Five Minutes With: Phil "Shiva" Jones, didgeridoo player

March 18, 2011 

  • Unity Church hosts “Discovering the Sacredness of Breath and Soundâ€

The didgeridoo is a simple instrument. It's long and wooden and produces a low droning sound when played correctly. It doesn't have the flair as, say, the trumpet or flute. But when played, it can work wonders for your mental health -- at least according to Phil "Shiva" Jones.

Jones is an Australian blues singer who has been extolling the virtues of his native country's instrument for the past several decades.

The former singer with the band Quintessence travels the United States in an RV, holding seminars on the spiritual and mental good will of the didgeridoo.

He's in the Lowcountry this week, speaking at a workshop hosted by the Unity Church of Hilton Head.

Jones explains the powers of the didgeridoo.

Question. How long have you been giving these workshops?

Answer. I've been doing this for more than 15 years in America. We do presentations all over. We do churches, yoga studios, hospitals occasionally. We carry a spiritually oriented message, meaning we use it as a tool to enhance relaxation and meditation. It's nondenominational. It's musical, but it's also a self-empowering tool.

It's a combination of breath, sound and harmony. We look at how these three things can accelerate into the deep subconscious mind. You reprogram yourself. Your subconscious mind contains impressions that ultimately form your personality.

Q. How long have you been playing the didgeridoo?

A. Close to 20 years. It's had a big effect on me, changed the way I view things. Makes me more focused, more centered. We did a workshop at a hospital in Denver. The doctors there said it was the best cardiovascular pulmonary exercise they've seen. It's shown to significantly lower sleep apnea and snoring. (Practicing the didgeridoo regularly can strengthen the upper airway, which reduces the chances of sleep disturbance, according to a 2005 study in the British Medical Journal.)

Q. Is it that difficult to play?

A. It's the most simplistic instrument. It's only one note. You just blow in it and it does its thing.

Q. So it's more beneficial than, say, the tuba?

A. There's a different method of playing it. It also has something to do with circular breathing (the ability to play an uninterrupted note over long periods of time). We demystify circular breathing and make it easy to play. It looks hard, but it really isn't.

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