Agra: What do you get when you combine the elaborate postures of yoga with the soothing strains of Indian classical music? A novel music therapy for the sick and the stressed, say two musicians of the Taj city who`ve just returned from the 13th World Congress of Music Therapy in South Korea.
Lovely Sharma, a D.Litt in sitar and author of eight books, along with eminent classical guitarist Devashish Chakrovorty, conducted a workshop on healing techniques through music and yoga, at the congress in Sookmyung Women`s University, Seoul.
Attended by more than 50 participants, the workshop focussed on the beneficial effects on concentration, relaxation and mood of the yoga-and-music therapy.
But the duo says the field is very much neglected in India.
"It is high time we took a lead in developing appropriate technologies, guidelines and a proper scientific frame to promote music therapy, which has already been recognised as alternative therapy capable of bringing about significant responses and aiding treatment through other therapies," Sharma told IANS.
India, she said, has a vast treasure in the form of classical ragas and musical strains which had in the past proved their efficacy but in course of time "we were swept away by modern influences and adopted Western ways".
"But now, even Western countries are recognising the role and contribution of yoga and Indian classical music, as was evidenced by the impressive participation of so many western countries in the World Congress," Sharma said.
According to Chakrovorty, India was particularly suited for making use of musical therapy.
"India stands a very good chance of encashing on the success of music therapy advances because our classical music was geared to healing and had a very diverse variety.
"Western music has had limited success in this field as Western classical music is not melodious like ours. We work on individual `surs`, fine-tuning the notes to specific requirements, from soft to high," he said.
The spiritual nuances of Indian classical music traditions, developed over centuries, are particularly suited for music therapy, he said, but added that a lot of research and developmental work needed to be done.
Interestingly, while the modern world may be just waking up to the therapy, ancient Indian scriptures have a well-documented technique called `nada yoga` -- or the science of utilising sound vibrations and yogic asanas (postures) to achieve `salvation`.
According to Sharma, nada yoga has enormous power to heal. It is believed that Indian classical music has very positive effects on human health and behaviour.
"Recent studies on the subject showed that music along with yoga can heal disorders like hypertension, arthritis, problems related to upper or lower parts of the body, mental stress and tension," she said.
Sharma has also conducted music therapy workshops in various jails and says the results have been encouraging.
"The Agra central jail has been my laboratory. I have learnt a lot by interacting with the inmates and experimenting with various ragas to increase their concentration and bring down their stress levels...Now, other jails too are regularly organising music classes to reduce stress level and control violent streaks in some of the criminals," she said.
At the Seoul workshops, the participants learnt some important asanas with the singing of compositions or chanting of hymns required for healing of various disorders.
"After 15-20 therapeutic sessions, it was observed that participants were feeling very much relaxed and noticed an improvement in their physical and mental conditions," she said.
Sharma recommended that future research studies should aim to scientifically establish the effectiveness of nada yoga and other music therapies.