The Healthy Drummer
Recently I had the pleasure to facilitate a drum circle for some of the staff at Community Hospice of Texas. As a Sound Therapist and drum circle leader this was fulfilling personally for me on many different levels. I also thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to share just some of the therapeutic benefits of drumming.
Humans have been drumming for thousands of years. Drumming is an activity that encompasses the entire globe, just about every culture from just about every corner of the world uses drumming or rhythm as a part of religious or celebratory functions. It literarily and physically moves us. Recent clinical research proves why: “The sound of drumming generates new neuronal connections in all parts of the brain. The more connections that can be made within the brain, the more integrated our experiences become. Drumming also appears to synchronize the lower areas of the brain (non-verbal) with the frontal cortex (language and reasoning). This integration produces feelings of insight and certainty.”Over the past nine years, I have facilitated hundreds of drum circles. I always try to set up a few minutes early to get settled in. Then I drum. I drum loudly as a sonic invitation to come play, explore and let loose a little. I am continually amazed by the smiles and positive reactions of the attendees as they enter the colorful circle filled with frame drums, djembe’s, tambourines, claves and shakers. Along with the brain connection that Dr. Northrup mentions, drumming creates a sense of connection between people. Whether it’s a group of strangers or day in day out coworkers the rhythm is a vehicle to communicate without words.
“Drumming boosts your immune system. Studies show that drumming circles boost the immune system. Barry Bittman, MD, neurologist and President of the Yamaha Music & Wellness Institute, has shown that group drumming actually increases natural T-cells, which help the body combat cancer as well as other viruses, including AIDS.”I use to host monthly drum circles at Cancer Treatment Centers of America and was amazed at how the participant’s mood would elevate. How easily smiles erupted. I think simply because the drumming made people feel good. At one session, a gentleman came to join the circle in his hospital gown hooked up to an IV with a portable stand while receiving chemotherapy. He said he heard the drumming down the hall and his cultural DNA demanded he come join us! He grabbed a shaker with his free hand and grinned for a solid half hour.
“Drumming helps control chronic pain. Drumming can certainly serve as a distraction from pain. And, it promotes the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, which are the body’s own morphine-like painkillers.”
Along with being a distraction from physical pain, drumming can help separate us from our normal thought patterns as well. At CHoT several of the staff shared how important it is for people working in high stress
or highly charged emotional professions to focus on self-care. I experienced first hand how these caregivers truly give of themselves. It’s important to take time to recharge and rejuvenate so they can continue to counsel and support their clients.
“Drumming makes you happy. Participate in a drum circle and you will see how happy it makes you. Drumming releases endorphins, enkephalins and Alpha waves in the brain, which are associated with general feelings of well-being and euphoria.”
There were two or three rhythmic incidents at CHoT when some serious easy grooves were unfolding and the participants were deep into it with their eyes closed. In a sense this is why people drum – to feel that
trance like effect. To separate our selves from the daily grind of our mind. In between the rounds of drumming we shared some prayers & intentions of healing and forgiveness. During the sharing portion …
there were tears, some laughter and a true sense of connection. It was simply beautiful. I am continually humbled to be a part of this process – creating a sense of safety and fun for folks to let go for a little while… and just play.
Metroplex. You can also find Kenny on a monthly basis at Dallas Yoga
Center.He can be reached at www.gongmeditation.com