Drums can be seen anywhere from religious ceremonies to football games. In many cultures, they’ve been used as a means of communicating with other humans, as well as with the Gods. Although drums are usually associated with entertainment, they can also be used as healing tools for psychotherapy or general well-being.

A drum circle consists of a group of two to hundreds sitting in a circular formation, equipped with drums or other percussion instruments. Typically, the type of drum used for this purpose is an African hand drum called a djembe. The drum circle may be guided by a “conductor” of sorts, or be completely unfacilitated and group-driven. Regardless, the objective of the drum circle is for all of the drum beats to come together as one “pulse.” This “pulse” is what connects the group together and sparks physical, emotional and spiritual healing.

Special populations can greatly benefit from drum circles. For example, drumming can improve the coordination and fine motor skills of those living with Autism, Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD and other disabilities. Individuals recovering from substance abuse are often encouraged to join drum circles, since the drum vibrations provide a rush of energy and, potentially, an altered state of consciousness similar to that of the effect of the substance they once craved. People in long-term care residences benefit from the responsibility and control that drumming gives them. Cancer patients also use drumming to release their negative emotions and enjoy the social support that a drum circle can provide.

Not only can drum circles be effective in clinical settings, they can also be an excellent source for group meditation. Drumming can be a wonderful outlet for general stress or anxiety, while still providing opportunities for healthy social support and community building. Some believe that drumming is a spiritual experience that allows you to connect with nature and the existence of a higher power. It’s a very calming and focused activity, which makes it great for meditation.

Can you drum? If you can count to four, then chances are that you can! The most exciting part about drum circles is that anyone can join, and there are opportunities for participation in most cities. Regardless of your beliefs or your mindfulness goals, drum circles are a fun and informal activity that everyone can enjoy.

Melissa Venditti is a musician and music instructor living in Keswick, Ontario.
image: Martha R. Binford (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND)