easiest exercise for deep stress relief

Deep Stress Relief: One Easy Exercise You Can Do Anywhere

After a few years of living in New York City, I embarked on a desperate mission to find some deep stress relief for myself.

The story of how I discovered the simple technique of shaking follows below.  

As well as tips for how to combine shaking, very simply, with other modalities.

In Search of Simplicity…

I’d moved to the city from the West Coast.  

Already a holistic health enthusiast, I naturally dove into yoga, meditation, dance, and so many other mind-body workshops, classes, and approaches.

But eventually all the new techniques and theories became too much to digest…

Especially on top of all of the over-stimulation and information overload that came with simply living in New York City!

I knew I needed to drill down to what worked fast and quick to really help me recenter and function in this crazy environment.

Again, I needed deep stress relief, in some form that I could do at home… and fast.

Also, not only was I dealing with the stress of the city, but deeper emotional issues of mine were beginning to surface too.

I experienced them as instability, uncertainty, and tension in my psyche.

I needed to get more in touch with myself, to feel what I was really feeling, and discover what was really going on with me deep down.

With a hectic schedule, I only had so much time to go within and sort myself out.

I felt there must be a way to achieve this as much as possible on my own, before resorting to a therapist.

So I began to experiment with some of the different techniques I’d been learning at home in my room.

My NYC Room Became my Laboratory for Deep Stress Relief

I began to try out simple practices in my room, starting with one of the simplest of all “movements” – standing.   And adding (of course) breathing while standing.

After a while I introduced slight movement of the body into the standing.  I moved arms, then legs, shoulders, elbows, then various combinations thereof.

I first learned this practice from the singer Deva Premal on a livestream about 5 years before.  

She’d been teaching the technique to her audience, as it came from the Osho tradition. 

Deva taught 15 minutes of gentle shaking as part of the more complete Osho Kundalini meditation. But I recognized it as a basic element in and of itself, that was also a part of other traditions.

So pretty soon, I found myself standing there in my room and… gently shaking on my own.

And over time, as I made it a daily practice… I began to see how shaking opens up into so many other things I’ve either heard of or know first hand:

  • The pelvis thrusting of Elvis and all the rockers of the past 70 years
  • The holy healing dance of the african bush people
  • 5 rhythms
  • The movements of procreation!

Basically, to me, what seems to happen is……Just by moving your body…. in this simple, natural, gentle way…

First, your physiology moves. Then it begins to feel like your “energies” are moving.  

Your signals get a bit scrambled, & your attention naturally goes past the jumble of different mental story-lines, into the sensations of your body.  

And usually, generally approaching the 10-15 minute mark for me…. emotions will start to make themselves felt, known.

If there’s something that has been bothering me, just barely out of my awareness… it will come up around this time.

And it’s important to keep in mind that – anything that arises, comes up because it was already there in the first place, in order to be addressed, acknowledged and/or released.

In short, what you often achieve is catharsis, or deep purging of stress and emotions.

Shaking is Part of Qigong Too

Gentle shaking is something you can do before beginning qigong, and it’s even included as a movement in itself in some qigong forms that I practice.

When I was in the hippie mecca of Arambol, Goa, India this winter… I saw more people than I’d imagined possible doing shaking as a health practice, in one context or another.

They’d be shaking on the beach in the morning next to people doing yoga & martial arts. Or they’d be shaking at ecstatic dance, or on offer as an Osho meditation workshop… Never had I seen the practice of shaking so normalized!

I also learned it growing up evangelical Christian in the South (of the United States).

The idea was always that God was allowing the holy spirit to move through you… to have its way with you… and it was understood that you were releasing things that no longer served in the process.

Shaking literally gets your body moving, and with it both lymph and qi, and after a few minutes quite often your emotions and mental imagery too.

It is an excellent tool to bring about a catharsis if you need one and are prepared to handle it.  (More about that below.) 

And it also, from a Chinese medicine perspective, breaks up stagnant energy in the body in general.

Movement is Essential for Life

“Motion is lotion” a physical therapy student once told me.  Not only is this true for the joints, meaning movement causes them to move more evenly and smoothly, it’s also true for our emotions.

There is the phenomenon (getting stuck emotionally, say), & then there are the tools to deal with it.

