Saturday night in Soho, and there’s a shimmering sensation in my forehead. Nothing illegal, mind. Rather, I’m at a ‘Sound Healing’ concert, in which crystal bowls are being rubbed to produce ethereal, highly resonant music. It is a mixed crowd. Around 100 people, from elderly gentlemen on plastic chairs to glitter-spangled twenty-something girls holding hands on the floor beside me, are all gathered in this high-ceilinged church to absorb the healing vibes.
The sound is not unlike that of a wine glass being rubbed along the rim with a finger, but amplified, with maybe 30 basketball-size bowls in harmony. The music has a resonance you can feel. Especially the high notes, which seem to reverberate like small ringing symbols at the front of my forehead. The reason I’m here? This vibrational quality is said to boost one’s well-being.
Who would have thought that 2017’s most buzzing — literally — health topic would be vibrations? Victoria Beckham is a believer, holding highly vibrational pink quartz in her hand during her fashion shows. So are Miranda Kerr and Cara Delevingne. You can find quartz-infused ‘harmonised’ water, and vibrational bath salts, oils and powders. And gong baths are popping up at yoga studios all over London. Even clean-eating guru Jasmine Hemsley is in on the act — her pop-up sound baths launch this month at East by West in Mayfair. So far, so exciting. The question remains, though: will this trend, ahem, resonate with you?
Let us turn first to Carly Grace, the sound healer behind Saturday’s concert (who has been holding the events monthly for a year, at £60 a ticket). ‘The basic principle of sound healing is that everything in this universe is in a state of vibration,’ she explains. ‘By working with the vibrations of sound we can restore balance through emitting the correct frequencies into the body. People often report the physical sensation of vibrations washing through them, a sense of stillness in the mind and opening in the heart.’
It might sound far-fetched, but, as the crowd gathered at Grace’s concert shows, the trend is striking a chord. One person who claims to have seen significant benefits is Alice, 26, a teacher who lives in Dalston. ‘I used to have massive panic attacks, and find London an overwhelming city to be in,’ she says. ‘I find a clarity, an emotional grounding in the sounds. I really find them calming.’
Not everyone will be convinced. ‘Many scientists would look at it as a bunch of codswallop,’ acknowledges Annee de Mamiel, an acupuncturist and aromatherapist whose facials have up to a year-long waiting list, and who uses vibrational sounds — via singing bowls and a tuning fork — as part of her treatments. But she argues that it is about recognising there may be more to life than we can currently measure. ‘It has taken thousands of years for the Western world to catch up with what Eastern tradition has known. In Ayurvedic and Buddhist traditions a lot is based around vibration. I see a parallel with acupuncture — it is about movement of energy that clinical trials can’t exactly understand, but that people at last recognise can be hugely powerful.’
There are certainly enough products selling in high numbers to suggest this is true. ‘Our physical being has a subtle vibrational energy which stress can upset — as can proximity to too many digital devices,’ says popular aromatherapist Michelle Roques-O’Neil, who has designed her Therapie range of products with vibrational equilibrium in mind. ‘The electromagnetic charge of our cells can be overloaded by all our modern-day gizmos, and Therapie helps to recalibrate.’ The Himalayan Detox Salts, for example, contain powdered amethyst, a variety of quartz, which is believed by some to pull out an excess of positive or negative charge.
Acclaimed organic make-up brand Kjaer Weis has just launched its first skincare product, The Beautiful Oil. Its key ingredient is the root of the dioscorea batatas, a climbing plant with small white flowers. ‘The philosopher Rudolf Steiner believed that the tuber of this plant is highly vibrational,’ says the company’s founder, New York-based make-up artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis. ‘When people try this oil as a primer under their make-up they say to me, “I don’t know what it is, but it feels so good”.’
The manufacturing process is also important to her. ‘We do our best to put beautiful energy into our products; we make them in a calm environment and we put stickers with uplifting messages on to the jars to bring good vibes.’ Whatever it is, she must be doing something right — the Kjaer Weis brand has risen to the top of the luxury beauty market, is now stocked on Net-a-Porter and is worn by Christy Turlington and Reese Witherspoon.
Quartz, this time rose quartz, is also a key ingredient in Sacred Heart Vibrational Water, sold at Primrose Hill’s Nectar Cafe. The crystal is immersed in the water for 24 hours before a tincture of rose is added, supposedly to bring positivity and better cardiovascular health. ‘Crystals are formed of minerals from the very core of the earth,’ says Michael Isted, the herbalist who creates it. ‘They carry the energy or vibration of the earth which can give them healing qualities.’ He points out that it is quartz’s ability to vibrate at a perfect frequency that makes quartz watches work.
As to whether or not that vibrational capacity can really translate into a health benefit — well, the jury’s most definitely out. ‘I am unaware of persuasive evidence in the field,’ says Dr Daniel Sister, fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine. ‘I haven’t seen scientific proof, so on a medical level, perhaps, there needs to be more studies. People are free to believe what they want — but medicine is based on rationale.’
At the very least, I can testify that bathing in the Therapie detox salts is a wonderfully relaxing experience (as fragrant baths tend to be); and the Sacred Heart Vibrational Water smells delightful and tastes rosy and delicious, enough in itself to leave me feeling slightly more positive.
Back in Soho, I don’t feel the promised stillness in the mind — though the music was pleasant enough to listen to, and I enjoyed the experience of the sounds. The other people leaving do have a sort of post-yoga glow, though; it may have been that I drifted too often into non-Zen thoughts. Probably the truth is that if you believe vibrations hold some beneficial power, then you will indulge and doubtless feel fantastic. And perhaps you will be proved correct in years to come.
Original article published in Evening Standard, in March, 2017