In past blogs, I have talked about finding your passion, exploring life, leaving your comfort zone, etc. You get the picture. Learning new things is a wonderful way to experience joy. If you try something new and like it, you win. If you try something new and don’t like it, you still win. Say what? Well, at least you gave it a try. You expanded your inner portfolio and broadened your mind.
Drumming is something I never thought I would do. And yes, I did start a few years before I retired, but I have continued to enjoy it and have now started co-facilitating a drum circle. Now that’s fun! Drumming releases energy deep into your soul. For example, this year I decided to celebrate the Summer Solstice and invited a few friends over. We sat by the fire and shared solstice tea, and solstice cookies and cake made by my daughter, Adriana. Then we set our intentions and began to drum. Remember, none of us are drummers. But I tell ya, the “Solstice Sisters” laid down a good beat! One remarked, “Wow when you drum and stare into the fire, it really does something to you.” So true. You can feel the connection.
Feel the connection. That may sound like some new-age gibberish, but when it comes to the drum, it is an honest and meaningful phrase. In many cultures, drums have been used for centuries for various reasons, including religious rituals and ceremonies, sporting events, communication and connecting with the spirit world. In some ancient cultures, sacred drumming was done only by women. Sadly, that has changed, and nowadays there are several cultures where women are not allowed to drum. They are seen more as dancers and singers. (Check out the interesting reads section below for more information on this.) Nowadays, women are sitting at the drum, especially in community drumming that does not have a spiritual context.
Did you know that drumming has been scientifically proven to be good for you? Uh-huh. If I had known that, I may have chosen percussion instead of clarinet in school. Apparently, drumming synchronizes the lower areas of the brain, or the nonverbal area, with the frontal cortex, which is language and reasoning. When these areas come together, the result is insight and certainty. It’s all about bringing the left and right sides of the brain together, something that is difficult to do.
“Playing the drums makes the brain think in a way that very few activities can,” says Pat Brown, International Drum Month chairman and Percussion Marketing Council co-executive director. “Being able to understand musical notes and dissect how rhythms work and go together is a very complicated thought process. The most recent study shows that being constantly exposed to this type of brain activity can actually improve one’s IQ level. ” (Taken from The Simple Drummer.)
Another interesting study was conducted by E. Glenn Shallenberg of the University of Toronto. He found that the IQ test scores of 6-year-old children improved significantly after receiving drum lessons. Their scores improved by an average of 7 points, while those receiving voice lessons increased by 6 points, those receiving drama lessons by 5, and those receiving no lessons increased by 4 points.
Science can’t be wrong. Drumming as a form of relaxation or therapy is not new. Shamans and healers have used drumming for thousands of years because of its healing properties and deep connection with the soul. In the past few years, drumming as a healing tool has experienced a resurgence in popularity, and drum circles are popping up all over. There are even courses you can take to become a certified drum circle facilitator. Drumming goes hand in hand with sound therapy, which has proven to be extremely beneficial. I’ve tried a few different types of sound healing techniques, and the energy they produced was incredible! Maybe I’ll write about that experience someday.
Besides being fun, drumming has been shown to speed up physical healing, boost the immune system, and produce feelings of well-being and release of trauma. Drum circles are even being used in large group activities and classrooms for people with special needs, the sick, and seniors.Drum circles also build community because they are participatory and “spotlighting” is generally frowned upon. They are also fairly inexpensive because you don’t need fancy drums. In fact, some interesting sounds can be made from found materials! Body percussion is also another way to get some drum therapy!
How does drumming accomplish all these wonderful and healthy things? Think about it. It works on your cognitive ability and memory by teaching rhythm and patterns. It improves focus because, as a drummer, you need to hold a steady beat. This will take your thoughts off the outside world and any challenges you may be going through. Drumming promotes the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers, so it can provide a distraction from chronic pain. You can also release negative energy by simply beating out a rhythm, which will leave you feeling happy and positive. That is good for us on so many levels!
Another benefit to drumming, although it will take quite a bit to get totally buff, is muscle strengthening. Drumming will help develop your shoulder muscles, triceps, forearm muscles, and calf muscles. And as we age, it is important to keep these muscles strong and healthy. So, incorporate some drumming into your weekly workout routine for an added benefit! If you want to really get inspired and add a bit of cardio, just google Brazilian drumming on YouTube. You’ll find many videos that will have you bopping around “air drumming” or turning your kitchen into a percussion zone!
While drum circles are definitely fun, you don’t have to go to one to enjoy drumming and its benefits. You can literally drum at any time and in any place. It’s all about letting go, living in the moment, and just doing what you feel like doing!
“It’s not what we do at the drum circle that will change the world, it’s how the world will change when we live our lives as we do in a drum circle.” Julien Lepage, Owner, Integrated Drum Circle Facilitator & Trainer
So, take a moment. Right now. If you have a drum, go get it and dust it off. If you don’t have a drum, you can use a pan, a bowl, or even your lap! Whatever works for you. Now, take a slow deep breath. Take another. Then, think “mashed potatoes.” Yes, mashed potatoes. Now hit your drum to that rhythm. Mashed po-ta-toes, mashed po-ta-toes. Repeat. You can add your own beats to that simple rhythm, and when you are comfortable, think of something a bit more complicated. How about “I like apple pie”. I like a-pple pie. Repeat it a few times. Now you’re ready to mix up the mashed potatoes and the apple pie. There you go. How good is that?
And some videos: