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  • Writer's pictureGina Kitzmiller

Shaking the Tree

I don't know many people that have not experienced grief or a traumatic event in their lives. It seems like the more people I meet, the more I realize everyone carries a past trauma or painful memory with them.

I've had few traumatic events in my life. Each time, I began to violently shake after receiving the news. I have a vague recollection of trying to wrap my arms around my waist in an effort to control my body. Gasping for breath as if my lungs had suddenly forgotten how to work. I didn't understand what was happening and it was frightening to feel completely out of control.

I recently took a class on becoming a trauma sensitive yoga teacher and I learned something very interesting- shaking or trembling is actually a biological coping mechanism.

Shaking is one of the ways the body will "reset" itself after experiencing a trauma. It is believed to be similar to how animals in the wild will shake off excess energy after being captured or chased. If the body is not permitted to shake- a person is more likely to develop PTSD. Dr. Peter Lavine wrote a book, "In An Unspoken Voice," explaining this phenomenon in detail and how it can be used in a counseling environment with a trained professional.

I would advise readers to discuss this with their counselor or healthcare professional to see if further exploration would be beneficial.

But I believe we experience something similar with grief.

Simply allowing myself to shake in those moments was beneficial in ways I didn't understand. My body simply went on autopilot and knew how to best proceed as I went into a state of shock. The body is really an amazing thing.

It also made me think of one of the exercises I do almost every day- are you ready for it? I shake.

Yep. It's called Shaking the Tree. I stand with my feet planted and begin shaking my hands and wrists. Then I let my knees gently bounce and shake my arms. I picture myself as a tree, shaking off dead leaves. I imagine new energy coming in through my feet as if they were tree roots. I breathe deeply and on each exhale- I release anything not serving me.

This is an ancient QiGong exercise but it works for a number of things- it decreases stress, releases excess energy, and helps bring the nervous system back into balance. Lee Holden of Holden QiGong does a nice video demonstration on youtube:

I try to do this every morning for 3-5 minutes. You know what- it helps! These are just some of the ways that we can take care of ourselves while we are in the grief process. I understand that while grieving, self care will look differently for every person. It is individual and depends of where you are in your journey.

But I'd like to remind you that self care is important in grief. That might look like taking naps, making sure you eat and taking slow walks or sitting in nature. Remember that you are not just recovering spiritually and emotionally but physically as well. Grief can cause a good deal of shock which settles into the body physically.

So be kind to yourself. Be gentle.

I'd like to explore some options that might be beneficial. Clearing our field and shaking off trauma and stress, seems like a good place to start.

I think most of us could benefit from this simple daily practice.

© 2021 Regina Kitzmiller

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**Find more blog posts on grief at

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