The beneficial effects of all kinds of sound healing on our mental and physical health has been extensively researched, particularly in relation to the effects it has on our biofield energy. The term “biofield” refers to the energies, both measurable electromagnetic energy and the more subtle in Chi or life force energy described Eastern medicine modalities such as Vedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The sound waves produced by many different forms of Sound Healing, including Gong Baths, Tuning Forks, Tingsha and Chanting, penetrate the several layers of the biofield, or Human Energy Field and work to alter the vibrations produced by both our physical brains and our deeper seated emotional states.
Sounds produce remarkable effects when directed into our bodies and make the indisputable connection of the mind and body very obvious. On its simplest level, listening to uplifting music, or better still singing your own uplifting songs, improves your mood, elevates your energy levels and generally makes you feel a whole lot better.
The Importance of Rhythm
We respond to rhythms in our everyday lives. Our sleep patterns, to be healthy and beneficial, need to follow the circadian rhythm which basically follows the daylight. Since the advent of electricity and reliable artificial light our natural rhythms seem to have become almost side-lined in modern life. We humans like to carve up time into manageable chunks, from seconds to centuries, so it is clearly something that makes us feel secure in some way.
Ask any runner or jogger and they will say that once they have found their own repetitive rhythm they feel as if they could go on forever. Think of the popularity of cradles and rocking chairs. The examples of rhythm to be found in our culture are almost endless.
Drumming is probably the most obvious example of rhythmic sounds. We humans live with rhythm, whether we are aware of it or not. Our heart beats to a set rhythm and this is the first sound that a developing fetus is aware of in the womb. It is therefore a primeval reaction to rhythm when we find these sounds soothing. Rhythmical beats represent safety and security to humans, but of course drumming has many other effects on our emotions, our moods and our physiology.
On a personal level, my own interest in exploring the subject and applications of drumming had its origins in my study of Taiko many years ago. Over the years I also continued to study other forms of drumming. It was not until this last year that I found particularly interesting, how Native American drumming would help me in my own recovery from mTBI and Post Concussive Symptoms. The rhythmic energy supported resetting my nervous system and helped me to regain balance in the hemispheres of my brain. As I continue to research for a more holistic approach to healing as I help others I have come across some quite remarkable instances of the beneficial effects of drumming. One man in particular a drummer himself was able to rebuild his motor skills and regain his vitality after a serious illness. Many people have reported that the consistent rhythms of drumming to be very soothing and have a direct and positive enhancement of their healing and long term well being. Not surprising at all since drumming has been essential instrument in groups and cultures all around the world.
Drumming encourages our brains to enter a meditative state, which in turn encourages deep relaxation. This state enables our bodies to begin the healing processes ….
Using Drumming to Heal Yourself
Drumming has very beneficial effect on our autonomic nervous systems, bringing down stress levels and mitigating the unwanted effects produced by our sympathetic nervous systems such as the production of adrenaline and cortisol. This is something that has been known for centuries by different cultures and forms part of many healing rituals or ceremonies. The Cherokee Medicine Wheel, for example, forms just one example of a concept used by many indigenous peoples across the globe.
The Wheel is seen as a symbol of the natural forces of life and nature. It incorporates the notion of balance as being the most important part of any healing process. In this it is comparable to the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang which states that harmony between opposing forces is vital for maintaining the health not only of the individual but also the planet as a whole.
The rhythms we use in drumming can be found in nature in the form of the ebb and flow of the tides, the diurnal rotation of the sun and the phases of the moon. These wisdoms are common to many cultural variations of sound healing, and learning to drum yourself, as well as experiencing the sounds as produced by a practitioner is an excellent way of participating in your own healing process.
Drumming Improves Brain Health
Modern technologies like MRI scans can give a glimpse at how learning to play a musical instrument engages almost every area of the brain. Drumming is one of the most accessible modalities in this respect because we all have a tendency to tap out rhythms and we do not need to read music or to have expensive equipment in order to benefit.
Our brains have the incredible capacity to reorganize themselves by forming new neuronal connections between brain cells (neurons).
Simply setting yourself the challenge of producing a recognizable rhythm or beat can help you to build new connections within your brain and to change the internal structure of some of the existing connections. This is highly beneficial if you are trying to change your thinking processes from negative to positive.
Regular practice with drumming affects the hippocampus, which is critical for memory and learning. It is also the place where the growth of new brain cells takes place, so something as simple as using your non-dominant hand to beat out a rhythm during your practice can strengthen the connection between brain cells and produce the growth of new neurons.
Drumming Improves Mental Health
Over the last decade, various research projects have shown how drumming has been successfully used to improve social functioning and treat mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, addictions, aggression, and PTSD symptoms. However, recent research involving the holistic approach towards the brain-mind-body connection is taking the possibilities of drumming to a whole new level.
Drumming encourages our brains to enter a meditative state, which in turn encourages deep relaxation. This state enables our bodies to begin the healing processes needed, both in terms of physical conditions and for emotional and mental health issues.
Research shows when you meditate on a focal point (such a word, object or rhythmic pattern) your brain can undergo profound physical shifts and can actually rewire itself, due to neuroplasticity. Our experiences, and what we do with our minds, actually change the neurochemistry of our brains and cause the remodeling of brain circuitry. Positive neuroplasticity helps to slow down the brain’s aging process, increase cognitive reserve, improve well-being, and strengthen overall brain power. Conversely, if we have spent some time immersed in negative or destructive thought patterns, drumming can remove the blockages we have made for ourselves and allow us to heal more quickly and effectively.
But that’s not all – research shows that drumming can also increase alpha and theta brainwave production as well as brainwave synchronization. All of which can lead to heightened creativity, improved problem-solving abilities, enhanced immune system and much more.
Use the Power within you to Be Creative and Playful
Drumming is an extremely enjoyable practice in itself. This should not be under-estimated when it comes to taking responsibility for our own well-being because if you enjoy doing something you will repeat it, and look forward to doing it. You can embark upon your Sound Healing journey knowing that it is benefitting you on many levels as well as enabling you to let your creative side out to play!