Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
April 22, 2000 - Issue 08

Drumming..An Ancient Path to Health and Wellness
by Swift Eagle....Drum Maker

Interestingly, it now appears that that most accessible tool for reconnecting with ourselves may be the drum, a gift from the indigenous world.

For centuries, indigenous peoples have kept alive their traditions of honoring the Earth as sacred. Native peoples seem intuitively to have understood that human beings are coded for ritual. These cultures have always drummed in ritual at births, deaths, weddings, harvests, and rites of passage. The drumbeat echoes the heartbeat, connecting us to our deeper selves. It's a universal language which communes with people from other cultures. Native people say the drumbeat also communes with the Earth, a reminder that all of creation is alive and, therefore, sacred. Now it appears that the gift of the drum may be an antidote to modern society's worst ills.

We live on a planet which has both benefited and suffered from the advances of technology. Stress is rampant, and its effects are visible in our physical, psychological and spiritual ills.

According to current medical research, stress is a cause of 98% of all disease. Not only heart attacks, strokes, immune system breakdowns, but every disease known, with the exception of two viruses, has now been linked to stress.

Recent biofeedback studies show that drumming along with our own heartbeats for 15 minutes alters brain wave patterns (increasing alpha) and dramatically reduces stress. So drumming actually "meditates" us!

"Drum fever is sweeping the country as people discover the physical, psychological and spiritual rewards...even for those who can't read a note of music." --Claudia Ricci, The New York Times

The uses of percussion for wellness is prolific and growing.

A recent study by Barry Quinn, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in neurobiofeedback therapy (NBT) for stress management, indicates that drumming works on even the highest-stress clients. Dr. Quinn operates a neurobiofeedback clinic called the MindSpa Place in Colorado Springs, CO, and for nearly nine years has been working with how a variety of techniques affect the brain waves.

One of Dr. Quinn's patients, a Viet Nam veteran who has long suffered from high stress, hyper vigilance and chronic sleep problems, regularly produced almost no Alpha in his brain wave patterns. (Alpha is a mental relaxation state missing in nearly 40% of the population.) During a single, 30-minute session of slow, gentle drumming using a one-sided hand drum and a beater, this patient nearly doubled his Alpha brain waves.

No other technique used (including a sound and light machine) in a series of 15 stress reduction sessions had been able to produce any Alpha in this client. Until drumming, in fact, no technique used in the nine years of Dr. Quinn's research had been able to bring a significant return of this relaxation brain wave in any client. He calls the effect of brief drumming sessions "by far the most amazing results I've encountered thus far in my work."

Drumming has also been used with Alzheimer's patients to focus attention, with prison and homeless populations to promote self esteem, with war veterans to end trauma, and in corporate America to promote team spirit-building. Other exciting applications of the drum's potential to enhance wellness are emerging as we foster a new millennium. Some of these give us hope in situations formerly believed to be hopeless.

You can pick up your drum for 15 minutes, offer a prayer of thanks to the world's indigenous peoples, and commune with the rest of us drummers who will be, with you, at peace.

This article was relayed By Swift Eagle....Drum Maker
In accordance with the fair use policy of Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.
He may be contacted at

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