Yoga Poses: Don’t Shake It Out

shaking a leg after yoga posesTree pose is one of my favorite yoga poses. Shaking out the standing leg afterwards is one of my least favorite yoga habits.

Yoga is meant to be a meditative practice that brings calm to the mind and body. Shaking body parts directly after a period of concentrated work seems to the exact opposite of what the practice seeks. The nervous system that has just been soothed is now jangled.

One of my favorite aspects of writing this blog is having the willingness to put my thoughts into the electronic ether and get feedback. I have learned so much this way and it is why I think all yoga teachers should write a blog. It is one thing to have a plethora of opinions; it is another to put them under the microscope of public opinion. I am curious to hear what people think of this.

Shaking the body out after yoga poses is a distraction from the practice and distraction is one of the many stumbling blocks of yoga. It was long why I had trouble developing a home practice, though laziness also played a bog part (I would begin my sun salutes waiting for the phone to ring or a blog idea to enter my head so that I can stop). Drinking water in between poses is another of these avoidance techniques that I witness often but I think the shaking out thing after yoga poses has a more insidious effect.

Yoga Poses Calm the Nervous System

Yoga has many great benefits but calming the nervous system has to be at the top of the list. I am sure that most athletes feel that they are getting a meditative quality from working out, whatever the choice of movement might be but I, maybe arrogantly, think that is the point of the yoga practice. It is the argument for having a vinyasa practice as long as it isn’t done at super speed.

Our nervous system is under attack in the modern world at every turn. Yoga can and should be a meditative oasis where the nervous system finds ease and harmony from the nature of the way we do our poses.

Shaking out our limbs after doing taxing yoga poses seems to be a contraindication of what we are seeking from the practice.

From One Psoas to Another
Sunday Morning Music: Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians
  1. I do write a blog, and – you’re right – it is challenging to put what we know and believe down in black and white for an audience of our peers / friends. I also teach my students to wait for at least 2 breaths before doing the ‘happy dance’ after work that challenges their feet and legs. My teacher taught me this, and I am passing it on. Funny that I rarely if ever need that ‘happy dance’ these days. I call it the discipline side of our practice.

  2. ah…you could be right. I occasionally shake out my supporting leg after a longer single leg standing sequence…mostly because I lost the full extension/alignment through the supporting leg and shake my leg to decompress the hip and increase blood circulation.

  3. I see it like this:

    It isn’t the shaking that is inherently bad, it’s the letting yourself off the hook that goes with it. If my students wiggle or fidget, I ask them to do so mindfully, with purpose. I don’t think it’s necessary to go through the rest of class with a cramping foot etc. It maybe interesting to watch what happens over time when the approach is shaking vs not shaking.

  4. This practice (of ‘shaking out’ the legs) is very common in dance also. As a teacher of both dance and yoga, I’ve always used it, I think because it always felt beneficial to me. I never questioned it, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen it questioned! Which is one of the things that makes reading this blog so interesting :). I think it’s good to question things we always do unconsciously, although not necessarily to throw them out. I think if shaking brings relief to a body part that has been under stress, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps there’s a way that it can be done more mindfully?

    • I always wonder why anyone does anything unconsciously. I am going to write another post that mines similar territory about mudras and asanas. It isn’t to say I am right (though I often think that I am), I am simply fascinated by how many things we do, myself included without thinking to hard about why.

  5. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this website. I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming as well. Actually your creative writing skills has encouraged me to get my own site now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a great example of it.

  6. I am a yoga teacher in Holland and your comments are one of my favourites. Your currect comment on shaking out was interesting. I always let my students do both sides, then come to a ‘standstill’ to let them feel what has happened in their bodies – without judging anything, just be a witness. After that, they can open their eyes (if closed) and shake it out. It usually isn’t neccessary anymore. There are always students who cannot wait so long and start shaking after one leg before doing the other for instance. I always think: ‘all will pass’ and know they will discover one day another way of doing it (without shaking). And if not, that is also OK! It is their own path! I cannot feel what they feel, I can only point out that it is neccessary to feel and be aware of it (without judging). Hmm, sounds like preaching, but is meant in a positive way. Keep up your interesting work!!! Love it!!!

  7. Thank you for the blog-writing challenge for yoga teachers. I very much enjoy and learn from your personal stories (as well as your teaching blogs). I am putting the idea of writing daily about my yoga practice / teaching in my active consideration list. I am sure it would help me deepen and broaden my understandings. Writing a public document is quite scary, I very much admire your willingness to do so!

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