Daily Stress Relief: Shake It Off!

Posted on May 29th, 2013 by in Healthy Living

When I was a kid sitting in the backseat of the car as my parents were driving me somewhere or another, I remember getting nervous when we’d cross over a bridge, especially if it was a long bridge suspended high in the air. As soon as the car reached land, I’d involuntarily shiver as if I’d just dodged a bullet. A full-body tremble would course through me, and I never understood why.

Thanks to Dr. Susan Lord, a Kripalu Healthy Living faculty member and an expert in mind-body medicine, now I do: I was shaking off my imagined but miniature trauma and bringing my body back into balance.

Dr. Lord took me through a simple exercise that animals do consistently to help relieve stress. While stress for a rabbit or a gazelle might arise from escaping a predator’s attack, the stresses we humans experience—when we’re late for an important interview, when we’ve had a car accident, or just after a hurtful argument with a loved one—can wreak havoc on the body over time if we bury them, if they’re not given some outlet for release. You can’t remain in a fight-or-flight state with high levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, coursing through your body for a prolonged period or you’ll open yourself up to anything from lowered immunity to high blood pressure to an increase in abdominal fat, believe it or not.

So how do we shake off stress like the animals? We shake. That’s right. Let your body vibrate, jiggle and wiggle, twist and turn and jump—and make sure to release sound: deep, long, loud sighs and moans. Just let yourself go, full force, and then notice what you feel.

I tried Dr. Lord’s exercise twice and had two different experiences. The first time, as I shook my head back and forth, jumped up and down, waved my arms wildly in the air, and released a loud “aaahhh” from my belly, tears began to form in my eyes. A feeling of sadness bubbled up. Dr. Lord would likely say that I’d released tension that I was holding onto, which brought me to the truth of what was going on. I was feeling sad. I let myself feel it, cried a few tears, and then the feeling passed. That’s good information. Sometimes we hold onto our stress rather than feel the emotion that’s causing it. If only we’d allow ourselves to feel the emotion, we’d move through it soon enough, and be onto the next thing.

The next time I did the shaking exercise (just a moment before writing this), I noticed that when I kept my feet planted firmly on the ground and rattled my legs, it helped me let out a rather satisfying “aaahhh,” the kind that helps release the voice, the kind that’s helping me now, as I type, to drop my usually raised shoulders and release my too-often-held breath. Do this 15 minutes a day, Dr. Lord says, and it just might change your life. Who knows what you’ll shake free?

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About Portland Helmich

Portland is the creator, host, and producer of the Kripalu Perspectives podcast series. She's also is the creator, host, and executive producer of What’s the Alternative?, a series of 52 half-hour talk shows about natural and alternative forms of healing the body-mind on Veria Living TV, a natural health channel on DISH, FiOS, and Frontier. For 15 years, Portland’s been investigating natural health and healing as a host, reporter, writer, and producer. She's been an alternative medicine correspondent for Oxygen, a health reporter for The American Consumer on PBS, and was the creator, host, and executive producer of Journeys Into Healing on Wisdom Television. She produced for HealthWeek and Healing Quest on PBS and was a medical producer for WCVB-TV (Boston’s ABC News affiliate). She’s also covered the subject as a freelance writer for Body + Soul, Alternative Medicine, and Spa magazines. Portland currently lives in Boston and produces other natural health programming for Veria Living TV.
  • Sarah Rockwell

    It makes so much sense to get our bodies in motion to release stress or emotions that we find difficult to share. When we feel balanced, we are more able to be present, be more expanded, and let things flow through us. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • KripaluEditor

      Thanks, Sarah—appreciate the comment!

  • Nancy Oliveri

    I think there was a whole religion based on the concept! The Shakers or the Quakers? I guess they knew something we didn’t!