You can’t always help what happens to you.  Life is uncertain.  Since you can’t control or predict with 100% certainty, the best thing you CAN do is to be prepared for whatever life may bring.

In the realm of emotions… things might be going smoothly for a long time, & then – before we know it, seemingly out of the blue, we’re hit by heartbreak or tragedy. 

Life force energy does not seem to want us to dwell on tragedy anymore than we have to, it wants us to live love & thrive.  

To fully move through a phenomenon, through to the other side, generally speaking – we have to go into it.

For the emotionalists among us, emotions are often a daily felt experience, brimming just below the surface. 

The lucky ones of us know how a good big cry releases so much (there are those who can’t or won’t let themselves cry), but even that… is not enough to stave off the daily build up of – stuff.

Are You Ready for Deep Stress Relief and Emotional Healing?

If you’re ready to try this, what I recommend is a regular practice.

Ideally, a daily one.   But if that’s not realistic (I know it hasn’t been for me with my wacky and variable schedule) then – as regularly as possible. 

I recommend that in addition to meditation, you include shaking as a cathartic addition to your practice, generally right before your stillness or silence.

Again, for me the practice of shaking is beautiful because it is DEAD SIMPLE.

But it’s also so effective that it’s like – the nuclear option of spiritual practices. 

We have this incredible healing ability in our bodies that it takes practically nothing to activate — WHO KNEW??

I’ll say it again, it’s probably the easiest exercise for stress relief and general healing ever!

How to Do Shaking for Deep Stress Relief and General Health

I’ll start with how I do it.

Lately, I do it shaking in the morning first thing.

As I mentioned above, I do it before qigong, which I then follow with meditation.

You can also do shaking by itself, or combined with prayer, with a short meditation or period of silence afterwards.

To do shaking:

Keep feet planted on the floor. In the way I learned from Deva Premal, the feet are the one thing that stay stable.

Allow your body to move… the way it wants to move. Don’t force it.

Begin to move gently…. feel into your body…. If there’s an area of tension that wants to be shaken out in more vigorous movement, you can absolutely go for it.. but again, don’t force anything.

Do be creative, explore… if you find yourself just shaking your arms, for example… after a while, move more deeply into your legs instead.

Or if you’re leaning toward the right side of your body… after a while, shift to the right. You want to gently challenge yourself and see what comes up, associated with this other part of the body, if anything.  See what’s there.

Here’s an important caveat to note:  Once you get serious emotions coming up, you will need some tools for dealing with them.

For some people, a therapist may be required.  For others, a trusted friend, advisor, spiritual counselor, or also simply introspective and analytical skills may be enough.

I like to follow the shaking with qigong and meditation, for deeper integration.

And then I will often do free-writing.  Journaling and writing, for me, has always helped me integrate and make sense of my thoughts and feelings.

Shaking Is for Everybody

I love to bring this simple practice to light, because… everyone has the required tools for it!  Which are literally:  A body.  And – a floor.  And gravity.

Go gently……. Explore yourself, what comes up…..

And you really can’t lose…..

Other than maybe some pain, grief, & delusions!

It’s truly… one of the dead simplest things you can do… for your emotional, and thereby physical, health.

As I started out saying, it’s possibly the easiest exercise for deep stress relief and emotional healing in existence.

How does the above sound to you? Will you try it?

Or are you experienced with shaking already?

Leave a comment below!

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    • Sara
    • July 25, 2017

    Cool Mel! I have noticed how much tension I have in my body and that I naturally want to massage it out…but gentle shaking seems wonderfully therapeutic. Movement in general I have noticed is so important when I am stressed. Keeping it all bottled up inside does not feel good and my natural inclination is to move but a lot of times I just want to think about the next thing I have to do, instead of giving myself the break I need to move, shake or massage out the tension. I want to make this a normal practice!!

      • Mel
      • July 25, 2017

      Good for you, Sara & thanks for your comment! Yeah, I have found it so helpful, & like — brilliantly simple! Like – who knew? But you can find this “technology” (spiritual technology) in indigenous cultures & rituals around the world, some spiritual communities, & even Elvis & the early rockers knew the power of shaking… And again, I like to combine it with meditation, journaling & other integrative practices because it can bring stuff up. xo!

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