Shaking and Rocking to Relax the Writer and Reader

dervish 1by Amber Polo

All writers and readers know sitting can be  unhealthy. Yet there are times strenuous exercise is not possible. Shaking is a gentle exercise that works to wake up the copy and focus the mind – without moving too far from your desk or chair.


Ancient wisdom embodies ecstatic shaking as the oldest medicine. Kalahari Bushman, Quakers, Shakers, Japanese seiki jutsu, Native American shakers of the Pacific Northwest, and many pow-wow dancers use shaking for healing and shamanic experience.

Many traditions use frenzied ecstasy as a prelude to a deep state of relaxation. Not to be confused with St. Vitus Dance or mass hysteria, remnants of ecstatic shaking remain in divers music and spiritual traditions; jazz, blues, rock and roll, and gospel as well as ancient ethnic circle dances, kundalini yoga, and qigong.

Gentle or energetic shaking loosens the joints of the body, breaks up physical and mental stagnation, and opens energy channels. Shaking allows you to let go (and look very silly) while banishing stiffness and shaking off emotional knots. Bradford Keeney, author of Shaking Medicine experienced what he calls enriched intuition from shaking.

How To Do It

Start by imagining you’re Pinocchio and a kindly Geppetto is pulling your strings. Stand, feet apart, eyes closed or almost closed. Soften the knees. Exhale and begin. Try to feel the shaking originating in the belly. Let the breath deepen. Move and wiggle all your parts as if you had no bones. Shake for at least 5 minutes daily for a few days to see if it works for you.
Shaking can be a warm-up, a quick break, or a practice in itself. Laraine Herring, in The Writing Warrior, calls shaking an “energetic flush” for the body and “internal meditation” for the mind. She offers instructions and a YouTube video to introduce writers to the practice of shaking.

Literary Side Trip A famous member the Sufi dervish cult known for ecstatic dance, the 13th century poet Rumi, was recently called the most popular poet in America.


Like shaking, rocking the body  connects you  to your primal soul. Old-fashioned rocking chairs, swings, and gliders come back in vogue because they make people feel good. Add a rocking chair to your office. Rock, breathe, and relax.

Soothing Rocking Exercise – Sit erect close to the front of a firm chair with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and, keeping hips evenly on chair, rock back and forth slowly and rhythmically in sync with your breath. If you like, wrap your arms around your body.

Literary Side Trip – Contrary to popular legend, Ben Franklin did not invent the rocking chair, though he did come up with three clever devices to benefit writers: bifocals, the cozy Franklin stove, and the wooden pole with a claw to remove books from high shelves.

Excerpts from Relaxing the WriterRelaxing-Cover-300px-h-optimized

Find more suggestions in Relaxing the Writer


  Learn More about Shaking as a Practice for writers…

 Listen to Laraine Herring talk more about shaking on this video

 And a demonstration
Laraine somehow convinced her husband
to demonstrate how to shake –

Link to Relaxation Books & CDs on my website
Amber-with-dog-small_edited-13Bio Amber Polo
A love of books drew Amber Polo into a career as a librarian. A greater love turned her into a writer. The Shapeshifters’ Library series is an urban fantasy filled with books, librarians and dogs and a library everyone will love.

In addition to her two award-winning romance novels, she self-published Relaxing the Writer: Guidebook to the Writer’s High which offers hundreds of tips to help writers and readers relax and is proud of her self-produced, Relaxation One Breath at a Time, a CD that uses her voice to teach relaxation to calm your body and mind and/or help you fall asleep.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I often picture my characters rocking in attempts at self modulation…it works! Love your post.

  2. As I’m recovering from a back injury I will keep this advice for when I am able to shake. Prior to this problem I had told myself I needed to move more…! Thanks for sharing.
    I did write about exercise here:

  3. […] A newer article that is great for writers – […]

  4. Yes, sometimes I get so caught up in what I’m doing at the computer that I lose track of time and find myself with my shoulders up around my neck and a permanent kink! I need to take Amber’s advice. I used to set a kitchen time for 30 minutes, forcing myself to get up to turn it off and then doing some kind of stretching.

  5. it’s hard for writers to get of out our heads, When the writing is going good, who wants to stop? Remember that old butt in chair advice. Now there’s also the importance of getting the butt out of the chair.
    An expert told me gentle shaking is safe unless the shaker has a head injury or severe mental disorders.

    Thanks, Heidi, for letting me share my favorite exercise.
    Enjoy the weekend,

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