What comes to mind when you picture meditation? Do you envision someone sitting serenely in a lotus pose or reclining in savasana? While these are valid images, they don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes, a little movement is what you need, and shaking can ease tension. Human beings are complex physical and mental creatures, with the body continually affecting the mind and vice versa. Sometimes, you need a bit of energetic release to reach a calm state. Here’s how shaking meditation can help relieve stress and how you can do it to induce calm and fight panic.
Shaking meditation evolved from animals in the wild
What is stress? At its simplest, it’s a sense of fear arising from a real or perceived stimulus that threatens to cause suffering or death. While humans experience it from various sources today, other living creatures encounter it after close calls with predators. Peter Levine, Ph.D., founder of Somatic Experiencing, based his recovery theory, which includes shaking meditation, on his observations of animals in the wild. He noticed that prey animals rarely evidenced long-term trauma symptoms despite repeated encounters with predators. He observed that they discharge the negative energy created by such interactions, often with a full-body shudder to release the arousal from their nervous system instead of trapping it.
Stress: a modern epidemic
Unfortunately, modern humans have a disadvantage animals don’t face. Most of us can’t escape long-term stressors like high rent and low wages as quickly as fleeing a predator. As a result, many people live in a persistent fearful state, disrupting various body processes. Negative emotional energy remains trapped in the body, where it takes a dangerous toll on mental and physical health.
How stress affects mental health
Short-term stress is positive — without it, you’d have no motivation to study for an upcoming exam. It becomes problematic when it becomes chronic, causing persistent and overwhelming negative mental states that impact daily functioning, including:
Anxiety: You feel as if disaster always looms, encouraging impulsive, fear-based decision-making.
Depression: As pressure persists without a break, you can start to feel as if the world is a dark, dreary place. The psychic weight makes it increasingly challenging to manage daily functioning.
Loss of agency: You can begin to feel as if everything is futile and nothing you do makes a difference.
These feelings can be temporary. However, if chronic stress continues unabated, they can develop into full-blown mental disorders.
How stress affects physical health
Stress doesn’t only affect your mind. It can also cause adverse health effects that lead to even more pressure, creating a negative spiral that’s difficult to escape. Over time, you may develop the following symptoms:
High blood pressure
These conditions may worsen if left untreated. For example, weight gain from excess cortisol production can predispose you to Type 2 diabetes. Millions of Americans now have this preventable disorder, often without knowing their risk.
How do you do a shaking meditation?
It’s easy to do a shaking meditation. You can perform it seated, standing or even lying down. Begin by drawing to mind a stressful situation and tune into the physical sensations you experience while contemplating it. You can do a quick body scan to identify areas of tension or focus more on the mental effects. What thoughts arise? Don’t judge them — simply observe. Then, make like Taylor Swift and prepare to shake that negativity off. Begin by wiggling your fingers and toes, really letting them tremble. Let the motion build, spreading up your hands to your arms. Get your torso and core involved until you shudder from head to toe. You can stick with a full-body shake or begin kicking your legs, stamping your feet, jumping or whirling. Feel free to make noise — unearth a primal scream from the depths of your belly. Gyrate as wildly and as long as you wish until a sense of pleasant exhaustion overtakes you. The idea is to dispel all the negative energy trapped in your body without unleashing it on someone else and making matters worse. Doing so lowers stress hormone levels and returns your body to homeostasis or close to it, encouraging your parasympathetic nervous system to take over and allowing you to relax.
Finding a time and place for shaking meditation
Shaking meditation can look a bit odd to outsiders. If you live in an upstairs apartment with thin walls, you might want to find a secluded outdoor space to avoid creating a disturbance. If you’re on the ground floor, screaming into a pillow might do the trick, and urban dwellers might try the gym. Although you might not want to attract attention by making too much noise, you can explain away the physical motions as pumping yourself up for a great workout. Of course, you can always educate others about what you’re doing and why. Sharing healthy ways to ease stress helps others build their coping skills and could create a more peaceful world — further decreasing all the tension in the air making people feel crazy.
What to do after shaking meditation
Depending on how long and hard you go, you might feel ready to sit quietly in mindfulness meditation or even take a nap after you shake off that nervous energy. A calming yoga nidra recording can bring you back to your body and ease stress-related anxiety.
Ease stress through shaking meditation
Shaking meditation uses the similarities in human and animal biology to dispel stress like prey creatures do in the wild following encounters with predators. It releases negative energy trapped in the body before it can cause chronic health problems. Shaking meditation is free and requires no equipment. The next time the tension gets too much to handle, follow the popular Swiftie advice and shake it off!
Mia is a professional health and wellness writer and the Founder of Body+Mind Magazine. Mia enjoys sharing articles on the transformative power of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. Mia’s goal is to provide actionable advice to help her readers achieve more balance in their daily lives. You can learn more about Mia and Body+Mind on X and Instagram.