Singing is Yoga for the Brain
If you’ve ever practiced yoga, you have probably experienced how flowing through the poses teaches us new ways to use our bodies. It can help us discover new muscles, new alignments, and new ways that we can move and support our musculoskeletal selves.
Singing is like yoga - for the brain. And if you or people you care for are struggling with neurological challenges – brain injury, or memory care issues – you may want to read on. Stroke or brain injury can have devastating effects on a person’s speech. Trauma to areas of the brain that control speech can rob a person of their ability to verbally communicate.
However, it does not always take away a person’s ability to sing.
Former US senator Gabby Gifford wowed the world when, after surviving a near-fatal gun attack that injured her brain and took away much of her speech, she recovered much of her speech through singing. Gifford, struggling after her attack to speak a few words, found she was able to sing words that she could not speak. Working with a neurological music therapist, she has made outstanding progress towards recovering her full speech.
Singing uses all parts of the brain, and can help rebuild neural pathways in the wake of acquired or traumatic brain injury (related to: stroke, car accident, or dementia). Singing will support neurological rehabilitation as well as preventing further cognitive decline. Dr. Lee Bartel explains this phenomenon beautifully in this video.
So if you or someone you love is dealing with cognitive loss or brain injury, just sing. Sing Happy Birthday or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or put on your favourite record and sing along. Keep track of progress – see how many words start to come back, how breathing might improve, and how the ability to articulate words increases. Just like yoga, singing is a practice, but you can count on it to see results, and even better, to feel good.
Click here for more information about neurological music therapy.
Photo credit to papermoons
Sarah Pearson is a music therapist working in oncology and palliative care in Kitchener, ON . She is the Program Development Coordinator for the Room 217 Foundation and Lead Facilitator of the Music Care Certificate Program.