Do you experience stress, anxiety, sleep problems, gut issues, chronic pain, or the effects of past trauma? Are you searching for a natural way to enhance your overall well-being or heal from emotional wounds and trauma? If your answer is yes, then TRE® (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) might be the solution you’ve been looking for.
Feeling stressed and under pressure is a common experience for most people in today’s fast-paced world. We’re all expected to do more with less, at work, at home, or in school. The pressures of life can really add up, taking a toll on our bodies and minds – from work deadlines and family responsibilities to navigating the job market and dealing with the everyday frustrations that come our way.
Fortunately, TRE provides a safe and effective way to release that stored stress and tension, promoting relaxation, ease, and balance. Through a set of simple and gentle exercises, it activates your body’s natural healing process, leaving you feeling relaxed and more connected to yourself and the world around you.
In this article, we’ll explore the science behind this innovative method and how it can benefit your physical, emotional, and mental health. I’ll also answer some common questions and give you tips on how to get started.
What is TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises)?
TRE (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises) was developed by Dr. David Berceli, an international trauma expert with over 22 years of experience working in war zones and disaster-stricken areas around the world.
It is a body-based (somatic) practice that taps into our body’s natural ability to heal and restore. The practice involves a series of gentle exercises that deliberately activate our bodies’ natural shaking and tremor mechanism to release deep muscular tension patterns that may have accumulated in the body due to stressful or traumatic experiences.
Regular practice of TRE (Tension & trauma releasing exercises) can help release the negative effects of stress, tension, and trauma in a safe and controlled way, restoring a sense of safety, connection, and balance in our lives.
TRE is designed as a self-help tool that can be learned with the guidance of a qualified practitioner and used independently as needed throughout your life. Regular practice can help release deep muscular tension patterns caused by stress and trauma that may be leading to physical, emotional, or mental discomfort, promoting a sense of relaxation and well-being.
Why Should I Do TRE?
TRE® (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) has been used in over 30 countries to aid in the recovery from chronic stress symptoms associated with trauma. One of its benefits is that it offers a way to release tension and trauma without requiring you to talk about your traumas or feelings. This makes it a powerful tool for those who struggle to talk about their trauma or who simply find it difficult to articulate their emotions.
Even if you are currently engaged in trauma therapy that involves talking, you can still benefit from releasing stored tension in the deep muscular tissues, as the body has a natural mechanism for releasing stress, tension, and trauma. (You can read below for more detail on how it works)
Who Is TRE For?
TRE® is recommended for anyone who is feeling stressed, anxious, or traumatized (including those who have witnessed others’ trauma). It can help those who suffer from pain, inflammation, or tightness in their body, as well as people who have health, family, or financial concerns and those struggling with addiction.
If you have been involved in an accident, it can also help you overcome the stress and trauma that come with such incidents. In short, TRE® can benefit anyone who may be experiencing stress, overwhelm, anxiety, and pain that are compromising their health and well-being.
After practicing TRE, you may feel much more relaxed, experience better sleep quality, and have increased emotional awareness. Over the long term, regular practice of these exercises has been shown to strengthen physical and emotional resilience.
What Are the Benefits of TRE?
TRE (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises) have a range of benefits for your physical, emotional, and mental health. Here are just a few of the possible ways it can help you:
- Release stored tension and trauma: TRE activates a natural tremoring mechanism in the body, releasing tension and trauma that have been stored in the deep muscles and tissues.
- Reduced stress, worry, and anxiety: The tremoring activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the levels of stress hormones in the body, which can help you feel calmer and more relaxed.
- Improved sleep quality: Sleep quality is improved by reducing muscle tension, reducing stress hormones, and promoting relaxation. Regular practice can help you fall asleep more easily, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed and energized.
- Increased energy and vitality: You can feel more energized and focused, and better able to tackle your daily tasks and responsibilities.
