Q. Can you suggest some resources that address the effects of mind/body exercises on your immune system?
There are numerous ongoing studies in the field of mind/body practices indicating that reducing stress can positively affect one’s immune system. One theory is that the mind and body communicate through vibration. Simply put, we are all vibrating — from external sources such as the sun, television, satellite and cell phone signals, and from internal sources such as breathing, talking, hearing, digesting, and thinking. Dr. Candace B. Pert, a pharmacologist and neuroscientist and author of Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine (Simon & Schuster) examines how the immune, central nervous and endocrine systems are communicating (or vibrating) back and forth all the time. Her book also addresses such questions as: Where do our thoughts come from? How do we store and retain them? How do we transmit these thoughts throughout our bodies to maintain the conscious and unconscious actions necessary to regulate our bodies?
Another excellent guide is The Healing Power of Sound: Recovery from Life-Threatening Illness Using Sound, Voice, and Music (Shambhala Publications) by Dr. Mitchell L. Gaynor, an oncologist who explores the science of vibration and offers practical exercises for harnessing sound as a relaxation technique.
Vibration exercises can sometimes be more effective for some people than meditation or imagery in offering moments of peace and calm during the stress of illness. One example of a vibration exercise is drumming. The repetitive beating of a drum with a mallet becomes an active mantra and an expression of emotion. Over the course of 10 or 20 minutes, the vibration emitted by the beating begins to break down the tensions of the body that can cause stress. There are many sounds and instruments that people can use, but percussion instruments tend to have a more vibrational resonance that can be felt physically. Drumming, alone or in a group, can be especially helpful for creating a sense of relaxation.
In pursuing mind/body practices, it’s important for each individual to choose a technique that will be helpful to them.