Rhythmic activities have been used for thousands of years to create and maintain physical, mental and spiritual health. Today, Israel’s Colel Chabad after-school program in the northern city of Safed is using drumming to heal emotions, build confidence and self-control and develop mutual respect with its at-risk youth.
Researchers agree that drumming provides a wide range of therapeutic benefits. These range from boosting the immune system, fighting depression, elevating mood, decreasing anxiety and stress, increasing feelings of well-being, releasing emotional trauma and anger, inducing deep relaxation, lowering blood pressure, breaking down social barriers and encouraging freedom of expression and non-verbal communication.
Neurologist Barry Bittman documented that group drumming and recreational music increases the body’s production of cancer killing t-cells. Dr. Bittman writes, “Group drumming tunes our biology, orchestrates our immunity, and enables healing to begin.”
Especially for those who have experienced trauma, York University psychologist Shari Geller says that healing can occur with greater ease through mindful drumming that helps people express difficult emotions.
“Our after-school participants come from traumatic and stressful situations, such as impoverished and dysfunctional homes,” Rabbi Yorum Mauda, Director of Programing in Safed for Colel Chabad, explained to Breaking Israel News. “Drumming has definitely given these children a healthful outlet as well as a lifelong skill.”
According to medical research, excessive stress is a major contributor to nearly all disease including heart attacks, stroke and immune system breakdowns. Researchers have also found the drumming can provide a distraction from chronic pain and grief. Drumming likewise increases the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, the bodies own morphine-like painkillers, giving a drug-free solution to pain.
A study by Barry Quinn showed that even a brief drumming session can dramatically reduce stress.
“People from challenging backgrounds can find it difficult to get in tune with themselves, their thoughts and their emotions,” said Rabbi Mauda. “Drumming causes a physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the brain, synchronizing the logical left hemisphere and the intuitive right hemisphere causing them to work harmoniously.”
Teens often have difficulty understanding nonverbal communication. With the powerful effect that drumming has on the brain, insights, understanding and integration of nonverbal clues increase. Drumming stimulates the entire brain generating neuronal connections even in damaged or impaired areas.
Michael Thaut, Director of Colorado State University’s Center for Biomedical Research in Music writes, “Rhythmic cues can help retrain the brain after a stroke or other neurological impairment, as with Parkinson’s patients.”
Rabbi Mauda pointed out that his group drumming program creates a natural sense of community and support, something many of his after-school students lack in their personal lives.
“Through our wide range of social welfare programs, Colel Chabad strives to give a personal connection with others, showing the importance of each individual and limiting their isolation and estrangement that so many people experience today,” Rabbi Mauda said. “Our drumming program successfully addresses all of these issues.”
Drumming is also an excellent way for children to learn self-awareness, listening skills, coordination of breath and movement, cooperation and patience. Especially for people who experience strong emotions and have impulse control issues, drumming tempers anxiety and defiant behavior.
“Part of our afterschool program is helping the children with their studies,” noted Rabbi Mauda. “Drumming also helps students with learning disabilities and ADHD to more easily concentrate on their academics.”
To donate to Colel Chabad’s after-school programs for at-risk Israeli youth, please visit here.