A Conversation on Holistic Sound with Amy Kynoch

Amy Kynoch found herself drawn to sound at an early age, a passion that led her to becoming a multi-dimensional DJ, music producer, and trauma-informed breathwork teacher. With a deep understanding of rhythm and the impact that breathwork practices can have on the mind and body, Amy is an advocate for mental health, helping others find connection and belonging through sound and music.

Amy, we’d love to hear more about your journey with music. What has that been like?
It has been a wild, nonlinear, creative, and humbling journey up to this point that’s for sure. I started DJing in 2012 and have always been obsessed with what I consider sonic curation. Evolving what I learned as a DJ with mixing, beatmatching, and sequencing, I wanted to learn more about remixing and the technical aspects of making my own beats, so in 2013 I enrolled in music production school. At the same time, I was studying metaphysics, kundalini yoga, and meditation along with its various breathing exercises and now, 9 years later, here I am synthesizing all I’ve learned and still going strong, nerding out as a student and a teacher of sound, music, and breath.

Have you always felt drawn to sound? 
As early as I can remember I would gravitate towards subwoofers and loud speakers, standing or crawling right up next to them only to be dragged away in tears by a nearby adult.

What does the combination of meditation, sound, and breathwork invite the practitioner to experience? 
Awareness of rhythm is fundamental to meditation, sound, and breathwork practices. Research has demonstrated that the physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the brain’s two cerebral hemispheres allows the left and right hemispheres to pulsate in harmony and even electrically “charges” the brain. Sound’s interrelation with the toning of the vagus nerve, the brain-gut axis, and the parasympathetic nervous system compliments rhythmic breathing exercises. This combination offers an opportunity to intentionally entrain our biorhythms by regulating our respiratory system to specific and consistent patterns. By focusing on our breath’s rhythm, paired with complimentary sounds for an extended period of time, we can enter a state of complete synchronization and union which leads to altered states of consciousness. A dissolving of any separation of self into the complete wholeness of the ocean of sound which we exist within and which exists within us.

How can this combination be supportive for individuals who have experienced trauma?
There’s really no short answer for this. Trauma is so very diverse and complex. 

Physiologically, trauma imposes an intense disruption to the rhythms of the autonomic nervous system. All bodies experience and respond to trauma along a spectrum. Depending on the severity of the trauma and the body’s response to the event, the rhythm of the nervous system becomes dysregulated or “incoherent.” Incoherence can be characterized by emotional stress, anger, frustration, or anxiety, and gives rise to heart beat patterns that are irregular and erratic, sometimes setting off a chain of other reactions that can cause the body to start functioning chaotically. As a waveform, it would look uneven and sporadic. This indicates that the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are not in sync with each other. When the oscillation between the PNS and SNS is not synchronized, the transient nature of their ebb and flow is not balanced. One or the other may be functioning on overdrive for sustained periods of time or the fluctuations might be erratic and extreme if coping mechanisms and safe spaces are not introduced to process the trauma through the body following the event. In this way, learning about the various benefits of different rhythmic breathing practices and sound meditations can be supportive to self-regulate and reset a dysregulated nervous system following a traumatic experience. 

This combination also has the potential to resurface unprocessed trauma. Although intense and potentially retriggering at times, if the trauma response is allowed to flow through the circuitry of the nervous system during these practices in a safe space that feels peaceful and non-threatening, it can then become easier to self-regulate through the repeated practice. Within each practice is the opportunity to subtly deconstruct the trauma stored in the body, the dissonance it has created, and release it as energy back into the system for reintegration and harmonization. This can lead to gradual or dramatic transformations in the relationship to the traumatic event allowing it to become less intense, disruptive, or intrusive in one’s life. It also helps with heart rate variability, which means, when practiced regularly, intentional rhythmic breathing exercises allow our body and mind to become more resilient. 

I recommend that trauma survivors that are seeking to cultivate a breathing or sound meditation practice have supportive help through trauma-informed practitioners and therapists that will help you to navigate and expand your “Window of Tolerance” as you begin the process. 

In the midst of such national polarization, can these modalities help us foster connection and belonging? 
When we practice getting “in sync” within ourselves, it reminds us of our interconnectedness. Just like when we clap in unison at a show, jump up and down at a concert, or choreograph a dance together, getting the inner workings of our body coordinated creates an amplified wave of energy. Intentionally dancing, breathing, or meditating is boosting oxytocin, the bonding hormone which can help us feel more deeply connected not only to ourselves, but to all beings.

What impact does sound and music have on positive mental health states? 
Moving the body rhythmically, dancing, breathing, chanting, or singing changes our neurochemistry and signals specific feel-good hormones to be released into the bloodstream. When we regulate our breathing and create intentional sonic environments to move or meditate in, we are effectively changing our neurochemistry, and adjusting the communication between the nervous system and the endocrine system. When incorporated into our lifestyle regularly, this can change how we relate to our bodies and our thoughts, and all of the fluctuations of the mind and emotions begin to subtly shift.

How can sound strengthen our relationship with the natural world? 
Studying sound, specifically sound design, allows us to reunite with our own essence. Sounds guide us to remember that we are never separate from the natural world. We are the dynamic sonic expressions of the natural world.

Do you have any favorite musicians or teachers that have been influential on your journey? 
Top 3 influences with regards to how much I’ve listened to their breath and sound would have to be Sade, Erykah Badu, and MIA. Soldier of Love especially is such an anthem for me and has given me strength to get through some really challenging times.

What are you currently listening to? 
You can find some spring sounds I’ve been compiling here :) 

Who inspires you? Whose work do you look up to? 
I am currently studying the works of Stacey Abrams and Wendy Carlos. I am most inspired by those of the past and present that have been laying the groundwork for true wellness of our local and global communities, those that have dedicated their lives to human rights protection, intersectional environmentalism, and those that have creatively and technologically pioneered the music industry.

Best advice you’ve been given? 
Listen to yourself

Favorite books? 
I LOVE books, and I recently started a collection of titles to read and some I’ve already read hereListening for Wellness by Alfred Tomatis is another book not listed, but is a profound text in my personal library for nerding out on the differences between hearing vs. listening. 

Connect with Amy on Instagram at @_kyma_