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:: October 2007 Volume 6/Number 8


the rhythm of health

Drumming and ritual connect us to deeper consciousness

By: Marla Leigh

“All day and night music…if it fades, we fade” ––Rumi

Drumming 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 drums).

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.

Current research 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.

Drumming can 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

 

 

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LA Yoga Ayurveda & Health Magazine

 

 

 
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