The hand drum has been used for thousands of years in celebrations, rituals and ceremonies. However, acknowledging the healing qualities of the hand drum is a relatively new development. Studies now show that hand drumming helps to relax the tense, energize the tired and heal the emotionally wounded. In addition, hand drumming is now being used in the medical field for releasing post-traumatic stress, with Alzheimer's patients to help improve their short-term memory and for Parkinson's patients and stroke victims to regain the control of movement.
As a holistic practitioner and yoga instructor, I've witnessed the profound power of hand drumming in the most interesting places, and seeing the healing qualities first hand. These moments have helped shape my practice, as well as my teachings with others.
One of my most memorable experiences with hand drums happened in Israel on the Red Sea. I was on an excursion towards Egypt from Israel, when everyone received news of a bombing in Sinai. The border closed, and people from all countries and walks of life found themselves stranded 100 meters from crossing into Egypt. Within minutes, the only obvious option was to set up make shift camps and simply wait. As everyone sat in silence contemplating, my friend brought out his Djembe. His hands started to create soft beats, which echoed off of the mountains and water between Israel and Jordan. From confusion, worry and despair, I watched individuals, couples and families emerge from their tarp made tents. Slowly, everyone started moving to the sounds of the Djembe as we all stood along the sea. As time passed, the drum beats became stronger, the movements faster, and silence turned to laughter. The night ended as a multi-cultural gathering, as people speaking multiple languages and having different religions, danced in unison until dawn. One Djembe brought hundreds of people together through sound, and at that moment, I realized the healing qualities of the hand drum.
Shortly thereafter, I attended a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I decided to bring in the same concept as my experience in Israel. Rather than start my group on floor warm-ups or standing asanas (or poses), I played a CD of hand drumming. I asked each person to close their eyes and move naturally to the beats. My group consisted of all ages, and again, people from many different countries. After class, the students commented on how they found the drumming to be soothing, grounding, rejuvenating and healing. I've now incorporated drumming music in all my classes, with both individuals and groups.
Aside from the healing qualities of hand drumming, the music brings out the primal side to each and every one of us, and helps us to listen to our bodies, our emotions and our heart. The more we can incorporate these sounds into everyday living, the more we help support and heal ourselves, as well as modern day society.
Natalie Stiefvater is a Holistic Practitioner, Hatha Yoga Instructor, and founder of "HealthFix - Simple Healthy Solutions". She's been teaching people about health and wellness for over 20 years, and incorporates breathing exercises and stress relieving techniques into her practice. More info can be found at http://www.healthfix.org/ or via email at Natalie@healthfix.org.