has been a foundational aspect of healing rituals for indigenous
peoples worldwide, for thousands of years. All life is rhythm;
our blood flows, heart beats and lungs breathe in rhythmic
patterns. The sun and moon rise and set in cyclical rhythms
just as the seasons change in rhythmic cycles.
In yoga, we
are in connection with the cosmic rhythms of the universe
through the ancient practices of pranayama (breath
techniques), ujjayi breathing, asana (posture),
meditation and chanting. In India, the ancestral home of
yoga, there is a constant relationship with rhythm. Drumming
plays an important role and is used in kirtan, traditional
music and sacred celebrations. The traditional drumming
music is highly complex, filled with intricate rhythmic
cycles (talas) and compositions. Some of the drums
of India are tabla, dholak (North Indian drums)
mrdanga, kanjira and mizhavi (South Indian
There are many
other cultures who use drumming for shamanic rituals and
transformational healings. For example, the Gnawas of
Morocco have a traditional musical form that brings
people into deep altered states and healing trances. The
mesmerizing syncopated rhythms of the Gnawa music combined
with swirling acrobatic trance dancing that facilitates
his powerful experience. In areas including Egypt (Zar drumming)
and Italy (Tamborello drumming), women were known to be
the first drummers of these cultures and they use drumming
as prominent part of their healing ceremonies.
repeatedly demonstrates the many positive health benefits
of drumming. Most powerfully, drumming reduces stress, known
to be a primary contributing factor in illnesses such as
heart attacks and strokes. The calming and grounding effects
of drumming can also help in the treatment of diseases such
as cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, asthma and Alzheimer’s
and Parkinson’s diseases.
also balance body, mind and spirit; it alters consciousness.
Studies demonstrate that after drumming for even five minutes,
brain waves shift from beta (focused activity) to alpha
(deep relaxation). Alpha waves double, resulting in dramatically
reduced experiences of stress, and even feelings of immediate
euphoria and bliss. This is why the energy in drum circles
is consonantly rising; it is the creation of alpha waves
within the group consciousness via rhythm.
The word rhythm
originates from the Greek root – rrhoea,
which means to flow. Rhythm facilitates our flow in life.
When we become awakened to this, living unconditionally
in the present moment and noticing the rhythms within and
around us, then we are open to experiencing a life full
of grace and gratitude, with no attachments or expectations.
Through the practice of drumming, the meditative and repetitive
rhythms combined with the powerful vibrations from the drum
create a deeper relationship with ourselves and spirit.
(Drumming opens infinite doorways for profound healings.)
Marla Leigh is a Los Angeles based drummer, flautist,
composer and yogi who performs regularly with her tribal
world music ensemble, Sacred Ritam Experience. She teaches
drumming workshops and retreats and is currently recording
her debut album. marlaleigh.com