kung because vibration is energy that can be directed throughout the body. TCM recognizes twelve meridians, or energy pathways, in the bodychannels associated with twelve organs. In the Six Healing Sounds, each sound is said to provide benefit to a specific organ. The five elements of traditional Chinese philosophy are also associated, resulting in these connections: 1) HA benefits the heart (fire element), 2) HU benefits the spleen (earth), 3) SS benefits the lungs (metal), 4) SHU benefits the liver (wood), 5) CHOO benefits the kidneys (water), and 6) SEE benefits the triple burnerbodily function rather than an organ (mutual fire).
In this session I will demonstrate the six healing sounds and discuss their applicability to Western singing practices. Over the last fifteen centuries, the Six Healing Sounds have a history of enhancing health, offering a unique perspective on why singing has a multitude of health benefits.

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