Natural & Easy Stress Relief: An Introduction to TRE®

By Christine Varnavas

Tension Release Exercises (TRE®)  are a set of exercises (movements) created by Dr. David Bercelli designed to help us two-legged animals shake off stress and tension. It’s easy and everyone can do it, anywhere, anytime. Really? Yes! After a period of time, once learned in a safe environment with a certified practitioner, you can do it on your own.

TRE assists the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of stress and tension and has been known to help release current day stress due to past trauma. Based on the work of Dr. Peter Levine, who has worked in the field of stress and trauma for over forty years, Dr. David Berceli, PhD, created the series of movements known as TRE that safely activates a self-controlled natural reflex mechanism of shaking or vibrating, known as neurogenic muscle tremors. These tremors release muscular tension at its core and calm down the nervous system. When this muscular shaking/vibrating mechanism is activated in a safe and controlled environment, the body is encouraged to return to a state of balance.

TRE is a result of Dr. David Berceli’s work with large traumatized communities while living in Africa and the Middle East, war-torn countries and areas affected by natural disaster. What he observed over many years was that repeatedly, all adults, regardless of culture and background, take on the same physical posture when in trauma. This posture is recognized as fetal position and is the body’s natural response to protecting our vital organs. He also observed that children and animals do not take on this posture. They shake, and by doing so release the immediate physical impact of stress on the body.

How does TRE work?

It’s simple and everyone can do it. Yes, everyone. Individuals from any age, ability, and background can do the exercises that encourage the shaking mechanism that we all have in us. If you’ve ever seen an animal shake after experiencing a fight or a child tremble after hearing a distressingly loud noise, that shaking and or trembling is the body’s natural defense mechanism trying to release the stress and tension from the body as a result of the stressor in the moment. Think about how parents rock or gently bounce an infant who is distressed. Our bodies already know what to do. However, we as adults hinder that shaking due to social norms.

To learn how to do the exercises you must first work with a certified provide. