Benefits of Drumming
The melodic beat and benefits of the drum were essential components of life for our ancestors. Cultures across the world used drumming to heal, as part of their spiritual practice, to send loved ones on after death, and to celebrate the joy of life through dance and fellowship.
Although Africa is considered the heartbeat of drum rhythm and knowledge, the oldest discovered drum is from China and dates to around 5,000 B.C.E. Drumming spread throughout the ancient world via the Silk Road. It was used to communicate with other villages. In many societies, the tribe’s shaman (healer, spiritualist) went into an altered state through drumming to prepare himself to heal the sick. Drumming, in other words, was a part of everyday life.
While drumming is still essential in some cultures, such as Native Americans and with the Sufis (an esoteric form of Islam), in most parts of the world, it became less valuable as a healing, spiritual, and bonding tool. Drumming was relegated to the music scene, helping to keep the beat. However, with the resurrection of drum circles in the last couple of decades, drumming is also being recognized for its value to heal.
Drumming is now found everywhere from hospices to ease the terminally ill to corporate meetings to encourage teamwork and every place in between. Learning to drum is being taught to those with addiction, autism, dementia, and learning disabilities.
“‘Drums are accessible and don’t present the challenge of a learning curve – anyone regardless of handicap can sit and beat out a rhythm on a drum.'” Barry Bittman, M.D. – Neurologist, CEO Yamaha and Wellness Institute[i]
Christine Northrup, M.D. says the same health benefits occur whether you listen to drums or plays drums. Many people experience the benefits of drums through drum circles. A drum circle is an informal group where people of all ages and abilities come together to make music using hand drums.
Dr. Barry Bittman, CEO of Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute (YMWI) in Meadville, PA says the same health benefits that music in general has also applies to drumming. Studies conducted by YMWI showed that music changed gene expression that induced relaxation in coronary patients, increased natural killer (NK) cell activity, and reduced stress among specific populations, such as long-term care workers.
A study specifically designed by YWMI to determine if there were any health benefits from participating in a drum circle showed that several markers in blood samples for stress were improved among participants in the study.
Another study on drumming and soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) showed some improvement in symptoms associated with PTSD. Improvements were seen in connecting with others through sharing, intimacy, and a feeling of belonging. Also, remembering traumatic incidences were less threatening and drumming offered an outlet for anger which helped improve self-control.
The “medicine” drum is still used in many Native American ceremonies today for good reason: drumming can promote physical and emotional healing, boost your immune system, produce feelings of well-being, and – all drummer jokes aside – it can even make you smarter![ii]
Here are a few other benefits that drumming is said to give:
- Releases endorphins that are the feel-good hormones, which can help with chronic pain
- Reduces anxiety by averting your attention away from concerns and worries
- Induces relaxation by increasing Alpha brain ways that can create a meditative state
- Encourages social interaction through non-threatening involvement in a drum circle or other drumming group
- Improves the immune system by reducing stress
- Discharges negative emotions through sound and self-expression
- Focuses mental attention and improves mental clarity
- Synchronizes the left and right brain hemispheres which increases brain function and learning.
- Retrains the brain by creating new neural pathways which can help with brain impairment from diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
Drumming is an activity available to all because many inexpensive hand drums can be purchased. Or if participating in a drum circle, drums are usually available to use. Also, almost everyone can join in drumming – even those with handicaps, and drumming is not dependent on musical ability.
Many of us have come to connect drumming with the banging of rock or perhaps heavy metal. However, there are other types of drumming especially hand drums where the beat and rhythm can soothe the soul and encourage healthy states of well-being.
Bensimon Moshe, Ph.D., et al. Drumming through trauma: Music therapy with post-traumatic soldiers (2008). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0197455607000883.
Bittman, B., et al. Published Research. Retrieved from http://www.yamahainstitute.org/vision-1.
Elliott, Jane. Can our natural rhythm heal us? (February 10, 2009). Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7872043.stm.
Northrup, Christine, M.D. 10 Health Reasons to Start Drumming. Retrieved from https://www.drnorthrup.com/health-benefits-drumming/.
[i] Elliott, Jane. Can our natural rhythm heal us? February 10, 2009. Web.
[ii] Northrup, Christine, M.D. 10 Health Reasons to Start Drumming. Web.