OBJECTIVE: Indigenous people's ceremonies using rhythm and dance have been used for countless generations throughout the world for healing, conflict resolution, social bonding, and spiritual experience. A previous study reported that a ceremony based on the Central African ngoma tradition was favorably received by a group of Americans. The present trial compared the effects of the modified ngoma ceremony (Ngoma) with those of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in a randomized pilot study. METHODS: Twenty-one women were randomized to either Ngoma or MBSR. Both groups had sessions on a weekly basis for 8 weeks and completed questionnaires at baseline, week 8, and 1 month after the intervention. Participants completed questionnaires, which included self-report of depressive and anxiety symptoms, health status (e.g., quality of life and functioning), social bonding, and perception of the credibility of the two interventions. RESULTS: Both groups showed improvements in depression, anxiety, emotional well being, and social functioning as measured by respective scales. Social bonding also increased in both groups during the study and may be a mechanism for both interventions. Participants found both interventions credible. CONCLUSIONS: In this pilot study, Ngoma showed significant and durable beneficial effects comparable to MBSR. The effects of Ngoma and other indigenous rhythm-dance ceremonies on distress and health status in western culture should be investigated in larger clinical studies.