The healing dance of southern Africa’s San people

Give into the shake


Sat around the flickering flames, the women clap and sing, filling the air with melodic clicks. Then the men begin to dance, rhythmically circling the fire, rattles around their ankles shaking with every step.

This is the healing dance of the San people. A dance that has played out across thousands of years. The San have been living at one with the land of southern Africa for at least 20,000 years, only discovered by Western eyes less than 400 years ago.

Sadly their timeless way of life was far from revered by the colonists and the San were almost wiped out as a people. Today, the surviving San are marginalised, with many evicted from the land to which they belong, all in the name of progress.

Thankfully there is now a growing awareness and appreciation of their culture, their knowledge and their innate understanding of the natural world around them. Their healing dance has, in particular, become the focus for many in the West looking to learn how to reconnect with themselves and the universe.


The shake


Picking up where we left off at the start of this blog, the men of the San people were dancing to the beat of the chanting San women. With each turn around the fire, the dance becomes more vigorous, more enthralling, until the shamans of the tribe reach a state of trance and their bodies begin to shake. With energy coursing through them, they channel the power of the shake into their hands, placing them on those that need healing to deliver what is arguably the world’s oldest medicine.

The shake is central to healing and is something we have adopted in Ecstatic Awakening DanceTM. While trembling is usually considered a sign of weakness in modern Western cultures, it is actually an ancient means of releasing trauma. Stifling our natural instinct to shake, robs us of the chance to process whatever shock, trauma or distress we have experienced. Over time, this tension builds, hardening our bodies and leaving us rigid and strained.


Healing through dance

During Ecstatic Awakening DanceTM, participants are eased into the shake by first gently awakening the body through breathing, awareness, movement and music. With eyes closed and deep breaths, the shaking begins, originating from the pelvis and moving up from the base of the spine right through to the head.

As the shake takes over, stress and tension are released and your lifeforce is awakened. This will leave you feeling energised and refreshed. By freeing yourself of past trauma and pent-up emotions through shaking, you can achieve a renewed sense of balance.

The transformative power of the shake is something the San people have long benefitted from. Its knowledge is something we can share and in doing so also raise awareness of the plight of the San people. You can learn more about their struggle as documented by the charity Survival International.


To feel the healing power of the shake yourself, try Ecstatic Awakening DanceTM.