Wellbeing 101: TRE

Trauma Release Exercises, widely referred to as TRE®, is a self-regulation tool consisting of simple exercises that release tension, stress and trauma stored within the physicality of our bodies. Here Poppy dives deeper into the origin and practice.

Trauma Release Exercises, widely referred to as TRE®, is a self regulation tool consisting of simple exercises that release tension, stress and trauma stored within the physicality of our bodies. 


What is TRE?

Self regulation tool TRE, focuses on using gentle movement to release held tension, stress and trauma within the body. By using a series of engaging and stretching exercises, particular muscle groups are stimulated, from the feet to the pelvis and a gentle shaking technique activates an involuntary therapeutic tremor in the muscles of the body.

The trembling of the body is subconscious and by surrendering into the sensations, energy is believed to flow through the body.

By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system the after effect is stress relieving, tension dissolving and rest activating.

Image thanks to All Worlds Health


Unlock The Psoas

The key to the trembling in TRE® is in the release of the psoas muscle. As the only muscle in the body to connect the legs, pelvis and body together, tightness is recognised as the root cause of many musculoskeletal issues, such as sciatica, back pain and even digestive issues. Believed to hold emotional and physical stress, even in the yogic asana tradition the stimulation and stretching of the pelvis and hips is believed to release deeply stored emotion from this powerful muscle.

Known by many as the fight or flight muscle, in TRE the psoas is viewed as the key to unlocking and releasing the body’s memory of trauma. When we say trauma, we refer to the events, moments and conditioning throughout our lives, that tells our body we are vulnerable and defenceless. Our autonomic nervous system digests this as shock, danger and stress. These moments could also be from traumatic experiences and inherited memories of ancestral trauma. Coined as fight, flight or freeze, the sympathetic response increases alertness and heart rate, secreting adrenaline and slowing less necessary bodily responses to conserve energy, such as digestion. Perfect if you need to move out of the way of danger, however our autonomic nervous system cannot differentiate between traumatic life threatening moments and everyday stressors we may experience. From the everyday worries of life, to the global issues like the pandemic and our ecological crises. By default, our sympathetic response is activated sending signals of danger affecting our whole physiology.


History

During his time working as a trauma therapist, TRE creator Dr David Berceli studied the work of Peter Levine who had developed a holistic method of trauma therapy. Coined somatic experiencing, this body focused therapy treats trauma as physical memory stored in the body. Levine discovered that all mammals have a natural shaking mechanism in response to shock, danger and traumatic experiences. With this information and experience of TRE, Berceli believes we don’t use all of the resources available to us in the human condition, which can help us process trauma more easily and return to a state of balance.

By mimicking that in nature, the physiological response in the human body to shaking releases stress and physical tension, reducing adrenaline and calming nervous system
TRE Preparation Exercises taken from TRE For Life


Benefits

There is no talking therapy in TRE®, the simple act of surrendering to the exercise effects allows the body to shift and release deeply held energy and trauma from a cellular level. This can be very beneficial for some who find talking more triggering. It can also be practiced alongside talking therapy, as complementary medicine.

Today we are faced with a multitude of stressors and practices like TRE®, can be used to regulate bodily responses to stress and release blockages from in the body and unconscious brain. Having regular practice can help you regulate your emotions and energy to move through life with practice to use wherever and whenever is needed.


Who Is It For

TRE® is safe and effective treatment for anyone, however it is advisable to seek a practitioner to learn the practice.

Individuals with complex psychological and physiological conditions should seek the advice of a practitioner.

Jessie Mallock


Otherness sat down with guide Jessie Mallock, artist, TRE and Shamanic Practitioner, to learn more about the effect of stress in the body, the fight and flight response and how TRE can help us move through and beyond this.

What happens in the body when we experience trauma or stress?

Our body has an instinctual response, which turns on flight, fight and freeze (fawn and faint) . This means that an alarm bell is going off deep inside our brain alerting danger to our organism (body and mind).