- Relief from chronic pain and fatigue: Regular practice of TRE has been shown to be effective in relieving chronic pain and fatigue and improving your overall quality of life.
- Improved immune function: Your immune function can be improved by reducing stress hormones in the body and boosting the body’s natural defenses, enhancing overall health and well-being.
- Increased emotional resilience and self-awareness: You can increase emotional resilience and capacity to manage stress and adversity, become more in tune with your emotions, and gain self-awareness.
- Enhanced body awareness and sense of embodiment: TRE can help you develop greater awareness of your body, allowing you to recognize and respond to your physical needs. This can lead to a deeper sense of embodiment and connection with your physical self.
- Improved digestion and elimination: By regulating the nervous system, TRE can help you improve the function of your digestive system and eliminate issues such as constipation and indigestion, improving overall gut health.
- Better balance and coordination: You can become more aware of your body’s position in space and improve balance and coordination, helping you to move with more ease.
- Increased creativity and self-expression: You can access your innate creativity and express yourself more freely and authentically.
- Improved mood and overall sense of well-being: You can gain an overall sense of well-being and feel happier, more positive, and better able to cope with the ups and downs of daily life.
- Greater capacity for intimacy and connection: You feel more open and connected to those around you, and better able to form meaningful relationships.
- Greater emotional regulation: Regular practice can help you become more aware of your emotions and better able to manage them in a healthy and productive way.
- Relief from chronic medical conditions: These trauma releasing exercises have also been shown to provide relief from chronic medical conditions, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, by alleviating symptoms of pain, fatigue, and anxiety that are often associated with these conditions.
- Valuable as a complement to therapy: While it should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment, it can be a valuable complement to other forms of therapy or self-care.
How Does TRE Work? (The Science)
TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) works by activating your body’s natural shaking response, also known as the tremor reflex. This reflex is a built-in mechanism that helps animals release tension and trauma from their bodies after a stressful or traumatic event.
Fight Flight Freeze: Our Survival Mechanism
When we experience stress or trauma, our bodies go into a “fight, flight, or freeze response” as a survival mechanism. This response is necessary in situations where our lives are in danger. However, when the danger has passed, our bodies may continue to hold onto the tension and stress from the experience.
Additionally, if we’re unable to fight or flee, our body stores the stress and trauma as tension in our muscles and other tissues.
Dysregulation of the Autonomic Nervous System
Over time, these chronic tensions and traumas stored in the body lead to dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), often leading to physical and emotional challenges. and causing ill health. This may include symptoms such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, sleep and digestive issues, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system can also leave us feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and disconnected from ourselves and others.
Our Innate Ability to Release Tension and Trauma
The good news is that all mammals, including humans, have an innate ability to release this tension and return to a state of safety and balance!
Animals use the natural tremor mechanism as a way to release stored tension and stress after a traumatic event. For example, a gazelle that has just escaped from a predator may start to shake and tremble all over.
This physical response may seem counterintuitive, but it actually helps the gazelle discharge the high levels of energy and adrenaline that built up during the chase. By doing so, the gazelle can return to a state of calm and relaxation, ready to graze and carry on with its day.
Reactivating the Forgotten Natural Tremor Mechanism
Humans have largely forgotten this innate ability to release stored tension and stress through tremors. This is partly due to our cultural conditioning, which often emphasizes the need to suppress emotions and appear strong and in control at all times.
TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) safely activates the natural tremor mechanism through a set of simple and gentle exercises, helping the body release deep muscular patterns of stress, tension, and trauma, allowing the nervous system to return to its natural state of balance or homeostasis.
Importance of Reducing the Psoas Muscles
The psoas muscles, which are pronounced as “so-as”, are a pair of deep-seated muscles that connect the lumbar vertebrae to the femur or thigh bone. These muscles are part of a group of muscles called hip flexors and play a significant role in posture and overall body movement and stabilization.
Reducing tension in the psoas muscles is essential since they hold physical, emotional, and mental stress that we accumulate in our bodies throughout our lives.
