"Music without words means leaving behind the mind. And leaving behind the mind is meditation. Meditation returns you to the source. And the source of all is sound," the mystic poet Kabir said. Cardiologist Luciano Bernardi at the University of Pavia took this to heart. Studying music's meditation-like effects on the body
, he found that sequencing is crucial. First, listen to any song with a fast tempo (say, Taylor Swift's "Red" or "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot
), which focuses your attention and increases your heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure. Then choose a slow song (like Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata), which calms your nervous system. (Queen's powerful, fast-slow "Bohemian Rhapsody" does this all in one song.) The crucial part happens in between songs (or tempos)
: Listen to two minutes of silence. The release you get from going intensely fast to dramatically slow, with silence in between, is similar to that achieved in transcendental meditation, Bernardi found. It's a more profound level of relaxation than when listening to even the slowest music.