Beating stress takes on a whole new meaning in a monthly group organized by a local therapist.
Open to the public, the Rhythm Circle group meets at 6:30 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month at 900 Main St., Suite 580, in Peoria under the direction of licensed clinical social worker Edna Ng.
Cost is $10 per person per session.
“There’s a lot of research that shows rhythm or drumming has health benefits, not only for reducing stress but also in
helping people deal with chronic pain, addiction and many other kinds of symptoms like depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder,” Ng said.
Since starting in March with little advertising, the group has had between four and nine participants each month but is growing, Ng said. It’s open to all ages, though only adults have attended so far.
“My wife and I both go mainly because we enjoy it,” said Dennis Beaupre of Peoria. “It’s something fun to do and hopefully it gets rid of a lot of stress. I feel more relaxed afterward.”
Neither Beaupre nor his wife, Lisa, had any previous experience with drumming, which Ng said is perfectly fine.
“You don’t have to have any experience. There’s no right or wrong way to do it,” Ng said. “At first people might feel nervous, but once they get into it they get lost in the moment and don’t worry about doing it perfectly. And that’s the whole point of it: to be able to enjoy the moment.”
Beaupre said he felt self-conscious at first but settled in quickly because everyone else seemed new to the experience as well.
“There weren’t any worries. Edna was very good at describing what we were going to do and explaining how we were going to do it. She’s a good guide,” he said. “I’m in the process of selling my business, which has been pretty stressful, and I do think this has helped me destress.”
Ng has a collection of hand percussion instruments she purchased for the group, but participants are also welcome to bring their own. She has a variety of hand-frame drums, a tom-tom, triangle and maracas, among others.
As each participant chooses an instrument and gathers in a circle, Ng talks about stress management and leads the group through three or four drumming exercises designed to loosen them up and help them feel the rhythm.
Noting that the body and brain are hard-wired to rhythm, Ng said research shows drumming activates and balances both brain hemispheres, forcing them to work in harmony. This can lead to decreased stress, anxiety and depression.
“At the end of the group we do open drumming where people do whatever rhythm they want or we can do a call and response,” Ng said. “The last activity is usually unstructured.”
Ng got the idea to start the Rhythm Circle after searching unsuccessfully for such a group when she moved here from the Chicago area.
“I’ve done drum circles in the past and have always wanted to do one here, but it took me some time to get the resources together to put one together,” said Ng, a therapist in a private practice group who moved here in 2005.
“I think it’s a whole lot of fun, and I couldn’t really find anything in this area, other than a group that’s more Native American focused. I wasn’t able to find any recreational or therapeutic drumming groups, so I figured why not start one?” she added.
Ng encourages the participants to continue the activity at home. “You don’t even necessarily need an instrument per se to do it. Our bodies have a natural rhythm, so you could tap on your body or tap on the table,” she said.
Dennis Beaupre said he now finds himself tapping on things such as a tabletop during the day. “We’ve been trying out different instruments each time we go,” he said.
The group meets in the large waiting room of Ng’s office. “It’s after hours so people can make as much noise as they want,” she said.
“It’s fun. It’s a great release. I usually feel relaxed and yet energized at the same time after a session. Personally, I feel group drumming is more powerful because it allows me to experience a sense of community and connectedness that I would not get drumming alone,” Ng said.
Rhythm circles are popular in big cities but haven’t quite caught on here, though Ng is committed to growing it in the Peoria area. “Every time I do the group, I get a lot of positive feedback. I get people who return, and I get people who’ve told other people about it,” she said.
Ng plans to keep offering the group every month, except December. The next Rhythm Circle will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 27. For more information visit Ng’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ednang.lcsw.
Registration is not necessary but can be made in advance by leaving a message for Ng at (309) 637-4266. The $10 fee can be paid at the event.
–Local therapists finds unique way to beat stress–