Trauma Release Exercises | How To Shake Off Stress + 2 Exercises You Can Try At Home

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Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) are simple exercises that help the body to release deep muscular and fascial patterns of tension, stress, and trauma by tremoring.

  • What trauma is
  • An explanation of TRE theory
  • Why you shake when performing TRE exercises
  • Studies on the efficacy of TRE
  • 2 simple TRE exercises to try at home
  • 3 videos to follow along to at home
  • Why you may feel worse off after performing an exercise
  • And the limits of TRE

Ready to learn more about the benefits of shaking?

Let’s get into it

Trauma Release Exercises

What is Trauma?

Trauma, according to the American Psychological Association, is an emotional response to a terrible event.

The psychology of trauma is very complex and little understood, whilst the physiology of trauma is relatively simple. In trauma, parts of the brain are fixed in defense cascades of ‘fight-or-flight’ or ‘freeze’.

Symptoms of trauma soon after the event are often associated with shock or denial.

Whilst longer-term symptoms can include flashbacks, unpredictable emotions, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms like feeling nauseous or experiencing headaches.

Trauma isn’t always a result of what we would consider catastrophic events such as experiencing a natural disaster, a school shooting, abuse, assault, or a near-death experience.

We can also experience trauma as a response to seemingly less intense experiences; a moment of insecurity when being ignored as a child or a close brush with a car accident could both trigger a traumatized emotional response.

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Although, according to Medical News Today, trauma is complicated. Not everyone who experiences an intensely negative event will develop trauma.

And among those who do, there are also various types of trauma responses. In some cases, people will develop symptoms that resolve after a few weeks, while others will experience more long-term effects of trauma.

Trauma Release Exercises | In theory

TRE was founded by Dr David Berceli and is based on the premise of bioenergetics.

Bioenergetics, put simply, is the theory that trauma is stored in the body. It states that every single repressed emotion since early childhood alters your fascia (a web of fibrous tissue which covers your entire body), and musculature.

The idea is that by exerting pressure on muscles by way of very specific exercises, you can actually release the trauma from your body.

TRE mainly focuses on releasing the psoas muscle, which connects the pelvis to the lumbar vertebrae. This powerful muscle is said to hold physical, emotional, and mental stress.

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Why do TRE exercises make you shake?

When you perform Trauma Release Exercises, natural tremors are activated.

Trauma Release Exercises release muscular and fascial tension that activates a natural reflex mechanism. This natural reflex is shaking. Shaking releases muscular tension which calms down the nervous system and encourages the body to return to a state of balance.

If you’ve ever seen a dog shake during a thunderstorm, you’ve seen how animals use shaking movements to release stressful energy.

Trauma Release exercises | the science

There are plenty of anecdotal accounts and testimonials supporting TRE exercises for trauma relief.

On the official TRE website, they list 14 research publications that support the efficacy of TRE.

One study found that TRE reduced Heart Rate Variability and psychophysiological stress in university students.

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Another study indicated that TRE exercises reduced symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis whilst improving participants’ sleep and reducing stress levels.

However, all of these 14 studies all use fairly small sample sizes, and further research is needed to draw any solid conclusions.

2 simple TRE exercises to try at home

1. The Bow | How To

  • Start a stopwatch.
  • Start with your feet parallel and about hip width (30cm) apart.
  • Straighten your arms, hands together, above your head.
  • Lean back, pushing your pelvis and chest forward and arms backwards.
  • Keep a micro bend in your knees and make sure not to lock them.
  • Hold for as long as is comfortable.
  • Note how long you stayed in the exercise.
  • Repeat the exercise twice more for the same amount of time as the first round.

Optional extra for this exercise: As you hold the pose, make either of the following facial expressions to encourage a muscle release

Option 1: The Gargoyle – Open your eyes and mouth wide, stick out your tongue, and make a hissing noise as you breathe out.

Option 2: Open your eyes wide and laugh like Santa, ho-ho-ho style.

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2. The Arch | How To

  • Start a stopwatch.
  • Stand with your feet parallel and about hip witdth (30cm) apart.
  • Drop your chin to your chest, or as close as it will comfortably go.
  • Slowly roll down, vertabrea by vertibrea, like a rag doll, until your tailbone points up to the sky and you feel a nice stretch in the back of your thighs.
  • Keep a gentle bend in your knees, making sure not to lock them, and hand your hands on or as close to the floor as they can comfortably go.
  • Stay here for as long as feels good to you.
  • Note how long you stayed in the exercise for.
  • Repeat the exercise twice more for the same amount of time as the first round.
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3 TRE Exercise videos to follow along with

When starting something new, it’s best to be guided through it. The following three guided videos have all been tried and tested and are sure to support you on your TRE journey.

1. TRE Full Body Practice With Spria

Spira is a Certified TRE provider, and in this 23-minute video, she gently guides you through TRE preparation exercises plus a series of Trauma Release Exercises.

2. 7 Trauma Release Exercises

In this 26-minute video, Thierry Zibbi takes you through seven Trauma Release Exercises. His explanations are very thorough and it’s a great video for first timers.

3. One Guided TRE Exercise

Lisa takes you a step-by-step explanation of just one cornerstone Trauma Release Exercise.

This is great if you’re looking to dip your toe into the practice and don’t want to commit yourself to a full routine.

A collection of comments from TRE guided Videos from around the web (anonymous)

It’s normal to be sceptical. Have a read of these accounts and maybe they will encourage you to give TRE a go.

1. “I was sceptical about this and I started trembling and crying, my whole body, thanks.”

2. “When I started tremoring, I laughed hysterically which I already know is my body’s way of beginning to relax before I can cry.”

3. “This was my first experience and WOW!!! I didn’t think my body would do it and it was amazing!! So grateful for this, thank you.”

4. First time but it was so powerful. I felt like the tremors could go on for hours… they tapered down but I feel that I am meant to do more to process.”

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Why Do i feel worse after doing TRE exercises?

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, many people report feeling a little worse after performing a trauma release sequence.

It is common for the sensations in our bodies to feel heightened and more intense after a shake. And for many, this can be too much, or just plain scary.

The feeling of uncomfortable intensity post-shake is typically a sign that you have done too much too quickly. Equally, if you feel as if you are in an ungrounded, dreamy, or floaty state whilst performing an exercise, it’s wise to stop.

Sometimes, even 5 minutes can be a long time to practice Trauma Release Exercises if you have never done them before, or if you are in a difficult emotional state.

So look after yourself. If you feel worse after an exercise, take time to reconnect with safety and with yourself- go inwards; practice yin yoga, go out in nature, meditate. And next time you practice TRE, half the time spent doing the exercises.

The best way to start working with trauma is to deal with it slowly in small, manageable chunks. Diving too deep too quickly can only serve to put you off ever going back to TRE.

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The limits of tRE Exercises

Trauma Release Exercises have not yet been evaluated by the US Food & Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, NICE.

TRE Exercises are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and it is important to seek advice from a medical professional if you are experiencing symptoms of trauma.

If you do practice TRE exercises, be aware that the results may vary between individuals, and there are no guarantees that the exercises will work for you.

But what have you got to lose! If you’re intrigued, go ahead and give it a try! Who knows? It may feel good.

Dive deeper into more alternative practices

Has learning about TRE exercises piqued your interest in alternative practices? Check out the following articles for a taste of some exciting emerging ideas:

Earthing Or Grounding: How We Can Reconnect With Nature

Can The Wim Hof Method Make You A Better Yogi? + 5 Step Guide

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: Why I Do It And How Can I Stop?
Photo of author
Maria Andrews is a 200h Registered Yoga Teacher, long distance runner, and adventure lover.

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