It starts in the womb. By 24 weeks, babies hear noises a mother may not even notice: beating heart, air moving in and out of lungs, growling stomach, and blood moving through the umbilical cord. You could say it is in the womb we listen to our first drum solo: that steady repetitive drumbeat of our mother’s heart. Some say a drum is also symbolic of the heart of Mother Earth. So is it any wonder that this sound has been proven to have healing benefits?
Michael Drake, a nationally recognized author, rhythmist, and shamanist, in his June 12, 2017 article “Ancient Healing Approach: Drum Therapy Therapeutic Effects of Drumming” cites eleven benefits attributed to drumming. The following is an excerpt from his article:
Drumming Reduces Tension, Anxiety, and Stress
Drumming induces deep relaxation, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress.…A recent study found that a program of group drumming helped reduce stress and employee turnover in the long-term care industry and might help other high-stress occupations as well.
Drumming Helps Control Chronic Pain
Researchers suggest that drumming serves as a distraction from pain and grief…promoting the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, the body’s own morphine-like painkillers, and can thereby help in the control of pain.
Drumming Boosts the Immune System
Led by renowned cancer expert Barry Bittman, MD, [a] study demonstrates that group drumming actually increases cancer-killing cells, which help the body combat cancer as well as other viruses, including AIDS. According to Dr. Bittman, “Group drumming tunes our biology, orchestrates our immunity, and enables healing to begin.”
Drumming Produces Deeper Self-Awareness by Inducing Synchronous Brain Activity
Research has demonstrated that the physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the brain synchronizes the two cerebral hemispheres. When the logical left hemisphere and the intuitive right hemisphere begin to pulsate in harmony, the inner guidance of intuitive knowing can then flow unimpeded into conscious awareness. The ability to access unconscious information through symbols and imagery facilitates psychological integration and a reintegration of self.
Drumming also synchronizes the frontal and lower areas of the brain, integrating nonverbal information from lower brain structures into the frontal cortex, producing “feelings of insight, understanding, integration, certainty, conviction, and truth, which surpass ordinary understandings and tend to persist long after the experience, often providing foundational insights for religious and cultural traditions.”
Drumming Accesses the Entire Brain
The reason rhythm is such a powerful tool is that it permeates the entire brain. Vision, for example, is in one part of the brain, speech another, but drumming accesses the whole brain. The sound of drumming generates dynamic neuronal connections in all parts of the brain even where there is significant damage or impairment such as in attention deficit disorder (ADD). …
Drumming Induces Natural Altered States of Consciousness
Rhythmic drumming induces altered states, which have a wide range of therapeutic applications.
A recent study by Barry Quinn, Ph.D. demonstrates that even a brief drumming session can double alpha brain wave activity, dramatically reducing stress. The brain changes from beta waves (focused concentration and activity) to Alpha waves (calm and relaxed), producing feelings of euphoria and well-being. Alpha activity is associated with meditation, shamanic trance, and integrative modes of consciousness…
Drumming Creates a Sense of Connectedness with Self and Others
… drumming circles provide a sense of connectedness with others and interpersonal support. A drum circle provides an opportunity to connect with your own spirit at a deeper level, and also to connect with a group of other like-minded people….
Drumming Provides a Secular Approach to Accessing a Higher Power
Shamanic drumming directly supports the introduction of spiritual factors found significant in the healing process. Drumming and Shamanic activities produce a sense of connectedness and community, integrating body, mind, and spirit. According to a recent study, “Shamanic activities bring people efficiently and directly into immediate encounters with spiritual forces, focusing the client on the whole body and integrating healing at physical and spiritual levels…
Drumming Releases Negative Feelings, Blockages, and Emotional Trauma
Drumming can help people express and address emotional issues. Unexpressed feelings and emotions can form energy blockages. The physical stimulation of drumming removes blockages and produces emotional release. Sound vibrations resonate through every cell in the body, stimulating the release of negative cellular memories. “Drumming emphasizes self-expression, teaches how to rebuild emotional health, and addresses issues of violence and conflict through expression and integration of emotions,” says Music educator Ed Mikenas. Drumming can also address the needs of addicted populations by helping them learn to deal with their emotions in a therapeutic way without the use of drugs.
Drumming Places One in the Present Moment
Drumming helps alleviate stress that is created from hanging on to the past or worrying about the future. When one plays a drum, one is placed squarely in the here and now. One of the paradoxes of rhythm is that it has both the capacity to move your awareness out of your body into realms beyond time and space and to ground you firmly in the present moment.
Drumming Provides a Medium for Individual Self-Realization
…Group drumming complements traditional talk therapy methods. It provides a means of exploring and developing the inner self. It serves as a vehicle for personal transformation, consciousness expansion, and community building. The primitive drumming circle is emerging as a significant therapeutic tool in the modern technological age.
Bittman, M.D., Barry, Karl T. Bruhn, Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, James Westengard, Paul O Umbach, MA, “Recreational Music-Making, A Cost-Effective Group Interdisciplinary Strategy for Reducing Burnout and Improving Mood States in Long-Term Care Workers,” Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, Fall/Winter 2003, Vol. 19 No. 3/4.
Friedman, Robert Lawrence, The Healing Power of the Drum. Reno, NV: White Cliffs; 2000.
Mikenas, Edward, “Drums, Not Drugs,” Percussive Notes. April 1999:62-63. 7. Diamond, John, The Way of the Pulse – Drumming with Spirit, Enhancement Books, Bloomingdale IL. 1999.
Winkelman, Michael, Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Westport, Conn: Bergin & Garvey; 2000.
Drake, Michael. “Ancient Healing Approach: Drum Therapy.” ThoughtCo, Jun. 12, 2017, thoughtco.com/drum-therapy-1729574.
Wikipedia contributors. “Cone of power.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 Aug. 2015. Web. 15 Jan. 2018 https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:CiteThisPage&page=Cone_of_power&id=674949254
Photography by LG Photo.