“Rhythmic drumming is used in shamanic ceremonies to induce a state of trance. During the altered state of consciousness caused by drumming you may feel either energized or relaxed. Your body experience often becomes distorted, and you may feel pressure, expansion, or vibration in various parts of your body. It is also common to experience sensations of movement: flying, falling, or spiraling. Usually, your imagination gets very vivid, and you may experience visions or a dreamlike state of mind. Participants of shamanic drumming ceremonies often describe their experience as a “journey” emphasizing the sensation of distorted time and space, and a feeling of leaving the body and traveling.”
The art of drumming has a long history. Many cultures have meaningful rituals, dancing, storytelling, and a sense of community around the drums. For centuries people around the world have been using the drum to make music. Additionally, the drum has been used to communicate large wide range of information.
Recent years researchers have studied impact of drumming on the brain. Research indicates that exposure to the regularity of the rhythmical sounds produced by a drum activates several important areas of the brain.
The sound enters the auditory cortex and activates the cerebellum as well as the frontal cortex and limbic system. The cerebellum is part of the lower brain stem and is responsible for our ability to physically move. The frontal cortex and limbic system are part of the higher forebrain, which is responsible for establishing homeostatic stability, regulating emotions, and conscious actions.
These areas of the brain are especially relevant to people that have been exposed to traumatic experiences. When trauma happens, it can cause our bodies and brains to become dysregulated and disconnected. Trauma can cause the limbic system to get stuck in the on position and become overactive with hijacks emotions. Trauma can also get stuck in our brain stem which leads to physical and somatic bodily concerns. Additionally, the brain stem and forebrain can have difficulties communicating effectively due to stuck trauma.
Drumming in therapy has the capacity to activate and integrate critical areas of the brain. The physical movement of the drumming activates the cerebellum in the brain stem. The rhythmic beats and range of loudness help develop self-efficacy and feelings of safety and control in the forebrain areas when individuals master rhythms.
Drumming also creates bilateral stimulation of the brain which can slow the heart rate, regulate breathing, and establish feelings of calm and stability. Drumming allows the brain to activate, re-establish healthy connections, and form new neural pathways. Trance states are induced with drumming.
EEG research, certain patterns of drumming cause an increase in power of alpha and theta frequencies of the listener. EEG electroencephalograph provides information about neural oscillations. The frequency components of the neural oscillation’s spectrum allow researchers to detect for example states of alertness, relaxation drowsiness.
Frequency brainwaves include:
Beta 13 – 40 Hz- active, strongly engaged mind
Alpha 8 – 12 HZ – relaxed wakefulness, sometimes also alertness
Theta 5 – 7 Hz – occurs in a range of different mind states: drowsiness, threshold between wakefulness and sleep, but also medication
Delta 1 – 4 Hz – associated with sleep and drowsiness.
EEG activity in shamanic trance experienced higher alpha and theta activity.
Drumming has a wide spectrum of frequencies then a single tone and is able to stimulate a larger area of the brain. Different patterns of drumming lead to different changes in brainwaves.
Shamanic Journeying has been practiced by cultures across the world dating back thousands of years. Journeying usually involves the use of a hand drum being played between 205 – 220 beats per minute. The drumming induces a state of trance, creating an altered state of consciousness.
Shamanic journeying takes you to where the conscious mind meets the unconscious and acts as bridge between the physical and spiritual world.
Traditionally there are three worlds (realms). Those three worlds include the Lower, Middle, and Upper worlds.
The lower world is a representation of going deep within. Deep within yourself, but also deep within Earth, into the dirt and rocks, the underworld.
The middle world is our “reality”. The physical space in which we are conscious of. Present moment in time.
The upper world is the cosmos, where energy flows outside of duality and spirit thrives outside of the physical space.