View the meditation by James S. Gordon, MD below. For our original 2004 article see, “Laugh, Cry, Lift“.
This article originally appeared as part of “Laugh, Cry, Lift” in the December 2015 issue of Experience Life. To order a back issue, call 800-897-4056 (press option 3 when prompted). To get all the articles from each issue of Experience Life, subscribe online at ELmag.com/subscribe.
Shaking and Dancing: An Expressive Meditation
Feeling stressed, tense, or anxious? Try this 10-minute shaking-and-dancing technique to help release emotions from James S. Gordon, MD.
By Kaelyn Riley
We’ve all heard that meditation can be beneficial for our health, easing stress, reducing depression, improving mood, and even lowering blood pressure. Whatever ails you, it seems that incorporating meditation into your daily life could be a major healthy upgrade for your body and your mind.
Even so, meditation can be tricky. Maybe you’ve tried to sit still and quiet your mind, only to find yourself feeling distracted, fidgety, or uneasy.
Luckily, there’s more than one way to meditate. If you’ve ever had difficulty sitting still for a more traditional meditation session, you might try the following three-part “expressive meditation” from our friends at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine.
“In the work we do at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, we make frequent use of ‘expressive meditations,’ active movement of the body that releases tension, evokes emotion, and promotes psychological change,” says James S. Gordon, MD, founder and executive director of The Center and author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression. He uses the following technique often in his office and in his daily life.
What you’ll need: A playlist with five minutes of lively rhythmic music for Part One, two minutes of silence for Part Two, and three minutes of inspiring or energizing tunes for Part Three.
What you do: For Part One, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and close your eyes. (For those with balance issues, you can choose to keep your eyes open for this part.) Begin shaking your body from your feet. Let the movement travel through your legs and your hips, into your core, and up through your head and shoulders. After a minute or so, your whole body should be shaking. Do this for five minutes. This part will help release tension in the muscles.
For Part Two, quiet your body and relax. Bring your awareness to your breathing for two minutes. This part will offer you an opportunity for mindfulness and calm.
For Part Three, let your body move to the energizing or inspiring music you’ve chosen. This part will allow your body to express itself freely.
Gordon says that the first part of this exercise can often be emotional — you could feel happy, angry, scared, sad, or some combination. “Our instruction is simply to let the emotions be; it’s part of the process of cleansing and healing,” he says. “During the quiet time, people become aware of the feelings that have arisen, and they’re able to watch them with some greater perspective. Then, during the third ‘dancing part’ of the meditation, everyone is able to express what has been held inside. There is almost always a sense of relaxation and freedom in the mind as well as the body.”
The practitioners at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine teach many types of expressive meditation. For a more comprehensive overview of different methods, check out Gordon’s book Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression.