Donna Nesteruk beats a drum slow and steady. Every second the drum stick hits the rawhide. She’s mimicking a heartbeat - a sound we find soothing even before we are born.
For a while, the women in her drumming circle sit and listen. Some of their toes start to tap, their knees bounce, then finally they start to join in.
Nesteruk, 56, of St. James, is an acupuncturist and a sound healing practitioner. To her, a drum circle is not just about the music that’s produced, but what happens to the participant’s body, mind and general well-being.
“The idea for a drum circle is to tap into your innate rhythm,” she said. “It gives you a sense of self. You’re truly in the present moment.”
Nesteruk started the monthly women’s drumming circle at Balance Body Mind Soul Yoga Studio in St. James about five months ago. Though she holds co-ed drum circles elsewhere, in her hometown, she thought it was important to create a community of women who could come together, let loose and center themselves.
“When you’re drumming, it’s a freeing moment,” she said. “You’re able to express yourself and it’s also a release for anxiety.”
Nesteruk starts every hour-long session with the “heartbeat,” she said, and waits for women to join in whenever they are ready. There are no rules and nothing is right or wrong. Women can beat out whatever rhythm they feel as it comes to them. It seems random, Nesteruk said, but actually, they are beating in tune with their own inner frequency and eventually, the random beats entrain, creating a cohesive sound.
The women - who on Monday night ranged in age from their teens to their 50s - are free to abandon their seated djembe drums for one of the percussion instruments Nesteruk leaves on the floor, sing or get up and dance.
Anna Miranda, an intuitive advisor at the yoga studio who also practices sound healing, called herself a “veteran” in drum circles, but said that Nesteruk is the only one that incorporates meditation practices.
“When I’m getting into it, it’s like a freedom,” said Miranda, 32. “I feel like a kid again, your ego goes out the door.”
Denise Dolan, 55, of St. James, participated in her second drum circle on Monday and also brought her two adult daughters, Catherine and Colleen. Dolan, an assistant principal at Sachem High School East, said she started drumming to quiet her “inner clock” that’s always ticking.
“I have a really stressful job,” she said. “Everything is by the bell.”
Dolan was surprised by her daughters: The more outgoing one was shy during the drum circle, and the quieter one let loose.
“My one daughter was so into it,” she said of Colleen, 28. “She was all over the place. It’s interesting to see what comes out.”