Dr. David Berceli developed a set of 7 physical exercises to help people release deep muscular patterns of stress, tension, and trauma.
These exercises, called Tension & Trauma Release Exercises or TRE, safely activate a reflexive shaking or vibration that discharges muscular tension and calms the nervous system.
TRE is gaining world recognition
Currently, TRE is taught in over 40 countries by certified teachers. Given the current state of stress in the world, TRE is rapidly gaining attention from many disciplines.
How were Tension & Trauma Release Exercises developed?
Dr. Berceli studied stress and trauma all over the world. He was actually in war-zone countries. What he noticed was that when a bomb went off, everyone had the same instinctive reaction to curl up in fetal position. With any stressor, there is an act of contraction or pulling in of the body in order to protect the core.
Afterwards, he observed that the kids tended to start trembling or shaking. Because the kids were doing this, he saw it as a reflexive way to shake off the stress of the incident.
Dr. Berceli reasoned that if there was a natural physiological response to stress, then there must be a natural way to release it. And, there is! He realized that the body’s way to release trauma was to literally shake it off.
This involuntary shaking mechanism is seen in animals. In the video below, an animal (impala) is captured by a predator (leopard). In a last effort to stay alive, the impala plays dead (a “frozen” state). Somehow, the leopard ends up running away, leaving the impala safe. Watch as the impala shakes off the excess energy and stress of the incident.
However, humans tend to repress this innate trembling response for social and cultural reasons. If you think about trembling, you may think of it as a sign of weakness, or that it’s strange, or it means something is wrong. In fact, it’s the body’s way to release stress and trauma.
With the stress response, there’s a release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in the body. These hormones help you get ready to respond to the stress, whether to run, fight, or even freeze (or play dead). The reflexive shaking afterwards helps the body use up the excess energy that was release so that it doesn’t get trapped in a constant state of tension and “fight or flight.” Read more about this in What is Trauma Release?
To help people regain access to this reflexing shaking and relaxation, Dr. Berceli developed a set of exercises that helps to stretch and fatigue large muscles including a core muscle called ileo- psoas that holds the tension in the body.
Is TRE the same thing as a shaking meditation?
Sometimes, people refer to TRE as a shaking meditation because the exercises help access an involuntary shake in the body. So, yes, it is a kind of shaking meditation, although not the only one. There are other ways to shake and meditate, such as a dancing to drumming, but these are not the same as TRE.
In addition, there are other therapies that help release the tension and trembling in the body, such as Neurogenic Yoga, a sister method of TRE, and Somatic Experiencing ® by Dr. Peter Levine (author of Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma). Other renowned researchers, including Dr. Bessel van der Kopf (author of The Body Keeps the Score) and Dr. Richard Scaer, also emphasize the role of addressing the body to recover from trauma.
What are specific benefits of Tension & Trauma Release Exercises?
Dr. Berceli created TRE® so that people could easily access a therapeutic tremor, or shaking meditation, that’s already encoded in their genetics.
- is easily learned.
- increases resilience.
- is self-help tool that can be used independently, 1:1 in a private setting, or in a group setting.
- helps maintain wellbeing
- can be used with or without counseling depending on the individual
Other reported benefits of TRE include
- Less Worry & Anxiety
- Reduces Symptoms of PTSD
- More Energy & Endurance
- Improved Marital Relationships
- Less Workplace Stress
- Better Sleep
- Less Relationship Conflict
- Reduced Muscle & Back Pain
- Increased Flexibility
- Greater Emotional Resiliency
- Decreases Symptoms of Vicarious Trauma
- Healing of Old Injuries
- Lessened Anxiety surrounding Serious Illness
- Relief from Chronic Medical Conditions
Who could benefit from TRE?
TRE could help you if you…
… don’t feel like talking about your stress
At times, even speaking about trauma can be overwhelming. If so, TRE can be a great option.
With TRE you are not required to relive or go through your story again.
Instead, TRE works directly with the body. The body knows how to rebalance if the mind lets it. I like to refer to this as BODY-MIND medicine, since you start with the body.
As the intensity dissipates, you may find that you are able to talk more.
… are stressed or anxious
Even if you can talk about your stress, sometimes it’s not enough. You still have to acknowledge how the body feels. Because TRE works with a relaxation response in the body, it can be useful for anyone that would like to feel more at ease.
… have difficulty sleeping
Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? TRE can help balance the nervous system, so you can get much-needed rest. My patients say they sleep so well on the nights they practice TRE.
…are a parent
Being a parent is amazing and one of the biggest job’s you’ll ever have. Having a way to destress regularly not only helps you rebalance but also helps you be a role model for your kids.
…are a caretaker
Compassion fatigue is a real phenomenon. Whether you’re caring for an elderly parent, a spouse with a chronic illness, or other loved one, the stress can take its toll. TRE could be a great tool to help you rebalance.
