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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Drumming For Wellness of Body And Mind

Sep 02, 2015 11:44AM ● By Patsy Onatah and Monique Morimoto

Drumming and rhythm are fundamental to every culture in the world. In ancient civilizations, drumming supported communication and community. Today, hand drumming has become popular not only because of the sheer joy involved, but also due to the physical and mental benefits that can come from it.

Participating in group drumming is an easy, inexpensive way to reduce anxiety and relieve stress, but the benefits go beyond simply feeling good. Remo Belli, the founder of Remo, Inc., once said, “It’s time to stop thinking of the drum as just a musical instrument. Start thinking of the drum as a recreational tool for every family, a wellness tool for every retiree and an educational tool for every classroom.” Together with neurologist Dr. Barry Bittman, Belli created the HealthRHYTHMS protocol that is used in shelters, schools, health and community centers, corporations and elsewhere.

A 2003 study showed a marked improvement in overall mood and a significant reduction in employee burnout when healthcare workers participated in a HealthRHYTHMS program. Rhythm is also being used in schools to promote math and science learning. Drummers develop listening skills and better coordination of mind and body. Both hemispheres of the brain are used when creating rhythms, and learning to drum with others requires perception, attention and memory. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and brain injuries have experienced enhanced cognitive functions when drumming.

 The body is naturally rhythmical, as seen in heartbeats, sleep/wake and hormonal cycles, and breathing. Even those that feel they are “rhythmically challenged” can feel their heartbeat or focus on their waves of breath. Wellness benefits from drumming can include increased endorphins, movement, coordination, improved range of motion and lowered blood pressure. Drumming also boosts the immune system by increasing white blood cell activity.

Group drumming provides a platform for self-expression in a safe environment, where empowerment, trauma release and a sense of supportive community and joy are possible. Its therapeutic value has been found in drug and alcohol treatment centers, hospitals, support groups and cancer treatment centers.

The best part is that drumming is available to everyone, regardless of health challenges, age or disabilities, and it allows participants to take an active role in their own healing journeys.

Patsy Onatah is the founder of The Humble Drum and Monique Morimoto is the founder of SoulWorks Coaching and SoulWorks Rhythm. To learn more, call 207-206-5524 or visit or