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FEATURE: Tackling stress via silent disco technology in Fife

Scott Hutchison-McDade takes Gayle Ritchie on a unique sound journey.
Scott Hutchison-McDade takes Gayle Ritchie on a unique sound journey.

Gayle disconnects from the stresses of modern life via a unique ‘sound journey’ combining music, meditation and yoga…

Like billions of folk worldwide, I carry my mobile around with me 24/7.

It’s a sad state of affairs, I know. After all, what could really be THAT important?

It’s not just social media that has me in its vice-like grip – it’s work emails, annoying notifications, and a load of other stressy stuff that’s phone- and screen-based.

Now and again, I force myself to do a media detox by walking in the wilderness where there’s no signal, or simply by leaving my phone at home when I take the dog out. There’s no doubt about it thought – smartphone addiction is a thing.

In a bid to disconnect completely, I signed up for a “sound journey” with Fife yoga teacher Scott Hutchison-McDade.

The state-of-the-art therapy combines silent disco technology and “binaural beats” fused with ancient yogic practices.

The aim? To transport you on a journey to deep relaxation and calmness while helping to reduce stress and promote sleep.

Candles and a Buddha statue set the mood.
Scott talks to class members through their headphones.

Scott’s session takes place in Dysart Community Hall and when I enter, the place is in darkness, lit only by a series of flickering candles and inhabited by a group of prone bodies, some covered in cosy blankets.

Handing me an eye mask and a set of headphones, Scott, 40, instructs me to lie down on a yoga mat with my arms and legs hanging loosely by my sides.

Pulling on the mask and headset, I immediately feel shut off from everything going on around me and, initially, to give up such control is quite disconcerting.

As I lie still, a tribal beat begins playing in my ears and Scott starts to speak, his voice gentle, hypnotic and entrancing.

Gayle and a fellow class member enjoy the sound journey.

He invites us to breathe along with him, deepening each breath and slowing down our thoughts, before guiding us through a virtual body scan, imagining points of white light all over us.

Very soon, I feel myself becoming almost weightless and threaten to drift off, the odd twitching limb reminding me that I’m still awake.

Scott then asks us to count down our breaths, in and out, from 108 to zero, with each exhalation going deeper “into the silence and peaceful stillness”, and abandoning ourselves to the meditation.

What stops me from completely letting go is the thought of Courier photographer Steven Brown snapping me drooling or slack-jawed.

Perish the thought!

Nevertheless, I allow myself to relax to such a degree that I feel what can only be described as “swimmy” and have an almost out-of-body experience where I imagine I’m looking down on myself.

Gayle floats off into another world.

All the while, dreamy music floats through the headphones, sounds appearing at slightly different frequencies in the left and right ears.

The hour passes far too quickly and when Scott invites us to come back to the real world, I’m reluctant to do so.

I sit up slowly, open my eyes and feel woozy, yet refreshed and somewhat invigorated. What just happened?!

“It’s common to feel light and floaty,” reassures Scott, who tells me many people report seeing colours and lights during sound journeys.

What of the binaural beats aspect? “Our brain operates in five different brainwave states,” explains Scott.

“Adults tend to function on a state of alert and spend the majority of time in ‘beta’ waves, struggling to switch off from constant stimulus. This can lead to a build of stress and tension, and can have negative consequences.

“Binaural beats help change this brainwave state to induce relaxation and calmness, which is deeply healing for both mental and physical health.”

Scott runs Positive Change Yoga.

To get a little bit technical, Scott explains that binaural beats use two separate sound frequencies simultaneously broadcast through the headset.

“The brain perceives a third sound frequency based on the difference between the two tones,” he says. “It then follows the new frequency and produces brainwaves at the same rate of hertz, allowing us to enter a more relaxed, dreamlike state, when we’re in the ‘theta’ zone.”

Indeed, research has shown that being in the theta state releases feel good hormones, aka endorphins.

That explains while I feel on a massive high!

Scott set up Positive Change Yoga in 2017 with the aim of making sessions accessible to everyone no matter their age, fitness level or body shape.

“My mission from the outset was to offer more than just a class where people bend and stretch,” he muses.

“I wanted to encompass all elements of yoga, including breath work, meditation and working with the body’s energetic system to bring health and wellbeing to everyone.

“As a yoga and meditation teacher, I see on a daily basis the need for more self-care. People are stressed and exhausted, being faced with a constant barrage of stimulus from phones, social media, emails, text and alerts. Over time, this plays a huge factor in our stress levels and, ultimately, our physical and mental wellbeing.

“The sound journey is a totally immersive experience where people can disconnect for an hour into a little bubble without external distractions. It helps transport people on a journey to deep relaxation and calmness – pure bliss – while helping to reduce stress and pain and promote sleep.”

Gayle and MSP David Torrance take part in the class.
Scott teaches different types of yoga but his sound journey is a pretty special concept.

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Scott also runs regular candlelit Zen yoga sessions, meditation classes, courses and workshops. For more details, see positivechangeyoga.com

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