…are a physician, therapist, or other healthcare worker
When you are dealing with illness and death regularly, it’s common to compartmentalize your feelings so that you can do your job. That doesn’t mean your experiences don’t take their toll on you. Healthcare professionals are known to be overworked and jaded with high rates of divorce. Fortunately, TRE can help.
…are a first responder (police, firefighter)
If your job is to respond to emergencies, chances are you are constantly activating your “fight or flight” stress mechanism. Using TRE to help unwind and reset your nervous system consistently could change your life.
…are in the military or have been
The military recognizes that “combat stress is not a sign of weakness” but a “natural response of the body and brain to extreme stress” (from Military OneSource). TRE can help.
… had a sports injury
Injuries involve inflammation, scarring, tension in the fascia, and remodeling of the body as bones and other tissues heal. TRE evokes a neurogenic tremor that loosens up tight tissues, releasing the shock of the experience and helping to restore strength, flexibility, and agility.
Use common sense prior to using TRE after a physical injury. Wait for tissue inflammation to calm down, stitches and casts or splints to be removed prior to using TRE.
… have a chronic illness
Chronic illness is your body under constant of stress and inflammation. By shaking off the excess stress and tension, you can help support your body’s proper physiological function.
… have gone through a big life transition
Life is full of transitions, but some can loom larger than others. Major life transitions include death of a loved one, birth, divorce, a move, change in job, loss of a job, or other major shift. TRE can help you flow more easily with change.
… have been through major trauma
Major trauma can include anything mentioned above, as well as rape or incest, witnessing violence, natural disasters, domestic violence, neglect, or abandonment. If you have been through a major trauma, please use TRE with the help of a certified practitioner.
… would like a way to support mind-body-spirit wellness
It’s not about the destination, but the journey. Throughout life, you need a way to maintain your wellbeing so that you bounce back from life’s difficulties whether big or small. TRE can foster resilience.
What precautions are there with trauma release?
If you have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), complex-PTSD, developmental trauma disorder, or otherwise have a history of significant trauma, please work with a qualified practitioner for trauma release.
If you are practicing any trauma release on your own and you already have difficulty with self-regulating (whether thoughts, emotions, or body state), the main risk is of dissociating. As discussed above, dissociation is associated with the freeze state.
Having a qualified practitioner guide you through trauma release ensures that you have a grounding presence close by. The peaceful presence of an experienced practitioner helps create a comfortable zone in which trauma release can be practiced safely.
Can children learn TRE?
Yes, they can! The youngest that I have taught is a mature 5 to 6 years-old. Generally, however, I’ll recommend TRE for ages 8 and above with the participation of a parent or guardian.
The exercises can be adapted to fit the interest of young children. Kids are learning new things every day, so they tend to be open-minded and curious.
Can I learn TRE if I have a physical disablity?
Yes, possibly. TRE can be modified for people with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. You may need assistance and props to do the exercises. Depending on your issues, you may need to work 1:1 with a certified TRE practitioner or in a group equipped to address your needs.
What do the therapeutic tremors feel like?
The self-induced therapeutic tremors are meant to be comfortable. The tremors could range from small cellular vibrations to big shaking movements. There could even be moments of stillness. The shaking pattern could stay the same or vary. There’s no right or wrong to your shaking experience.
Many people report feelings of peace, clarity, and relaxation.
If you want to let your mind help in the process, you can gently bring your awareness rest on your breathing and physical sensations of the body in neutral or nonjudgemental observation.
TRE teaches you ways to self-regulate, meaning you can dial down the tremors at any time. You can elicit the therapeutic shaking in a safe process.
Letting go of tension can also release underlying emotions. This could be an amazing opportunity to let go of old patterns, but only at a pace that is comfortable for you.
*More is not necessarily better.
If at any time, there is pain or discomfort whether physically, mentally, or emotionally, then it’s a good time to take a break. After all, with TRE you are learning to listen to your body.
For some people, just a few minutes of the therapeutic shaking could be enough in the beginning. The point is to feel better. As a rule of thumb, allow yourself to shake for a maximum of 15 minutes 3-4 times per week.
The therapeutic tremors are a way for your body to speak to you. The body knows how to rebalance if the mind can let it. When we start with the body in aligning body, mind, and spirit, I call this Body-Mind medicine.
How can I find a certified TRE practitioner?
If you would like join any of my TRE workshops at my practice in Roswell, GA, they are open to the public. I also travel throughout the U.S. teaching with summer 2019 workshops on a beautiful horse farm in Afton, VA, and also in picturesque Cohasset, MA. I would love to have you attend!
If you don’t live near any of those areas, you can find a certified TRE practitioner through the main TRE website. Click on Find a Provider.