Shake It Off: A Movement Practice


After 10+ years of practicing yoga, I’m used to being moving in a box: my mat is my little box of comfort and my breath directs me up and down, through flexions and extensions, through engagement and softness.

Then, dance. I’ve recently begun dancing at a local studio here in Boulder. Some choreography, a little burlesque (delightful!), and Qoya–a luscious mix of sensual movement, yoga, and free form dance.

I cannot accurately articulate how moving in this way has changed the way I relate to my body. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable: I can’t quite get the steps or the rhythm, or my arms and legs don’t quite seem to move that way. In those cases, I laugh to myself, and just follow how that movement manifests in my own body. The less I think about it, the easier it comes.

One part of Qoya that has me completely head-over-heels: Shaking. It is exactly what it sounds like.

You begin with one foot: shake it like crazy. Then move up to your left leg. Then to your right foot, your right leg, your hips, moving up until you’re shaking your whole body.

Shaking can be seen all over the animal kingdom. Possums, antelopes, gazelles–any animals that are considered prey by another animal have a very special way of discharging all the energy that running from your life brings. You guessed it: they shake it out.

They shake, tremble, quiver for a few minutes, then go about their merry day like nothing ever happened.

Trembles, shakes, and deep involuntary breaths all reset the autonomic nervous system (ANS), or fight/fight/freeze mode of the nervous system.

Humans have the same response in our body, but instead of being chased by bears, we’re triggered by anxiety dreams, stressful work days, relational arguments and rush hour traffic. But no one shakes.

One theory is that we internalize this inability to discharge energy, and it gets stored as trauma in the body and mind. Soldiers and victims of violent crime suffer from PTSD, and symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety run rampant, and usually end up killing us.

Is shaking the secret to longevity? If we all took a few minutes to shake off what’s been bothering us, would it make a little bit of a difference?

From my own experience, shaking can be the Frankenstein’s monster of movement in the best possible way. It always feels a little awkward at first–that’s pretty much unavoidable. But then it becomes easier as you lean into the silliness of it all.

Then, all of a sudden, you are shaking in a way that your mind isn’t telling you. Your body is leading the shaking.

Sometimes, even when it’s time to stop, my body does not want it to end. There is still more to be shaken out, and going with that instinct feel divine and right.

The after-effects are extraordinary: I feel light and free, energized and excited to take on the day. The practice becomes something I look forward to, and employ in mini-doses if I ever become overwhelmed or need to let off some steam.

Wanna try shaking, Qoya-style? Here’s a detailed how-to.

And here’s a shaking playlist to get you started.


Happy Shaking!

signaturetransparent raquel alexandra

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