Therapeutic Drumming: Beat the Winter Blues AwayDec 01, 2012 02:06AM ● By By Jamie Walleisa
We all have an innate sense of rhythm, first experienced and imprinted on our psyche before we are even born, from our mother’s heartbeat. From then on, natural sources of beat and rhythm surround us, from the ticking of clocks to the rising and falling of waves; even our breath creates rhythmic sound. When we are not in harmony with life’s natural cadence, we feel unbalanced, unwell and out of step. Therapeutic drumming can help.
The drum is believed to be the oldest instrument used by humans, and has held significant meaning in nearly every culture for thousands of years. Initially used to communicate over long distances, it became a sacred tool, connecting communities to one another and to the spiritual world. Although ancient peoples lacked the science to understand why drumming was so powerful, researchers are now discovering what these societies intuitively knew all along—banging on drums is more than just fun, it is also therapeutic. A truly holistic form of healing, drumming has profound impacts on the body, mind and spirit.
Marching to the Same Drum: Community Building
There is a correlation between group drumming and strong communities. Drumming defies social barriers of age, race, gender and religion, and naturally bonds us on the universal quest to realign with the rhythm of life. Group drumming increases communication, listening and teamwork, and because it encourages cooperation instead of competition, participants may experience greater self-esteem, creativity and freedom of expression. In her article, “HealthRHYTHMS and Music Therapy in Employee Wellness,” Music Therapist Lauren Daniels notes that when employers incorporate drumming workshops as team-building exercises, they produce happier employees and lower turnover in high-stress occupations.
Drummer’s High: Physical Well-being
A 2010 article published in Science of Mind magazine explains how sustained rhythmic drumming increases the body’s heart rate, stimulates blood flow and causes the release of endorphins in a manner resembling a runner’s high. Endorphins are the brain chemicals most known for their natural pain-relieving abilities. Because chronic pain and stress can increase the risk of cancer, heart attacks and strokes, alleviating those conditions benefits overall health.
Beating the Blues: Mental and Emotional Healing
Drum therapy is intended to complement traditional therapies for clinical conditions that include trauma, depression, anxiety and addiction. Proponents of the therapy say that because each tone produced by a drum carries a different vibrational energy, the act of drumming makes cells throughout the body vibrate in response, sparking a series of physiological changes believed to rattle negative and blocked emotions free.
Mark Seaman, owner of Zenergy Arts and Wellness LLC, in West Reading, has received national recognition for his interactive workshops, including his work with adolescents in substance abuse treatment. In a 2003 article in the American Journal of Public Health, Seaman explains, “Drumming produces an altered state of consciousness and an experience of a rush of energy from the vibrations, with physical stimulation producing emotional release.”
Tapping into Higher Power: Spiritual Unity
Regardless of one’s preferred religious or spiritual practices, therapeutic drumming can foster feelings of spiritual intimacy with a higher power. Traditional psychology divides the human brain into two hemispheres: the logical left and the intuitive right. Many activities engage one side or the other, requiring either an analytical, factual solution (left brain) or a creative, emotional response (right brain). Drumming, however, engages the entire brain, according to rhythmist and ceremonial drummer Michael Drake. He notes that the practice synchronizes the two hemispheres by entraining brain waves into the same pattern, similar to that achieved during a deep meditative state, which allows intuitive guidance to flow freely into conscious awareness.
Therapeutic drumming is accessible, portable and a natural talent waiting to be discovered within all of us. When grey days and cold weather leave us feeling down, we can join a class, jam with friends and beat the winter blues away.
Jamie Walleisa is a freelance writer based in Lancaster who studied biology at Millersville University and holistic nutrition therapy in Denver, Colorado. Connect with her at [email protected]
Local Resources for Drumming Events
Radiance, 9 West Grant Street, Lancaster. 717-290-1517. RadianceInLancaster.blogspot.com.
Earth Rhythms, 641 Penn Avenue, West Reading. 610-374-3730 or EarthRhythms.com.