I was browsing through some old pictures a few days ago, and came upon photos of a drumming circle I had at my home a few years ago, and decided to use drumming as the topic for this post.
In the picture to the right, is my friend Judy Chiger, teaching and leading us (all women) in musical expression with drums. Judy is a physician, holistic practitioner, and promotes drumming as a mechanism for stress reduction, health promotion, spiritual connection, healing, and fun – something we all need more of. The drums she uses are Health Rhythms.
Drum or drumming circles are not new…they’re probably one of the oldest forms of community and team building known. Drumming is becoming a cultural phenomenom, and the media is beginning to report on the proliferation of group drumming and its application for health and wellness.
Drumming circles essentailly provides a portal into musical and creative expression, making it an easy and accessible experience for anyone at any age or ability. Most people participating in drumming circles are most often not professional musicians.
(drumming circle and blowing bubbles at night, 2006)
Drumming circles are happening in many, many places. People attend these events not to become better percussionists, but to reduce stress, build commUNITY, and have fun. It is an expressive and musical activity that engages the mind, body, spirit, and emotions. Arthur Hull, father of the modern day drum circle, developed his unique approach to facilitating drum circles in the 1980s through an observation of the need that extended beyond percussion skill development. According to Arthur, “when we drum together, it changes our relationships and helps us cope with whatever challenges life hands us.”
Other healing and transforming effects can occur when people join together in drumming. Those who’ve been depressed can recover their overall will to live through this kind of celebration.
Benefits of Drumming
Music can also allay stress. In one recent study, neurologist Barry Bittman of the Mind-Body Wellness Center in Meadville, Pennsylvania, gathered a group of 10 people and had them beat hand drums for an hour while a music “facilitator” conducted. Afterward, Bittman took blood samples. The drummers, he found, had heightened levels of immune cells called natural killer cells that seek out and destroy both cancer cells and cells infected by viruses. A control group that read in silence experienced no such upsurge.
Bittman believes that group drumming, through its camaraderie, support, exercise, and music making, signals the brain to lower the production of cortisol, a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Less cortisol has been associated with a heightened immune response and may help the body fight off infection. “I’m not saying I have a cure for cancer,” Bittman cautions. “But what I am saying is that we have a very important step in understanding a delightful, enjoyable, and fun way for people to reverse the stress response in a manner that leads us to positive biological changes.” (Discover Magazine. By Josie Glausiusz, August 2001)
(drum circle held in hospital education center, UK)
African and Asian cultures have been practicing community percussion for thousands of years. Now Americans are fast joining “drum circles,” informally or through organized centers, to reduce stress, connect with others or just jam. A recent study in the journal, Alternative Therapies, even found an increase in disease-fighting cells among participants in drum circles. (Time.com. Drumming Circles By Harriet Barovick. Monday, May 7, 2001)
Drumming in Healthcare
Drumming can be incoporated into all types of healthcare settings for music making, such as inpatient hospitals, outpatient facilities, VA hospital systems, cancer centers, children’s hospitals, support groups, women’s centers and medical practices. Patients, families and healthcare staff can drum their way to:
- personal health
- social well-being
- combat social isolation and lonliness
- reduce stress, anxiety, depression
- boost their immune system
- enhance overall well-being
Other areas worth exploring are corporations for teambuilding and local recreational centers for commUNITY building.
And now, I leave you with this thought…
Medical treatment is fully effective only when the whole person is being treated – body, mind, spirit, emotion.