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I’ll admit it— the last thing I want to do with pent-up emotions is sit in a silent meditation. It doesn’t work for me. Instead, I crave a dramatic release, a way to let out all of my emotions. Sometimes, I just want to scream it out. So I was beyond excited when I learned about dynamic meditation and decided to try it out for myself.
Dynamic meditation is a form of active meditation that combines elements of movement and sound. Introduced by the Indian mystic Osho in the mid-20th century, the practice is now offered by mediation studios around the world.
See also: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation
How do you practice dynamic meditation?
Unlike mindfulness meditation, where you sit in one spot for an extended period of time, dynamic meditation takes you on a five-step journey. Denise Davis-Gains, the founding director of Atlas Yoga Studio in Cambridge, Ontario, started practicing dynamic meditation in 1999. She now teaches a version of the practice at her studio, so I asked her to take me through the steps.
First stage: erratic breathing (10 minutes)
The first part of the practice tries to force you to get out of your typical, habitual breath pattern, Davis-Gains says. “It’s like taking all of your energy and slamming it down into the base of your body,” she says. Davis-Gains told me to quickly exhale in rapid succession.
Davis-Gains says that during this stage, you might start tapping on your heels and shaking your body. I found myself immediately needing to bring movement into my body after just a minute of erratic breathing. Since I was exhaling so rapidly, my body needed to gain momentum from something (since I wasn’t taking deep inhales), so I found myself swinging my arms and putting more pressure on my feet. My breath stamina is certainly, well, let’s just say subpar. I will admit that I took a few quick “breath breaks” during this 10-minute period.
Second stage: explosive dance and sound (10 minutes)
In the second stage, you’re encouraged to break into free dance—you know the whole “dance like no one’s watching” vibe. Instead of repeating the same dance moves over and over again, Davis-Gains encouraged me to move my body in a free style of movement—taking up as much space as possible. During this stage, you might have the urge to scream or swear, which is actually encouraged. Sound too difficult? Davis-Gains suggests pretending like you’re acting. “If someone’s not used to doing this sort of thing, it can be really tough to tap into the felt sense or to find an emotion,” she says. For example, when she leads sessions, she often pretends she is a hyena, manically laughing in an imitation of the animal.
This session was my jam—I jumped, scream, swore (sorry Mom!) and danced around my bedroom. I found breaking out of my typically it’s-Friday-night-and-I’m-jumping-up-and-down-at-the-bar-style dance to be a little harder than I anticipated, so I took Davis-Gains’ advice. Channeling my inner seagull, I zoomed, jumped, cawed (spoiler: it was not pleasant) and swayed around my room. This stage made me feel free, like I was channeling my inner child.
Third stage: jumping on your heels (10 minutes)
Next, jump on your heels (yes, up and down for 10 minutes) with your arms stretched overhead. (Skip this section if you have a heel-related injury such as achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis). Can’t jump on your heels? Tap them together instead. While jumping, you shout—deep belly shouts that resemble a constant chant—”hoo, hoo, hoo.” By the end of the 10 minutes, Davis-Gains says, you’ll probably feel exhausted. That’s totally normal.
I consider myself in ~fairly~ good shape. I run, do yoga, spin, and throw in some strength training from time to time. I moved into the third stage thinking it would be a breeze. Oh, how wrong I was. Within about three minutes, I was wiped. Jumping up and down on my heels was a different sensation than what I was used to. However, there was something about the rhythm of the movement—the constant shouts and jumps—that felt strangely energizing.
Fourth stage: stop and freeze (15 minutes)
As soon as your 10 minutes of jumping are over, immediately stand still for the next 15 minutes, keeping your arms overhead (if you get tired, you can bring them down for a few seconds). You’ll feel it. “Nobody ever left dynamic meditation without their arms,” Davis-Gains jokes. “But it doesn’t feel like that [in the fourth stage].”
Confession: I dropped my arms within the first two minutes. But, I listened to the advice of Davis-Gains and put them right back up again. I repeated this process more than a few times over the course of the fourth stage.
Fifth stage: celebrating (10 minutes)
It’s finally time to celebrate. The last 10 minutes are more free dance—taking up as much or as little space you want. Some people roll on the floor; others start a yoga flow. Davis-Gains says that the less structured your movement is, the better. During this time, if free movement is no longer appealing to you, you can also choose to sit and meditate or lie down in Corpse Pose.
I elected to lay in Corpse Pose for the final stage. After standing, screaming, dancing and jumping my way through the first four phases, my body felt completely emptied out—in a good way. I definitely felt exhausted, but also very energized.
My final take:
The combination of different elements throughout this meditation—screaming, swearing, dancing and jumping—acted as the perfect vessel to release all of my emotions. At the end of the meditation, I felt lighter and more energized, a feeling similar to the one I get after a power yoga class or a spill-your-heart-out talk therapy session. So screaming it out? Definitely a thing.
See also: The 12 Best Meditation Apps of 2021
What are the benefits of dynamic meditation?
Davis-Gains says dynamic meditation can be a cathartic and energizing experience for those who haven’t found success in silent meditation practices. Even those who struggle throughout the practice typically come away smiling and with a bit more energy than when they started the practice. Additionally, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that practitioners of dynamic meditation had significantly lower plasma cortisol levels (aka lower stress levels) after a 21-day period. I mean, it makes sense. Who doesn’t just want to scream, dance and jump it out sometimes?
What should first-timers expect?
If you go to a dynamic meditation class, such as the ones offered in-person and online at the Osho Leela Meditation Center in Boulder, you may want to bring a pair of ear muffs, especially if loud noises have not been your friend in the past. If loud noises are a potential trigger for you, the ear muffs can help alleviate that. The first time you do the practice, you may struggle through it—it’s intense. But Davis-Gains is adamant about one thing. “People come away looking 10 years younger,” she says. “The wrinkles are gone around the forehead, and they’re smiling at the end.”
Ok, but what does it actually look like?
This video from Harper’s Bazaar Arabia walks through a version of dynamic meditation. Watch it here: