Comparing trauma release and shaking medicine videos

Having just done the exercises along with the Trauma Releasing Exercises DVD for the first time, I recommend using the video over using the book to get up to speed on these.

The extra exercises at the beginning are nice, and they are more pleasant to do with the models on the video. They make it seem easier and get to the shaking part more quickly.

Read the book, The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process, for background and detail.

Get both!

I know some of you are probably confused about these two techniques, trauma releasing and shaking medicine. They are different yet related.

The trauma releasing exercises are specifically designed to strain the feet and leg muscles so that they begin to quiver and tremble and shake and release the deeply held tension from trauma and prolonged stress.

Every body does this a little differently, but basically, you lie on your back on the floor and let your legs tremble. The trembling may move into your pelvis, spine, neck, hands, arms, and shoulders, as well. The whole process is done lying down.

A room full of people may be doing these exercises, but each is in his/her own space, not touching.

Deep emotions may arise during this process.

Here’s a video of people trembling after doing the trauma releasing exercises.

Shaking medicine, as far as I know, is a term coined by Dr. Bradford Keeney, who also wrote a book called Shaking Medicine: The Healing Power of Ecstatic Movement (which I’m currently reading but bought used without the 40-minute CD of ecstatic drumming it came with).

I see he has written another book, Shaking Out the Spirits, and released a 6-CD audio set from Sounds True, Shaking: The Original Path to Ecstasy and Healing.

Shaking medicine is practiced in cultural traditions around the world, including the Kalahari Bushmen, Quakers, Shakers, and holy rollers. Shakers may stand, sit, and lie on ground, and move from one to the other “as the spirit moves them.” It also may be accompanied by vocalizations such as shouting and singing.

This kind of shaking is a way to heal and connect with God and let spirit move you. Literally.

It too may be accompanied by deep emotional release.

Here’s a video of Bradford Keeney shaking with some Kalahari Bushmen. It’s pretty long but you can certainly get a sense that this kind of shaking is different. It’s part of a community ritual with singing, drumming, and clapping.

It’s also practiced by individual shamans healing people with their shaking touch, sometimes passing the shaking on to another person.

In my current view, trauma releasing is a form of shaking medicine. Both practices release energy blockages and enhance the flow of chi in the body. Literally, both use shaking to heal, thus they are shaking medicine.

The term shaking medicine sounds pretty woo-woo and far out. The term trauma releasing exercises sounds much less threatening of the dominant paradigm and has a “legitimate” purpose that you could probably get a grant for researching.

The biggest difference I see is that shaking medicine is also an ecstatic practice. That word, ecstasy, isn’t associated with trauma release.

I haven’t had an opportunity to do shaking medicine yet (or have I? I practiced ecstatic dance for a dozen years…)

Both TRE and shaking medicine are kin to rebirthing and holotropic breathwork, which use breath to release deeply held tension and emotion.

I have a hunch that with all of these practices, when you’re done, you feel full of life and clean and fresh, very present, unstoried, and renewed. When you feel stale, you do it again.

I’ll keep reading and report on the book when I’m done, or when I find something too good to keep to myself.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for someone to do holotropic breathwork with me.

7 thoughts on “Comparing trauma release and shaking medicine videos

  1. Mary Ann, what a fascinating thread you’re weaving here — relating these two therapeutic modalities and then sharing your summary of the NY Times article on the lethality of sitting. Rather than having to use a treadmill desk to increase the frequency of daily movements, I wonder if there’s an elegant way to combine the best of Trauma Release Exercises and shaking medicine to counter act the harm cause by sitting and not moving around. In other words, could you perform modified exercises at your desk — yoga, TRE, shaking medicine — that would do the trick and not be too extreme. Though, now that I think about it, it would be pretty fun to take periodic timeouts to flop around on the office floor like caterpillars in the rain!


  2. Tom, without a treadmill desk, or a desk where you stand to do your work, I recommend frequent fidgeting and stretching, sitting on an exercise ball, doing Rodney Yee’s 4-minute yoga videos on YouTube, walking breaks, and if you can work some shaking in, go for it!

    Whatever it takes to keep the body mobile and fluid. Love that image of frequent timeouts to flop around!

    How about dance breaks?I can imagine that job posting now. Bet it would get a good response!


  3. Mary Ann, thanks for the great ideas. All of your suggestions are easily doable in the workplace. Your comments on the NY Times article really has me thinking that I sit way too much. I’ve got a big exercise ball that I can sit on — but haven’t tried it — and I love walking breaks. Dancing breaks are even better! Going to investigate shaking medicine and flopping around a bit more. It does seem really woo-woo AND there does seem to be some deep wisdom clustered around the phenomenon. Thanks for illuminating and sharing the topics for us!


  4. Hi Mary Ann,
    just a sharing…
    Shaking Medicine emerged in my life spontaneously during a series of Holotropic Breatwork workshops I attended years ago…and then 12 years ago, I found Brad Keeney’s work: everything fitted… Brad Keeney’s “The Energy Break” is a nice, friendly-user introduction (you can begin inmediately!) . Amazing medicine! Finally I could attend two three-days-gatherings: As-toun-ding! It’s a deep mystery, but this I know: It’s heart medicine, for sure…and it keeps “cooking me”…

    ”     Bushman knowing is inspired by feeling love rather than thinking ideas. The more 
    they feed love – loving the loving in a recursively spun positive feedback loop – the more they amplify its presence and impact on their body. It causes them to tremble and shake, an indication to them that they are awake and in the only state worthy of trustworthy knowing. For them, thinking should serve authentically experienced love rather than the latter being an abstraction for intellectual word play.                                   Bushmen seek to make their “ropes” (a metaphor for relationship) strong. They do so by shooting “arrows” of amplified love into one another. You might be tempted to say that they are “cupid scholars” who hunt for “n/om” (the soulful life force). They work to make themselves “soft” through absurd play and open hearted expression so that the arrows and ropes that enhance relational connectivity may pierce and join. Bushman stories emphasize changes that surprise and trip you into being off guard with any convenient category of understanding. In effect, Bushman knowing is all about letting yourself out of any and all typological grids of abstraction so that the Heraclitean movement of spirited love can dance you into ever shifting relations with life. 
    A group of elder women n/om kxaosi were asked what made them so strong in 
    matters of n/om (Keeney 2010). They replied, “we are this way because of the tears we have wept for the ancestors who have passed on.”  The deepest longing human beings experience often comes from the loss of a loved one. Rather than trying to emotionally get over it, these Bushman elders keep the longing alive, feeding it until it breaks their hearts wide open in an awakened way, bringing them inside a more expansive and intimate relation with their ancestors. In this connection tears flow along a channel that keeps their relationships strong and permits a never-ending expression of love and soulful guidance.   
           Another intense form of longing is familiar to all lovers who fall deeply in love. In 
    this infinite ocean of Eros we find there is more than simple love. There is loving love. 
    When we become lovers of loving, the ropes are inseparable from us and carry our hearts into the highest realms.”

    Nice interview with Brad here:

    warm regards
    Jose Luis

    PD (Peter Levine speaks briefly about the connection between trauma and spirituality at the end of his latest book…in fact he is writing a book about the spiritual experience…)


  5. Jose Luis, I really appreciate you sharing this. I plan to order Keeney’s The Energy Break, and I’m interested in the gatherings. Is that the source of the quotes?

    I’m going to reprint your comment as a post in its own so more people will have a chance to read it.

    I love hearing from those more experienced with the shaking medicine. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with me and those who read this blog!


  6. Thankyou MaryAnn

    I too have thought there is a connection between Trauma Release work and Shaking Medicine so it is great to read your reflections here.

    The body (and mind) are continually in movement…well while we are alive anyhow…so it stands to reason that health and sickness may well be connected with the patterns of movement, the way they flow or don’t flow.

    The implications for spirituality are immense too. BK sees and experiences the flow of shaking energy as the influx of God’s Love. He goes so far to say that we need to move, to be literally shaken to fully experience the Divine (though he does not denigrate the place of stillness, alone and without times of movement it is limited).

    This is a hugely fascinating area for me as I’m a member of the Religious Society of Friends, i.e. Quakers. Yet Quakers rarely quake these days (and if we do it tends to be an almost imperceptible trembling). In ceasing to quake I believe we have lost a significant part of our tradition.

    A big thank you for alerting me to the new Bradford Keeney book. I was straight on to Amazon to order it.

    Jeff :O)


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