A New Rhythm for Wellness

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

A drum is easy to beat. That’s part of the reason why therapeutic group drumming is hard to beat.

Strive, which provides arts-related therapeutic services, offers the opportunity to take part in this practice twice a month with LifeRhythms. During each hour-long session, the organization’s co-executive directors, Cheyenne Mize and Nina Rodahaffer, guide participants through the use of drumming and vocals as a means of promoting self-care and well-being.

The sessions are open to all interested participants regardless of their background as musicians. In fact, Mize said many frequent attendees did not regularly play music before they began taking part in the sessions.

Unlike many drum circles, the purpose of LifeRhythms sessions is to promote the health benefits associated with group drumming. A study that examined the effects of a 10-week group drumming program in London found a statistically significant decrease in anxiety and depression, as well as an increase in social resilience among program participants. These measures were unchanged over 10 weeks among members of a control group, who took part in non-musical social activities. A follow-up measurement showed that drumming program participants had maintained these improvements three months after the conclusion of the sessions. The researchers published their results last March in the scientific journal PLoS One.

LifeRhythms is adapted from a similar therapeutic drumming program called HealthRHYTHMS. But unlike HealthRHYTHMS and the program studied in the PLoS One article, LifeRhythms was designed to offer ongoing sessions rather than concluding after a set period of time.

A typical LifeRhythms session begins with a warmup. Participants stretch their upper bodies and become acquainted with the different ways they can make sounds with the drums and their voices. Group drumming follows this warmup, and each session concludes with a guided relaxation.

The effects of taking part in the meetings –and the reasons for coming – vary as much as the people who attend. Mize says one regular participant told her that coming to the meetings helps ease her chronic pain, sometimes for days after the session has ended. Another regular says she travels to Louisville from Lexington for the meetings because she values the sense of community at LifeRhythms.

Although drumming as a form of formal therapy is a rather new concept, Mize contends that every civilization has used some form of group drumming to communicate and connect.

“Humans have been drumming as long as they’ve been around,” she says.

But despite the history of group drumming among different societies, LifeRhythms isn’t based on the group drumming practices of any particular culture.

“It’s about just expressing oneself with the drums,” Mize says of the program.

LifeRhythms sessions are held the first Tuesday of every month from 6 to 7 p.m. and the first Sunday from 1 to 2 p.m. at Strive Center at 622 Baxter Ave.

Other services Strive offers include individual music therapy and In the Moment, a monthly interactive performance event. The organization also plans to introduce a vocal exploration group designed to help participants who don’t consider themselves singers to become more confident with using their voices.

Mize emphasizes that Strive is always open to collaborating with other people and groups interested in promoting arts and wellness. She says that the organization sees connections with other clinicians, artists and members of Louisville’s wellness community to share resources and offer more services to the area as an important part of Strive’s mission.

“We belong to each person in the community as much as to ourselves as an organization,” Mize says. VT

For more information on Strive, visit strive502.org

Story By Jessica Stephens