Travel to the beat of a different drum

  • Rhythm of life: Patricia Young practises on a timbal (Photograph by Nina London)

    Rhythm of life: Patricia Young practises on a timbal (Photograph by Nina London)

Thursday night is rehearsal time for the Coral Beats percussion group. It is two hours of positive and vigorous energy for the mind and body. After chatting, exchanging news, hugging and laughing together, we get down to work. Our rehearsals take place in a small theatre hall, and there is always an exciting undercurrent of performance even as we learn new material with all the starts and stops and bumps that go with trying something new.

This time our talented leader, Kim Deuss, asked us to form a circle. After we practised a couple of new samba rhythms, she told us to exchange drums.

I regretfully gave my dear, large, bass surdo to another band member. After playing it for a year, it was like saying goodbye to a close friend. I decided to try to play a snare drum; I have always been fascinated by the sharp, staccato sound that projects from such a small instrument.

I began to play it with great enthusiasm and, to my surprise, I sounded awful!

I could not follow the rhythm at all; I was late, I missed the beat. I had the strange impression that I was playing drums for the first time in my life. So I tried a new one, called a repinique, and I had the same result. I couldnít play well and I felt like a novice.

I became nervous and even more clumsy. Then suddenly it dawned on me: I was practising something I had just been studying, neurobics.

Neurobics (neuron plus aerobics) are a kind of stretching exercise to increase oxygen flow and give your brainís neurons more energy. By experiencing or participating in some novel activity you create new neuron pathways and this purportedly helps rejuvenate your brain. Neurobics claims to be one of the best and simplest exercises to combat ageing. What our brain needs and likes is newness, doing something youíve never done before.

How can we do this in our everyday life? Change a routine activity in an unexpected way.

Brush your teeth using the opposite hand. Drive, walk or bike to work taking a completely new route, or go on a road trip with no agenda. Shop at a Saturday farmersí market instead of a supermarket, and at a different time than usual.

If youíre a runner, try a yoga session. If you play tennis, substitute swimming for a day. Stop typing and write on a pad of paper. There are countless possibilities to do even an ordinary task in an unexpected way.

As I look forward to the new year, it seems like a first step towards changing bad habits as well. We are all bound by our routines; many of them good for us, yet some of them bad. Perhaps having a little fun with neurobics will lead to more profound changes than possibly stimulating our brainís performance. Perhaps it can help us keep our new yearís resolutions.

It didnít improve my drumming ó at least, not yet ó but it made me consider the routines that structure my life and Iím curious to see what happens when I change a few of them. Changing my favourite drum will not be on my list!

ē Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at

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Published Dec 13, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 13, 2018 at 7:35 am)

Travel to the beat of a different drum

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