Little did I know how amazing this experience would be. After learning some interesting cultural facts about ancient African drumming traditions, it was time for us to start playing the beautifully adorned djembe drums placed around the room. The word 'djembe' originates from a saying that translates to 'everyone gather together in peace.'
Along with the students, I learned the hand positions used to make varied sounds on the thin veil of stretched goatskin. The importance of breath was emphasized to find our rhythm, and we were encouraged to focus on the sound of only our own drums, so as not to lose the beat. This is easier said than done, but I tried my best to meditate on only the pulse of my instrument, and before I knew it, I was in a trance, under the spell of the repetitious sound filling the room. Time slipped away, and I found myself in complete resonance with my shared community. After an hour or more of drumming, I felt alert and alive yet deeply relaxed, and my heart felt full of joy. Any blockages had melted away, and I could feel light radiating from my spirit. My students, too, were bright eyed and smiling, as they begged me to start a drum circle at our school. This communal sharing of what is ingrained in us from the dawn of our existence moved us all to another mental and emotional realm. The energy was contagious, as people crowded around our circle and shuffled to the beat.
As I reflect, I see so many parallels between drumming and the shared practice of yoga. In Greek, the word rhythm means to flow. Much like the physical practice of yoga, drumming provides a path of healing. It guides us into experiencing the flow of our minds and emotions, helping us to learn more about our souls.
Anyone of any age can drum, and believe me when I tell you that you do not even need to be good at keeping time in order to reap the benefits. To connect with yourself invites release, restoration and healing. Free from words, drumming provides a universal language that invites all people to be a part of something greater than the sum of its parts, and experience life with an open heart.
When I attended the Asheville Yoga Festival last summer, I witnessed a large group of children drumming together with sticks on upturned buckets. Again, as in yoga, to drum requires no fancy equipment, and with a little creativity, any basic object can serve as a percussion instrument. Both drumming and yoga open our channels of creativity and tap into the joyful spirit of our inner child.
If ever your local yoga studio hosts a drum circle, or you have an opportunity to begin one of your own, I encourage you to try this ancient and universal medium with an open heart and an open mind.