Years ago, I fell in love with drumming. Years ago, I bought my first drum–a beautiful, handmade djembe from an West African artist. Since then, I have played it alone, in jamming sessions, in performance, and in ceremony. I love everything about it–the physicality of it, the rhythm, the way it gets everybody’s bodies moving, and how it is so commanding of our attention.
Drumming is a universal form of music. From timpanis to tablas, from bongos to djembes– drums can be found in almost every culture across the globe.
But Western cultures are some of the last folks to realize what older cultures have intuitively known. Drumming has the ability to relax, energize, soothe, and heal. Drum therapy has been used by the shamans of Mongolia, the Minianka healers of West Africa, and finally, the doctors of the Western world.
In many of the ceremonies I’ve joined and even facilitated, drumming is incorporated as a way to usher us into the state of non-ordinary reality. For me, the immersive, consuming rhythm takes me out of my busy mind and fully into my body. Our society values our cerebral selves so much more than our physical selves, but staying in that mindset can make us feel anxious and disconnected. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember what being fully present and grounded in our bodies feels like. Drumming seems to do that automatically.Drumming has the ability to relax, energize, soothe, and heal. Click To Tweet
In the womb, we listen to the drumming of the heart and the rhythm of the breath.
Is it really a surprise that these sounds have been proven to have healing powers?
And there’s evidence to show the objective benefits of drumming–recent studies have shown that drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system, and produces feelings of well-being.
Drumming has a calming and focusing effect on everyone, including those with autism, Alzheimer’s disease, addiction, and trauma and PTSD. And drumming offers benefit for so many ailments that to list them all would rival the catalogue of side-effects printed on prescription drugs!
Here are 6 ways to use drumming for your mind, body and spirit.
1. Reduces Chronic Pain and Trauma
Chronic pain and trauma can have a draining effect on our life quality. Drumming serves as a distraction from pain and grief by encouraging your body to produce endorphins and your own endogenous opiates which trigger a positive feeling in the body. These chemicals also interact with pain receptors in the brain, reducing your perception of pain.
2. Boosts Immune System
If you didn’t think drums were badass already, turns out that they can help you fight cancer. Recent research from cancer experts show that drumming circles increased cancer-killing cells called T-cells, helping us combat cancer.
3. Reduces Anxiety, Tension, and Stress
Drumming induces deep relaxation, lowers blood pressure, reduces our stress reactions, and makes us feel good! Too much stress lowers your threshold for developing disease, and can trigger for strokes, heart attacks, and immune system disorders. Playing the drums is a fun way to release endorphins, release physical tension and really let go.
4. Retrains the Brain
The rhythms of drumming permeate the entire brain. The sounds generate dynamic neuronal connections in all parts of the brain, even where there is damage or impairment. In short, drumming boosts plasticity and repair. And the rhythmic cues can help retrain the brain after strokes or in people with Parkinson’s or ADD. And in a way, it makes sense, when you think about the drum rhythms as returning to the sound of the heart pumping in the womb.
5. Medium for Self-Realization
Even a brief drumming session can double alpha brain wave activity, which is associated with meditation, shamanic trance, and integrative modes of consciousness. Drum rhythms synchronize the cerebral hemispheres as well as the frontal and lower areas of the brain. This allows the inner guidance of intuitive knowledge to manifest into conscious awareness, facilitating integration and self-awareness. It also creates an environment ripe for feelings of insight, understanding, certainty, and truth.
6. Promotes a Connection Between Ourselves and Others
The social benefits of a drum circle can’t be ignored. Drumming with others helps strengthen social bonds, and allows us to connect and and syncrhonize on other members of the group. We must be present for each other, listen to each other, and respond to the overarching energy of the group. This process can alleviate loneliness,isolation, and alienation. People who feel out of sync with themselves can experience through this experience, what it’s like to be “in sync.”