• February 2010

Wellness: Moving From Stress To Relaxation

By Dr. Celia Im
Lighting the Creative Spark

Before we begin our discussion about how we can find wellness in our lives, I’d like to talk about how music helps us break through blocks that keep us from feeling happy and calm.

Students of music know that the sounds created by instruments and the human voice not only serve to impact our mood — they can be a bridge between the tangible and the intangible. For centuries, music has inspired humanity and the reason is simple.

In its purest form, music is an array of sound waves that form patterns of high and low vibrations that interact with our mind and body. In fact, the music of composers such as Bach and Bela Bartok has long been mathematically analyzed.

Not unlike radio waves or heat waves, sound waves penetrate and impact our physical bodies as well as stirring our mind and soul.

The Research of Dr. Candace Pert

Consider the work of world-renowned researcher Dr. Candace Pert who has done research into neuropeptide receptors in the brain. She found the immune system provides a biochemical basis for interdependent communication between mind and body and contributed to the emergence of the field of psychoneuroimmunology. I addition to writing several books including “Everything You Need to Know to Feel Good” (Hay House, 2006), she created the musical guided imagery CD “Psychosomatic Wellness: Healing your Body-Mind.”

As for me, the question, “What is music and how does it change us?” has been something I’ve pondered throughout my life — first as a student of music, then as a professional performing musician, and now as a practitioner of music-evoked imagery.

In addition to studying Dr. Pert’s work, I pay close attention to other academics researching the effects of music on diseases ranging from depression to autism and schizophrenia.

And now, let’s discuss how you can go from stress to relaxation.

A Simple Relaxation Exercise

In its simplest form, wellness is fundamental for health of the body, mind and spirit — and it begins with basic relaxation. To feel truly well, we must be aware. So today, I’ll ask you to take a short break from your busy day and start on the path toward wellness.

Here’s a simple way to get your body and mind to relax.

Lie down and close your eyes. Relax the top of your head. Relax your jaw, your ears, your nose, and let your eyes roll back and take a deep breath. Move down to your stomach. Relax your diaphragm, your lungs, your arms, your wrists, and your fingers. Relax your leg, your thighs, your calves, and let your feet fall to the sides. Take another deep breath and fully relax.

Yes, this exercise is quite simple, but think about the last time you fully relaxed your body. Sleeping or stretching doesn’t always allow you to dive deeply into a state of complete calm — the place where we can identify the things that are blocking our progress.

If you have my Wellness CD begin playing it now to start your journey from stress to relaxation.

The power of feeling well

In my practice, I’ve come to realize that wellness implies releasing decades of pain and struggle held within the body. And it’s not as hard as you may think to release the frustration.

The reason is that emotions and memories are held in the body when flow and consciousness are not part of every day living. The music I create and work with acts in the body as a conduit, a flow that a person can utilize to readdress those past grievances, and understand that they are free and conscious to choose their life right now.

The results are powerful. Migraines and other aches and pains disappear. When they do, it’s powerful to realize how much our emotions impact our physical body. Suddenly we see that releasing old memories and ideas that hold us back is the first step toward feeling healthy, powerful, and well.

What We Can Learn From A 13-year-old Boy: A Case Study

Most recently, one of my favorite clients, a teenage boy, called me with a problem he needed help working through. I was just about to go through customs at the airport on my way to Asia, but knew that it was important to stop and take the call.

I heard a treble voice on the other end say “Dr. Im, I think I did it this time. I really made a girl mad. I said something bad, and I don’t think she will forgive me.”

I almost chuckled, wishing all men would stop to think about these things. Instead, I found a seat and began to talk him through the situation, first asking my standard question, “Where do you feel it in your body?”

His answer sobered me, for I realized that he was a textbook case of trauma in the making. He said that his arms and legs felt numb, his stomach hurt so that he could not eat, causing him to lose weight, his heart felt heavy, and his throat felt like he was choking.

Using a copy of my wellness CD recording, he let music begin to calm him. His breathing slowed as he focused his attention inside his body. I asked him what he thought he needed to heal the symptoms.

As if in a waking dream, he saw red in his arms and legs, which he was able to turn with his mind’s eye to yellow — a sign that he was opening the block and allowing the pain to release.

He said the music touched the sadness in his heart, and as it played on he said he felt lighter, and more hopeful. Then the insight came to him that he could possibly find the courage to talk with the girl — and suddenly he knew what he wanted to say to her.

She may or may not forgive him, he realized, but he knew that if he apologized it would leave them both much stronger.

Lastly, in his mind’s eye he saw a switch in his stomach that he could turn off and on to regulate the energy that flowed inside of him, allowing him to eat enough, but not too much. After crying a bit, his throat began to relax and within five minutes he thanked me for my time — said he was feeling better and now knew what to do — and he was on his way.

As I boarded the airplane, I wondered how many people could be saved from future sorrow if, as teens, they knew how to work their way through a stressful or sad situation. So many of us bury our feelings and push down the emotions that get locked in our psyche and body.

I think we all can take a lesson from this insightful 13-year-old who had the courage to feel pain, and work his way through it. I’m just so happy that the Wellness CD I created was able to assist.


Dr. Celia Im is the founder of the unique personal development program “Lighting the Creative Spark,” which is a transformational tool that uses music to awaken, enlighten, and empower clients so they can release old negative patterns that are keeping them from being happy, healthy, and effective.

Celia is an international award-winning musician and has taught on the faculties of Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and George Mason University. Her degrees include a Doctorate of Musical Arts from Peabody Conservatory, Bachelor’s Degree from Oberlin Conservatory and she holds a certification in the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music.

For more information, visit Celia’s website www.celiaim.com.