TRE Benefits

The Benefits of TRE – Trauma Release Exercises

Article Featured on New Life Thai Foundation

You might have heard people mention the benefits of TRE for the healing of trauma and for reducing stress. TRE stands for Trauma Release Exercise. The words ‘traumatic’ and ‘traumatized’ are used casually now in everyday speech, e.g. ‘There were no dark chocolate biscuits in the meeting room today, it was fairly traumatic’.

But what is trauma?

According to the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), people can experience psychological trauma by any event they perceive (consciously or unconsciously) to be life-threatening, as likely to cause death or injury. The perceived threat can be to our own physical wellbeing, witnessing a violent event, or even learning about highly distressful events. Typical causes of trauma range from exposure to extreme events such as war, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters to long-term exposure to abusive relationships, codependency, bullying, or extreme poverty.

Age, life experience, and constitution are of course all factors in this. Thunder or shouting, for instance, are rarely life-threatening, but when it comes to trauma, the critical factor is the perception of threat and the incapacity to deal with it. As a result, even an imaginary event can be interpreted as life-threatening. Memories associated with trauma can be implicit and hard to recall verbally but still manifest physically.

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is recognized as a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event and experiences distressing symptoms such as nightmares, mental or physical distress, and an increase in the fight-or-flight response, more than a month after the traumatic event. You don’t need to be diagnosed with PTSD to suffer from trauma-related symptoms. Symptoms of trauma vary from more immediate manifestations such as amnesia or panic attacks to seemingly unrelated ailments like chronic pain and asthma that may develop over time.

The likelihood is that the majority of us have suffered some sort of trauma. Whether it be related to addiction, burnout, a relationship, or something else entirely, people react to situations differently. What might be traumatic for one person may be processed differently by another. Car accidents, death in the family, sexual harassment and misconduct – we have all had distressing events in our lives that affect us.

Many different types of treatments have been studied over the years to try and treat trauma, from exposure therapy, EMDR, CBT, and somatic experiencing. TRE is one way to heal this trauma.

What is TRE?

TRE stands for Tension or Trauma Releasing Exercises. These exercises help individuals to release stress or tension as a result of difficult life circumstances, immediate or prolonged stressful situations, or traumatic life experiences. Consisting of six simple exercises, TRE evokes a muscular shaking process in the body.

The exercises elicit this shaking, or neurogenic tremors, in a controlled and sustained manner. When evoked in this way, this shaking begins to release deep chronic muscular tension held within the body. They come from the center of gravity of the body (S3), which is protected by the psoas muscles. When shaking is evoked at this powerful center of the body, it reverberates throughout the entire body, traveling along the spine, releasing deep chronic tension from the sacrum to the cranium. When tension is released anywhere in the body, the brain registers a reduction in pain signals and produces new hormones for relaxation and comfort. Often, this release of tension is much like receiving an internal massage.

TRE was developed by David Bercelli, a trained social worker who spent years in high conflict areas. Whilst in a bomb shelter, he noticed that people would make the same involuntary movements when they would hear a bomb strike, covering their head with their hands and curling up into the fetal position. He was interested in the fact that after the bomb strikes, children would tremble and shake, while adults did not.

This shaking and tremoring response to trauma is not unique to humans but is found across the animal kingdom. David Bercelli teamed up with Peter Levine, who spent years studying trauma and somatic experiencing, to explore how humans suppression of this natural tendency leads to us “storing” trauma in our body, and how to help release it by working with the body.

After learning how to elicit this shaking response in our bodies- and how to regulate that response and what it invokes in us – we can safely practice TRE on our own. TRE is safe and meant for anyone regardless of gender, sex, age or culture.

TRE at New Life

At New Life Foundation, we currently have two qualified TRE practitioners: Our Intake Therapist Madelaine and Core Energetics Therapist Fernando. Madelaine holds TRE group classes twice a week.

While she was a volunteer at New Life in June and July, Carolina, also a qualified TRE practitioner, assisted with Madelaine’s classes. Carolina’s TRE journey began in 2009 when she was enrolled in body psychotherapy training in Core Energetics in her hometown of Brasilia, Brazil. Someone mentioned to her that David Berceli, the founder of TRE, was doing a weekend training course in town, and so Carolina signed up.

‘It made sense straight away, the whole theory behind it, the need to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system’, recalls Carolina. There are two states that our bodies need to function: fight or flight (sympathetic), and rest and digest (parasympathetic). We tend to experience life in one state or another, but as we allow the shaking to happen in TRE, we’re able to balance these two functions’.

What Are The Benefits of TRE?

Speaking of the TRE benefits that she felt, Carolina continues, ‘Personally, TRE has helped me to feel more grounded and to be less reactive in everyday life. Other people who took the training with me saw an improvement in their chronic muscle pain and even with panic attacks, but it’s really important when practising TRE that you let the practitioner know if you have any special conditions (such as anxiety disorders, PTSD, physical limitations etc.), as the way that you self-regulate while doing the exercises may have to be slightly different to the rest of the group’.

Some other benefits you might experience from doing TRE are improved sleep quality, improved body and mind awareness, and increased flexibility.

Grounded in the belief we are all unique beings, we begin each new client with a meticulous bio-mechanical evaluation, assessing each joint in it’s relationship to the movement of the body as a whole. Our therapists are skilled at reading the unique story your body tells, and treating everything from the bottom of your foot to the top of your head.

Bodywise Physical Therapy is located in Portland, Oregon. The Bodywise approach is wholistic, individualized, and can benefit people of all fitness levels. While Bodywise has always specialized in general orthopedics, spine rehabilitation, and sports medicine, they have evolved into a truly wholistic practice integrating Hands-on treatments with Mindfulness, Pilates, Trauma Release Exercise, Women’s Health and Lymphedema.

Physical Therapy Portland Oregon