Did You Know That Music is a Full-Body Experience?

Music is powerful. It has the ability to bring us together. It can affect our mood, bring us joy, and make us experience sorrow. But did you know that music is a full-body experience?

happy young woman playing ukulele for daughter at home
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

Making music, in particular, requires involvement of your whole body. Music is a full sensory experience. It’s often misconceived that music is only experienced by our sense of hearing. But I’m here to tell you that music involves more of the senses. This includes our kinesthetic sense of proprioception.

Music and movement are full-body experiences that affect our physical and mental health. Both music and movement have the possibility to make us feel better. When you combine the two, the possibilities are endless. And music therapy through SoundWell Music Therapy supports a full-body experience.

Music as a Full-Body Exercise

I start my days with at least 30 minutes of physical activity. My practice is inspired by a program called Drums Alive®. It’s “the original and only evidence-based drumming fitness, health, wellness program. It provides a “Whole Brain & Whole Body” workout and promotes physical, social, emotional, and cognitive health at all life stages.” [1]

I don’t always follow the classes beat for beat. A lot of times it’s me, my exercise ball, drumsticks, and a good playlist. Because I’m on the exercise ball and drumming to a beat, it becomes a full-body experience.

But it’s more than that. As I’m engaging in these exercises, I often notice lyrics to the songs I’m listening to. They bring a new perspective on something and more awareness of what I’m thinking as I go through the movements.

I’m using this as an example because it’s one way that I’ve found to connect music and movement together. But it’s not the only way.

Music Affects Your Mental and Physical Health

There is a theory of music, mood, and movement (MMM) that combines the psychological and physiological responses to music. It holds the view that music alters mood. As well, it’s a cue for movement and makes physical activity more enjoyable. The benefits of this can lead to improved health outcomes of:

  • weight
  • blood pressure
  • blood sugar
  • cardiovascular risk factor management
  • quality of life. [2]

It’s no secret that movement increases our mental and physical health. But music is often overlooked as a component. Think about it- many people listen to music when they exercise. Music motivates, it provides a beat to exercise to, and it makes you feel good.

Making music affects your mental and physical health by providing a full-body experience. You don’t need to exercise to music to reap the benefits of that experience.

Movement and Music Go Together

Music and movement go together as a way of practicing mindfulness. You become more aware of what thoughts and emotions are coming up for you when you consciously move your body and make music.

Let’s take my example of how I use the full-body experience of music for exercise. I’m interested in working out to music in a mindful way. The exercise focuses on moving in ways that feel good, as opposed to following any particular routine or regimen. This gives me the opportunity to tune in to what I need at that moment and sharpens my awareness of my physical and mental state.

Teens sitting on bleachers next to computer monitors looking bored
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Some clients that I work with reap the benefits of combining music and movement as a full-body experience. This is particularly true for teenagers. With this group especially, music therapy supports a full-body experience.

Many teens haven’t found a form of physical exercise that they enjoy doing. Being a teenager is difficult. Adolescence often feel self-conscious about their bodies. Because of this participating in physical activity around others can also be stressful.

A lot of kids that I work with aren’t into physical activity and live mostly in their minds. It’s my job as their music therapist to guide them into their bodies and into the music experience. Making music or moving to music helps them reap the benefits from full-body movement. An added bonus is that they can do so without realizing they’re getting physical exercise. It’s fun and provides other rewards beyond the physical activity.

Music Is a Full-Sensory Experience

Music engages many of our senses. Sure, we take it in through our ears. Then the brain processes that information and affects our bodies and feelings. It can inspire our next actions and behaviors.

I mentioned kinesthesia and proprioception as part of other senses we have beyond the five we talk about. Kinesthesia is the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation. Proprioception is the awareness of how movement is performed. [3]

Proprioception, being one of the “extra” senses that we all have, is key when it comes to music being a full sensory experience. Because it’s not just about hearing the music. It’s about engaging in making the music.

In his recent book, H. M. Evans states, “Invariably, for me, inner music involves a muscular or kinesthetic component: primarily this component is what the exertions would feel like if I were physically to play the notes that I inwardly hear…” [4]

Evans’ example also brings up the whole-body experience of listening to music and imagining what it would feel like to play it. Your whole body is experiencing listening to the music by simply the idea of playing music.

Music Therapy Supports a Full-Body Experience

“Music, it seems, is a highly multimodal phenomenon. The movements that produce the sound contribute essentially, not just peripherally, to our experience of it – and the visual input can sometimes outweigh the influence of the sound itself.” [5]

At SoundWell Music Therapy, I use music to support a full-body movement experience. Sometimes the music is secondary to the whole outcome of the making of the music, which engages the entire body. There are a few ways I integrate the full-body experience of making music into my music therapy sessions.

I often make suggestions to my clients to find music that they enjoy moving to. Sometimes we make playlists or the client comes up with their own without my guidance.

I also provide my clients with some psychoeducation about physical activity and mental well-being. We talk about how music can further amplify the activity to make it fun and low-pressure. I emphasize that music is a full-body experience. We explore how that can work for them.

SoundWell Music Therapy Supports Full-Body Well-Being

When you work with me, you work with someone who practices what they preach. I use music as a full-body experience, and I’m here to help you do the same for your mental and physical well-being.

If you’re looking to enhance your mental well-being with music while reconnecting with your body through music, be sure to contact me. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation during which we can talk more about what your needs are. You can schedule here.

[1] https://www.drums-alive.com/about/research

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