When we experience stress, the psoas muscles can become tense as they are activated as a defense mechanism, allowing us to curl up and protect our internal organs. Prolonged stress can cause tension to be held in these muscles, which can restrict their function and cause pain in the back, hips, shoulders, and knees.
TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) aims to reduce tension in the psoas muscles by activating the natural tremor mechanism in these muscles which causes them to release tension and relax. By doing so, it can reduce tension, pain, and other associated effects.
How do I Practice TRE®?
To practice TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises), you start by doing a series of 7 gentle exercises that activate the muscles in your legs, hips, and core. These exercises are designed to fatigue the muscles and trigger the tremor reflex.
Once the tremors start in these powerful core muscles, your body begins to shake throughout the entire body, traveling along the spine and releasing the tension stored in your muscles. This shaking is similar to the shaking you might experience after a good workout or a stressful event.
When tension is released anywhere in the body, your brain and Autonomic Nervous System register a reduction in stress signals and lower the output of stress hormones.
As you continue to practice, you’ll gradually release more and more tension from your body. You may also experience a range of sensations and emotions, such as tingling, warmth, and tears. These are all normal and part of the healing process.
If you’re interested in trying TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises), I highly recommend first learning the technique from a qualified provider. Trying to do it on your own without proper instruction can be less beneficial and may cause more harm than good.
Many certified providers offer classes or one-on-one sessions, so you can choose the option that works best for you.
To do the Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises at home, you can find David Berceli’s full instruction video from below. I strongly recommend seeking guidance from a TRE Provider and joining groups to learn from others as you progress with the practice.
Wear loose and comfortable clothing, as you would to a gym class. You will need a soft but firm surface to lie on, such as a yoga mat or towel. Keep a blanket or cushion nearby.
It important that you feel comfortable when you tremor. We do not push through discomfort, but listen to our body and respond to ourselves with kindness. Do you need a cushion under your head, a thicker mat, or a warm blanket to cover your legs? If anything feels too intense or overwhelming, pause and allow your body to process the tremors.
How long should I shake?
You can shake for around 20 minutes, but starting with 10 minutes is a good starting point. You can set a timer and observe how you feel. If you find yourself drifting away, begin with a shorter time. Make sure you stay present and allow yourself to connect as you shake.
Integration during TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) is just as important as the shaking itself. Take the time to notice how your body feels and the subtle differences. This is an opportunity to gift yourself with deep relaxation. Many prefer to practice before bedtime to allow for integration in bed and a better night’s sleep. Try it and see if it works for you.
When to do TRE
Precautions and contraindications
While TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) can be used as a self-help technique and is generally considered safe and beneficial to be practiced at home, there are some precautions and contraindications to keep in mind. For instance, if you have recently had surgery or injuries, are pregnant, or have severe osteoporosis or arthritis, it’s important to speak with a certified provider and consult your healthcare provider before starting.
If you are currently in psychiatric care and taking psychotropic medication, you may still be able to practice these trauma releasing exercises, but it is highly recommended to work with a certified provider and involve your therapist in the process. This also applies if you have been diagnosed with conditions such as bipolar disorder, PTSD, or developmental trauma.
If you suspect you may suffer from one of these conditions but are not yet diagnosed, it’s advisable to work with a certified provider to ensure a positive and empowering experience.
TRE® (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) was developed by Dr. David Berceli, an international trauma expert who has spent more than 22 years working in war zones and disaster-stricken areas around the world. He noticed that people who experienced traumatic events often exhibited involuntary shaking and tremors, which he believed to be a natural, biological response to release tension and trauma from the body.
In the mid-1990s while working with traumatized children in war-torn areas of the Middle East, Dr. David Berceli noticed that children who had experienced traumatic events often exhibited involuntary shaking and tremors, while adults did not.
Dr. Berceli believed that these tremors were a natural, biological response to stress and trauma that helped release tension from the body. He hypothesized that adults may have lost the ability to tremor due to social conditioning and cultural norms that discourage such behavior.
