A Revolutionary Somatic Approach to the Healing of Stress and Trauma

Here’s an article on TRE® I wrote for Connection Magazine (May 17, 2015).

I was first introduced to TRE® (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises®) in 2003 and I have been a fan ever since. On my path to become a TRE trainer, I attended and assisted many trainings in the US and South Africa with its founder Dr. David Berceli. I myself taught it to thousands of people in Canada, Europe, Indonesia, the Middle East and, off course, here at home in the United States.

In every class and training I teach, I am in awe at the effectiveness of this simple and gentle practice.

TRE® is based on the concept that, in stressful or traumatic situations, our body is genetically encoded to contract to protect itself. After the stressful situation is over, we are supposed to release such contraction and come back to an optimal state of balance and relaxation. However, the way that the body releases is through tremoring and shaking (similarly to what we feel building up in our body when we are nervous, afraid or excited) and, since we are conditioned to believe that shaking is a sign of weakness or disease, we tend to unconsciously inhibit this healing response. By doing TRE® we reactivate this natural releasing mechanism in our body with immediate and sometimes amazing results. People report sleeping better, getting rid of pain and aches, the healing of sciatica, a lessing of anxiety and depression, feeling calmer and less reactive, and a release of deep chronic tension.

The beauty of this work is that we don’t need to know what it is that we are releasing, we don’t need to go into the “story”. It is a neurophysiological release that is, for the most part, mellow and even pleasant. Sometime stories, memories and emotions may come up but, if they do, we keep them at a comfortable and manageable level, very similarly to what we do when we are watching a movie.

Over the years, I have facilitated TRE® for all kinds of people: psychotherapists in Belgium and Holland, volunteers in the refugee camps in Jordan, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Thich Nhat Hanh’s monks and nuns, high school students in the poor neighborhoods of Cape Town and people of all walks of life here in the US and Canada.

I am always amazed to observe that people react to it very similarly all over the world, regardless of their cultural backgrounds and belief systems: everybody experiences the tremoring response in some form and most people report feeling very relaxed at the end of a class, similarly to what they feel after a good massage.

The TRE work the legs, tiring them and creating a trembling response, which begins in the legs and often spreads throughout the body. This gentle shaking is actually the nervous system’s way of discharging long-held tension or unconscious muscle contraction in order to restore the body to wholeness. The tremors release tension all over the body and in particular in the Psoas muscle, the main muscle of Fight or Flight.  Since the Psoas contracts every time something scary or unpleasant happens, it tends to be tight in everybody. TRE is suitable for people of all ages and level of fitness as the exercises can be modified to accommodate anybody’s needs.

Another great thing about this practice is that, once you learn it, you can make it a part of your life and do it by yourself. Dr. Berceli first created TRE® while he was working as a trauma therapist in war zones and disaster areas, where people needed self-help tools to alleviate the many symptoms of PTSD. Thousands of people experienced TRE already in the 80s in the Middle East and Africa and, in the 80s, it was adopted as a national recovery program in Sudan.

This is truly a profound and effective practice that can improve anybody’s life.

Since I live in Santa Cruz, I teach workshops here in town, San Jose, the Bay Area and regular professional trainings in Berkeley.

Do come and check TRE out at my next workshop. For more information about TRE (and about all my activities) please visit my website TREcalifornia.com and do contact me if you have any questions.

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