These are primitive responses which happen before we think and can happen very quickly when we experience danger. 

Danger to our system can be physical, emotional and spiritual. It can be anything that overwhelms us. Trauma can happen in a second and change our lives, interestingly the accumulation of stress can cause the same instinctual reaction over time. Often traumatic moments could have happened when we were young, during our birth for example and this trauma is held in our bodies and minds and carried with us as we grow up traumatised and with PTSD.

Once flight and flight is turned on in the brain, chemicals are released which give the body great energy and power in our muscles to run and or fight. If that is not a possibility other chemicals flood our system to help us freeze,  so we can’t feel our bodies, pain and emotions and we numb ourselves. Our bodies become our history books and the places where we hold on to these experiences. Consequently we create narratives for ourselves and patterns, ways of being, which are not our authentic patterns and voices. For example our bodies can become rigid or the opposite, we get stressed easily, we may feel anxious, fearful, shy, low self esteem. Often people cannot feel their bodies physically and emotionally. It’s as if the mind and body become separated.  

Personally at the moment I am very intrigued and interested in the power of subliminal messaging, that we experience through TV and social media and how we can become traumatised by images, video and stories. This is called vicarious trauma.  For example, if the eyes see something as traumatic as the world trade tower falling and people jumping out of the building, our innate response of flight and flight gets triggered, it doesn’t feel rational, we are witness to this stuff all the time. As we become numb as a society, the news and films get scarier which creates more adrenaline which in turn means we can start to feel ourselves. We get hooked to the most addictive drug known to man Adrenaline. It then becomes a cycle and it seems that something needs to happen to step off this way of being. 

 

What inspired me to be a practitioner ?

 I was in a hole, I had suffered a serious back injury and spent one year in bed and a further one recovering. In that time I started having talking therapy, which helped me see how early childhood experiences had affected my nervous system and mind. 

This was the start to acknowledging my issues. I had an experience of shaking during this time, which woke me up to my body and at first I thought I was going mad.  

I googled physical therapy for PTSD and TRE popped up and it totally explained what I was experiencing. I started attending regular classes and noticed quickly how things changed for me. I also saw other people change too and I was hooked. I really enjoyed not talking about my stuff, which I believe was re-traumatising me and keeping me stuck. The facilitators suggested I may like to come to the training to deepen my practice and I said yes. And then I was training. It wasn't planned, it was a way out of the hole. It was like someone offered me a hand out and I took it. TRE led me to learn about Shamanism, which has transformed my life on a whole deeper level and that’s another story. 

What are the benefits of a regular practice? 

I have been practising TRE for 10 years and it still surprises me that my body can move in new ways.

I am in awe of its ability to take me out of my head and into my body, to ground me and make me totally present to the moment. 

It takes time to release the body from its life long experience and on top of that, you are experiencing things in life every day too. So slowly and gently is the way. For me a regular practice of between 5 to 15 mins, three times a week, is what I have done for a long time. 

I feel embodied, I am aware of my body in space, my bodily senses, all of them. I believe that this enables me to navigate the world in a more ‘animal way’ with a human brain! It has got me in touch with intuition and gut feelings and to trust them. And most importantly I feel safe in my body, in myself and I know that I am OK. If this changes I now have the ability to feel into my senses and inquire. TRE is a self empowering tool which is amazing. It doesn't take lots of time and it can be done in groups bringing a sense of community or 1-2-1 with a practitioner. Each way I find is very different and rewarding.


Poppy Roy

Poppy Roy joined Otherness as Editor-At-Large, where she will oversee the editorial content; collaborating, writing and contributing pieces, which explore spiritual and alternative forms of wellbeing.

With a background in photography and yoga, Poppy joined us from British Vogue, where she wrote about wellbeing and sustainable living. Poppy's work reflects her compassion and desire to share powerful modalities as a form of collective and personal healing.

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