Based on these observations, Dr. Berceli developed a set of Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises as a way to intentionally activate the tremor response in a safe and controlled way. Through regular practice, TRE can help adults reconnect with their natural ability to release stress and trauma from their bodies, leading to improved physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Since then, TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) has been extensively researched and refined, with numerous studies supporting its effectiveness in reducing symptoms of trauma, anxiety, and stress. Today, it is widely used by therapists, healthcare professionals, and individuals around the world as a powerful tool for healing and personal growth.
FAQs on TRE® (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises)
Q1: Is TRE suitable for everyone?
A: It is generally suitable for most people, but there are some precautions and contraindications to keep in mind. Consult your healthcare provider before starting if you have any concerns.
Q2: How long does it take to experience its benefits?
A: The results can vary from person to person. Some people report feeling better after just one session, while others may need several sessions to see significant results. It is recommended to practice regularly to experience the full benefits.
Q3: Is TRE safe?
A: Yes, practicing these exercises is generally considered safe when done under the guidance of a qualified provider. However, it’s important to listen to your body and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort.
Q4: Can TRE help with PTSD?
A: Yes, itcan be a helpful tool for healing from PTSD. However, it’s important to work with a qualified provider who has experience working with PTSD.
Q5: Do I need any special equipment?
A: No, you don’t need any special equipment. The exercises can be done on a mat or on a firm surface.
Q6: Is TRE a substitute for therapy or medication?
A: It is not a substitute for therapy or medication. It is a complementary technique that can be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment.
Q7: Can TRE be practiced by children?
A: It can be practiced by children under the guidance of a certified provider. However, it is important to ensure that the exercises are appropriate for the child’s age and developmental stage.
Q8: How often should I practice TRE?
A: It is recommended to practice the Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises for 15-20 minutes, two to three times a week to experience the full benefits.
Humanitarian Support Asia
Since late 2014, TRE for All, Inc. (TFA) has collaborated with and supported Humanitarian Support Asia (HSA). HSA was founded by practitioners with the aim of sharing the benefits of Trauma Releasing Exercises for post-disaster situations. At the time, TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) was only available to professionals such as coaches, counselors, and the general public in Asia; however, there was no focused program for bringing this practice to traumatized communities in humanitarian emergency settings.
Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises Practice was developed based on Dr. David Berceli’s experiences in war-torn areas in Africa and the Middle East. The founding members of HSA believed that the program they had in mind could support its original intent and help communities who had experienced psychological, emotional, and physical trauma as a result of natural disasters or human conflict.
After the Nepal earthquake in April 2015, HSA reached out to TFA, and the two groups worked together to organize and bring relief to the country. The collaboration has been very successful so far, and every step taken helps lay the groundwork for extending these efforts to other countries and regions.
TRE® (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises)
- Shake It Off Naturally by Dr. David Berceli
- The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process by Dr. David Berceli
- Trauma is Really Strange by Steve Haines
- The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation by Deb Dana
Here are some research papers, dissertations, and publications on TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) by David Barceli. To see a complete list of publications, please click on this link to visit the website.
- Berceli D. Evaluating the effects of stress reduction exercises employing mild tremors: a pilot study [dissertation]. Phoenix (AZ): Arizona State University; 2009. | Download
- Berceli D. [Neurogenic tremors: A body-oriented treatment for trauma in large populations]. Trauma und Gewalt. 2010 May; 4 (2):148-156. German. | Download
TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) is a powerful technique for releasing tension and trauma from the body. By activating the body’s natural mechanism for shaking or trembling, we can release the tension that is stored in our muscles and tissues. Regular practice can lead to reduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep quality, increased energy and vitality, relief from chronic pain and fatigue, improved immune function, and increased emotional resilience and self-awareness. If you are interested in trying TRE, seek out a certified provider to learn the exercises and practice safely.