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I used to believe that meditation was about shutting off the mind entirely.
In 2013, I looked at a friend and I told her, “I think I might have meditated once before.” I genuinely believed that meditation was a skill we could acquire and it only counted if we successfully stopped thinking. I only ever thought of meditation as the cliché, eyes closed, sitting on a cushion while holding Gyan mudra.
That same year, I finally decided to take my first yoga class. I immediately fell in love with the practice, but simply because I loved the new ways my body was moving. After practicing for some time, I first noticed how my body was responding. I suffered from a bulging disc and it felt like I had tried all the things to escape the pain—yoga was my saving grace.
Realistically, I believe I just really needed to learn how to listen to my body more closely. Turns out, I desperately needed to open up my hips and hamstrings—tightness in those areas directly correlates to back pain. And it’s especially easy to create tight hips considering they are the emotional storage unit of the body.
I remember one of the first times my teacher gave me a hands-on assist in supta baddha konasana—an easy hip opener—tears slowly streamed down the sides of my cheeks and onto my mat. I didn’t even realize I was sad about something until she pushed my hips down to the floor just enough for that experience to come right to the surface.
I was amazed at the lightness I felt after that class. That’s when I realized yoga was more than aesthetic postures, cool arm balances, and flexibility. It felt like some sort of magic practice I had been waiting my whole (short) life to find.
As my yoga practice developed, so did my curiosity. Meditation became a practice that actually started to interest me. And as I slowly began to become more aware of my body through yoga, it brought me closer to the awareness of my breath.
I think the most important thing I’ve gained from turning my yoga practice into a moving meditation is that I no longer identified with my thoughts. Meditation guided me to separate “I” from “self”—just like Eckhart Tolle wrote about in his book The Power of Now. Tolle was deeply suffering and thought, “I cannot live with myself.” That’s when he had the realization that if we cannot live with our selves, why not separate the two?
Meditation teaches us exactly this—to separate ourselves from ego and watch our thoughts pass us by from the outside. It is learning how to become the observer: of life, of others, and of ourselves.
But meditation is more than many of us think. Anything can be considered meditation depending on our level of awareness at that moment—doing the dishes is a classic example of a mundane activity that can be turned into a meditative experience.
But it’s also important to note that meditation is not about telling our minds to shut off. In fact, I could argue that meditation teaches us to do the exact opposite. It teaches us to allow our thoughts to arise so we can look closer at why we have the thoughts we have. I think this is the juiciest part of meditation (and also the reason so many of us resist it).
We often don’t feel ready to face the thoughts, beliefs, and experiences we subconsciously store deep down in our bodies. But once we can find the courage to actively pull those experiences out of the body, we will feel a world’s difference.
The only way out is through, baby.
And if you want more than just a couple of tears streaming down your face from a slight hip opener in yoga, then this practice is for you:
Okay ya’ll, be prepared to cry (or laugh or scream) because this meditation is about to rock your world…literally. I am beyond grateful for finding this Kundalini practice because I have never experienced such a quick release of emotions before I tried this.
A shaking meditation is exactly what it sounds like: you actively shake your entire body while directing your focus to your breath (or your mantra or however you choose to be present).
Shaking is primal. Most animals voluntarily shake their bodies after a life-threatening event in order to release the excess energy of that experience. Now, imagine all the traumatic experiences we humans face, sometimes daily. If we do not actively try and let go of the energy from these traumatic experiences, it becomes stored in the body. This can create many problems—mentally and physically.
Shaking is considered a Kundalini practice because Kundalini is the energy that lies at the base of the spine, and when we shake, we are actively moving stagnate energy. And ideally, we want this energy to be able to flow freely through all the energy centers of the body—the seven chakras.
When we suppress our emotions, we are subconsciously shoving them down into the body, creating a blockage of energy. Shaking is a quick and simple way to physically move the energy that is stuck in the body—often at the base of the spine—and move it up through each energy center and out the crown.
Now, doing this practice can cause a lot of different emotions to arise. The emotions that surface may be entirely unexpected because we don’t realize how often we store emotional experiences in our bodies before allowing ourselves to feel the feelings that experience created.
And oftentimes, we might experience unexpected joy—the emotions we suppress aren’t always “negative.” In fact, joy is hugely common to be suppressed, especially when we live in a world that is racist, sexist, environmentally f*cked, and COVID-19 infested—another reason why shaking is a much-needed practice right now.
Here is what my shaking meditation practice typically looks like:
Please note: this practice can be done anywhere, at any time, and however you like. This is just my personal preference.
First, I put on a bra. Humans with boobs, I highly recommend this step.
Then, I like to create a sacred space where I can drop in and feel fully present and connected—for me, this includes rolling out my mat, lighting incense, dimming the lights, gathering crystals, all that fun stuff.
Once that’s all set, I hit play on my music (see YouTube video at the end of this article for recommended music), I close down my outer eyes, I find a comfortable place to stand on my mat with feet hips-distance apart in tadasana (mountain pose), and I begin to shake.
For me, the shake begins by allowing a slight buoyancy in the knees. At first, it might feel awkward or forced, but as the music progresses, allow yourself the freedom to shake however the body wants. Eventually, the shake will take control.
When I shake, I focus on my breath. I breathe. I sigh. I moan. I make whatever noise feels organic.
I shake for the entirety of the 12-minute song, and then I stop. I keep my eyes closed, I bask in the vibration swimming through my body, and then I lay down on my mat.
And then, 90 percent of the time, I sob. And it feels f*cking orgasmic to physically release my suppressed emotions.
For me, the lightness that is felt after this meditation is indescribable and something that must be experienced.
Shaking has literally rocked my world and I hope it rocks yours, too.