Shamanic Drumming

It is often said that the first sound we hear in the womb is our mother’s heartbeat. Actually, the first sound to vibrate our newly developed hearing apparatus is the pulse of our mother’s blood through her veins and arteries. We vibrate to that primordial rhythm even before we have ears to hear. Some say a drum is also symbolic of the heart of Mother Earth. So is it really any wonder that this sound has been proven to have healing benefits?


Drumming can actually make you smarter because when you drum you access your entire brain. The physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the brain actually synchronizes the left and right hemispheres. When your logical left hemisphere and the intuitive right hemisphere of your brain begin to pulsate together, your inner guidance system, or intuition, becomes stronger.


The sound of drumming generates new neuronal connections in all parts of the brain. The more connections that can be made within the brain, the more integrated our experiences become. This leads to a deeper self-awareness. Drumming also synchronizes the lower areas of the brain (non-verbal) with the frontal cortex (language and reasoning). This integration produces feelings of insight and certainty. For these reasons therapeutic drumming is a powerful tool in helping retrain the brains of people who have some level of damage or impairment, such as with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), after a stroke, or where there is neurological disease such as Parkinson’s.


Drumming can induce a natural high by increasing Alpha brain waves. When the brain changes from Beta waves (concentration) to Alpha waves, you feel calm and relaxed. As such, Alpha waves can also produce feelings of well-being and even euphoria, which may help people who suffer from mental illness, such as depression and anxiety. The same Alpha activity is associated with meditation and other integrative modes of consciousness. Drumming can have positive effects on your health and may help with many conditions from stress, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension, asthma, chronic pain, arthritis, mental illness, addiction and even cancer.

Benefits of Drumming:

  • Makes you happy – drumming releases endorphins, enkephalins and alpha waves in the brain which are associated with general feelings of well-being and euphoria.
  • Induces deep relaxation – blood samples from participants of an hour-long drumming session revealed a reversal in stress hormones.
  • Helps control chronic pain – drumming can serve as a distraction from pain and also promotes the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates which are the body’s own morphine-like painkillers.
  • Boosts your immune system – Barry Bittman, M.D., neurologist and President of the Yamaha Music & Wellness Institute, has shown that group drumming actually increases natural T-cells, which help the body combat cancer as well as other viruses.
  • Creates a sense of connectedness – drumming circles and group drumming classes provide an opportunity for synchronicity in that you connect with your own spirit at a deeper level while also connecting with other like-minded people.
  • Aligns your body and mind with the natural world – The Greek origin of the word “rhythm” is “to flow”. Drumming allows you to flow with the rhythms of life by simply feeling the beat.
  • Provides a way to access a higher power – Shamans often use drumming as a means to integrate, mind, body and spirit. They focus on the whole body and then integrate the healing at both the physical and spiritual level by drumming, which connects spiritual forces.
  • Releases negative feelings – the act of drumming can serve as a form of self-expression. You can literally drum out your feelings. When held, negative emotions can form energy blockages. The physical stimulation of hitting the drums can help remove those blockages. Drumming has even been used therapeutically to help addicts deal with their emotions.
  • Puts you in the present moment – while drumming you are moving your awareness toward the flow of life. When you are flowing with the rhythm of life you cannot be caught up in your past or worrying about your future.

Science View on Health Benefits of Drumming.


The health benefits of drumming have been scientifically investigated and published in multiple scientific and professional journals. It was shown that drumming helps to reduce adverse effects of several medical conditions:

  • Stress – 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, et al. 2001, Alternative Therapies, vol. 7, no.1)
  • Depression – 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).
  • Cancer – Subjects who participated in a clinical trial using the HealthRhythms 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, et al. 2001, Alternative Therapies, vol. 7, no. 1).
  •  Alzheimer’s Disease – 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.
  • Parkinson’s Diseases and Stroke – 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).
  • Chronic Pain – Chronic pain has a devastating propensity for progressively draining quality of life. Technology and pharmacology are falling short of the mark needed to improve quality of life and reduce pain, according to Dr. Barry Bittman in the Pain Practitioner. (Lingerman, H. 1995, Music and You. In the Healing Energies of Music. Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House).

The drum takes us to that special place where we can reconnect to those things that truly matter to our spirits, minds, emotions, and the Earth.” - Native American Wisdom

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