Trauma and Tension Releasing Exercises

  • The theory behind Trauma and Tension Releasing Exercises (TRE)
  • What happens in a session?

The theory behind Trauma and Tension Releasing Exercises (TRE)

When in danger or under stress the sympathetic nervous system is activated and our body will naturally go into the flight or fight response where the reptilian part of our brain is activated resulting  in a release of neurotransmitters that function as chemical messengers, firing our body into action so that it becomes “mobilized”.  An example being when adrenalin is released which produces effects in the body such as increased respiration, heart rate and muscle tone all of which serves to promote our survival.

If the situation is overwhelming however and we are rendered helpless, where the flight or fight response is no longer possible, then the body will freeze and instead we dissociate as a way in which to defend against the traumatic feelings and bodily sensations. Instead we become numb so as not to feel. Here adrenalin and endorphins/opioids are released simultaneously or in rapid succession where the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant. In these instances we become “immobilized” and are either frozen and stiff or the muscles become flaccid.

If the muscles that contracted during the trauma/freeze response do not release their charge shortly after the event then the energy triggered by the trauma becomes trapped in our muscles /body-memory in a bio-neural-physical feedback loop. This means that the chronic pattern of protection and defense will continue to repeat until the muscles can shake out this tension and the residual un-discharged excitement that was generated at the time of the traumatic event can be released.

Since the trauma response is instinctual and generated from the unconscious reptilian part of the brain, it is difficult to heal trauma through logical, cognitive processes which are under the conscious control of the rational neo-cortex part of the brain. For this reason the un-discharged tension has to be released in a different way. The way the body releases itself from trauma is through neurogenic tremors which are instinctual and innate to all mammals and serve to turn down the central nervous system’s automated and hyper-aroused fight or flight or freeze response by creating a vibration of contraction and relaxation that helps to shake out and discharge the built up energy and tension held in the muscles and connective tissues, thus calming the body and allowing us to recover from this over excited adrenal state.

In most cultures these tremors are seen as a sign of weakness and vulnerability and are therefore suppressed, preventing the discharge to be released which results in chronic pain and tension. For this reason David Berceli has developed Trauma Releasing Exercises which uses a series of 7 simple exercises that stretch and stress/tire out the leg and pelvic muscles which invoke this natural, involuntary tremoring process from deep inside the core flexor muscles via the unconscious reptilian brain which then spread throughout the rest of the body.  This tremoring restores the body back to is natural resting state by releasing and relaxing the chronic tension from deep inside the muscles.

What happens in a session?

In the first session I will ask you some questions and explain the process. I will then take you through the exercises. This is a body-based therapy and although the exercises are not difficult, you will be required to move into different (easy) physical positions and also lie on the floor on a yoga mat. Therefore, if you have any physical restrictions please inform me beforehand. Please wear loose comfortable clothing that you can move around in easily. After I have taken you through the seven exercises and you have spent some time experiencing the neurogenic tremors on the floor, I will then give you some time to rest in order to integrate the experience. Most people feel extremely relaxed and more embodied afterwards.