Finding your beat

Drum therapist Eddie O’Neill talks to Rachel Borrill about medicine for the soul.

Finding your beat

ARE you feeling stressed, frustrated and tense? Did you know that one of the best ways of releasing these pent-up emotions is by hand-drumming? After just one hour of playing, research has revealed, that people feel rejuvenated, confident and motivated.

“A lot of people have a strange attitude towards drumming, they think it is a noisy activity, going bash, bash, bash,’’ says Eddie O’Neill, 58, a drum therapist from Errill, Co Laois.

“But it is mentally and physically stimulating, it is a wonderful release and feeling. Drums are used in many different ways for recreation, healing, spirituality and bonding.’’

Tonight O’Neill will be holding a Stampede Drumming Workshop at Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise, from 4-5pm as part of the national Culture Night 2012. Using African bass drums, congas and a variety of bells and shakers, he hopes to show exactly how hand-drumming can benefit your health and wellbeing.

“People will come along and we will sit in a big circle and basically drum together. I can guarantee you I will have women in their 60s tapping along with six-year-old children. It doesn’t matter if you can’t play properly, just play from your heart and let it out,’’ he says.

“It is about enjoyment, the community building and socialising together.’’

O’Neill holds regular drumming workshops across the country for all ages, and believes that the health benefits for older people are immense. It improves everything from their posture, motor skills and stress levels to their self-confidence, energy and motivation.

“The over 50s absolutely love it, everyone feels included. When you drum together you create a lovely energy, it is very empowering. The women will just get up and start to dance in the middle of it, because that is the way they feel,’’ he says.

“I think they get very energised by it. The whole social aspect of bringing people together for fun, while at the same time encouraging a great sense of camaraderie makes people feel supported and bonded. Communication and very important.”

The most recent research support O’Neill’s findings too. A study by Stanford University of Medicine monitored 30 80-year-olds who were suffering from depression and found that those who took part in a weekly drumming session were less anxious and had higher self-esteem.

Other studies have revealed that having to concentrate on the steady rhythm of drumming can help people with Alzheimer’s to connect better with their loved ones. It can also help stroke sufferers or those with Parkinson’s disease to move more steadily. And the rhythmic movement can reduce chronic pain.

“Drumming touches an inner pulse that we all have,’’ says O’Neill. “We are all born with a desire to express ourselves rhythmically.

“Even when we are babies crawling around the floor, the first thing we do is to pick up a wooden spoon and start bashing something with it.’’

O’Neill trained as a drum circle facilitator and drum therapist in the USA and England over 12 years ago after reading about the health benefits. He also loves the fact that it “brings people out of themselves”.

“I love passing on the enjoyment of drumming to people who have never done it before,’’ he says. “I love seeing the surprises on their faces and their reactions. How good they feel. It is like a work out.

“It is an inner rhythmical massage — the rhythm, the group energy, the emotions. You are getting a massage, your endorphins are being released and it makes you feel so good.’’

¦ www.rhythmretreats.com or contact Eddie O’Neill on 087-9151134 for further information.

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