A lone woman dances in place, completely lost in the sound of live drumming as the rest of the yoga class follows the teacher’s lead through salutations.
“She was totally into the vibe, making it a very cool experience for me,” drummer Brad Ellsworth recalls of a class where the teacher also had yogis drumming their hands on the floor to feel the rhythm. “There’s a primal element to drumming that people respond to.”
A drummer since middle school, a practitioner of yoga for six years and a yoga instructor for the past two, Ellsworth sees the marriage of drumming and yoga — which he’s dubbed druminyasa — as a natural combination of rhythm, movement and breath. The idea was born a couple of years ago when a yoga-teacher friend invited his drum-and-bass duo to accompany her class — and the group of 50 reacted enthusiastically
That he also practices yoga means he has a clearer sense of the movement, making it easier to match the dynamics of his drumming to the flow. A typical class begins slowly on the floor with a heart rate of 70 to 80 beats per minute, and Ellsworth mirrors that rate. With salutations, he intensifies the rhythm, and 30 to 45 minutes into the class, the rhythm is faster to match the group’s heart rate.
“I never have a set play list,” he says. “I have some ideas, some influences I may intend to use, but 99 percent of the time, I’m working with a new teacher, so we’ve never collaborated before. It’s almost like playing jazz — improvising and working together for the first time.”
When using a predetermined play list, Ellsworth says, students may not connect to the songs or perhaps they may have negative or unwelcome connotation,. But drumming in the moment connects the rhythm of breath and heartbeat —“and that’s the key,” he says.
Yoga teacher Becky Eschenroeder began inviting Ellsworth to perform for her classes last year and immediately saw him alter the energy in the room.
“People get excited at the novelty of the idea, but it can also bring up stuff for people,” she says. “Students tell me it was the coolest yoga experience they’ve ever had or they just give me a big hug. One said she felt like an animal running through the woods. It’s just such a release.”
Ellsworth sees druminyasa as collaborative energy generated by everyone in the room, not just by his drumming. “I feed off their energy, because I’m dialed into their flow,” he says. “It’s all very much aligned. It’s powerful seeing a group of people moving together to the beat of my drum.”
The duo will take their act on the road this year, offering classes at various studios, as well as several yoga festivals, including Shensara Flo Jam in Washington and Floyd Yoga Jam.
“With Brad’s gift, all kinds of yoga can be realized to drumming,” Eschenroeder says. “He has the ability to change people’s energy with the sound of his drum.” S
A listing of druminyasa events can be found at greatabidingyoga.com.