Tonight I'll be drumming with friends and family at the Earth Lodge monthly drumming circle. free for all ages. We drum in the Native American heartbeat style, which is a wonderfully healing and therapeutic activity to get us in tune with our own hearts and minds, and allow us to release the stresses of the day, week, and month. Drumming helps us relax and enter meditative states (read more about that below), and tends to also increase feelings of ease and joy for those who attend the circle. Children of all ages and attention spans are welcome, making this a community-minded event that re-awakens our memories of being one-family, one-village, one-and-all.
Below, I have compiled a list of many more benefits of drumming: even if you can't make it to a local circle, just see how a little drumming at home could increase your well-being:
Blood samples from participants of an hour-long drumming session revealed a reversal of the hormonal stress response and an increase in natural killer cell activity (Bittman, Berk, Felten, Westengard, Simonton, Pappas, Ninehouser, 2001, Alternative Therapies, vol. 7, no. 1).
Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a study with 30 depressed people over 80 years of age and found that participants in a weekly music therapy group were less anxious, less distressed and had higher self-esteem (Friedman, Healing Power of the Drum, 1994).
Subjects who participated in a clinical trial using the HealthRhythms cancer protocol showed an increase in natural killer cell activity and an enhanced immune system. While this does not indicate a cure for cancer, such results may be of benefit for those facing this disease. (Bittman, Berk, Felten, Westengard, Simonton, Pappas, Ninehouser, 2001, Alternative Therapies, vol. 7, no. 1).
According to Clair, Bernstein and Johnson (1995), Alzheimer’s patients who drum can connect better with loved ones. The predictability of rhythm may provide the framework for repetitive responses that make few cognitive demands on people with dementia.
Rhythmic cues can help retrain the brain after a stroke or other neurological impairment, according to Michael Thaurt, director of Colorado State University’s Center of Biomedical Research in Music. Researchers have also discovered that hearing slow, steady rhythms, such as drumbeats, helps Parkinson patients move more steadily (Friedman, Healing Power of the Drum, 1994).
AND From "The Healing Power of the Drum" by Robert Lawrence Friedman, who quotes Layne Redmond, author of "When the Drummers Were Women."
"One of the most powerful aspects of drumming and the reason that people have done it since the beginning of being human is that is changes people's consciousness. Through rhythmic repetition of ritual sounds, the body, brain and the nervous system are energized and transformed. When a group of people play a rhythm for an extended period of time, their brain waves become entrained to the rhythm and they have a shared brain wave state. The longer the drumming goes on, the more powerful the entrainment becomes. It's really the oldest holy communion. All of the oldest known religious rites used drumming as part of the shared religious experience.
It is interesting to look at these ancient drumming practices from the perspective of the latest scientific research into the functioning of the brain. Using electroencephalographs, scientists can measure the number of energy waves per second pulsing through the brain. A system of classifying states of consciousness according to the frequencies of these waves was created.
Normal outwardly focused attention generates beta waves which vibrate from 14 to 40 cycles per second. When awareness shifts to an internal focus, our brain slows down into the more rhythmical waves of alpha, vibrating at 7-14 waves per second. Alpha is defined by relaxation and centering. Dropping down to 4-7 cycles per second the brain enters the theta state in which there is an interfacing of conscious and unconscious processes, producing hypnologic dream-like imagery at the threshold of sleep. Theta is the course of sudden mystical insights and creative solutions to complex situations and is marked by physical and emotional healing. People with a preponderance of theta brainwaves are also able to learn and process much more information than normal. Without some form of intensive training it is hard to stay awake in theta--one slips quickly down into delta. This is the slowest brainwave frequency, 1-5 cycles per second, the state of unconsciousness or deep sleep.
The brain is divided into two hemispheres that are basically split in their
control of the thinking process. The right brain functions as the creative, visual, aural and emotional center. The left brain is the rational, logical, analytical and verbal administrator. Generally, either the right or left brain dominates in cycles lasting from 30 minutes to 3 hours. While one hemisphere is dominant, the memories, skills, and information of the other hemisphere are far less available, residing in a subconscious or unconscious realm. Not only do the right and left brain operate in different modes, they also usually operate in different brain wave rhythms. The right brain may be generating alpha waves while the left brain is in the beta state. Or both can be generating the same type of brain waves, but remain out of sync with each other. But in states of intense creativity, deep meditation or under the influence of rhythmic sound, both hemispheres may becomes entrained to the same rhythm. This state of unified whole brain functioning is called hemispheric synchronization or the awakened mind.
As the two hemispheres begin to resonate to a single rhythm, a sense of clarity and heightened awareness arises. The individual is able to draw on both the left and the right hemispheres simultaneously. The mind becomes sharper, more lucid, synthesizing much more rapidly than normal, and emotions are easier to understand and transform. The conscious and unconscious levels of the mind interface and integrate more easily. Insight quickens and creative intuition flourishes, giving one the ability to visualize and bring into manifestation ideas more easily. An expanded, more complete and integrated state of consciousness comes into existence. Scientists believe that hemispheric synchronization may be the neurological basis of transcendent states of consciousness.
Research has shown that rhythmic music is one of the most effective ways to induce brainwave synchronization. Musical comprehension is a joint function of left and right brains and rhythmic sound can drive the brain waves into alpha or theta states. Many ancient religious practices seem to have originated in attempts to induce the transcendental experiences of hemispheric synchronization. Traditional drumming rituals appear to be efficient techniques for entraining the right and left brains, leading to emotionally and physically healing experiences."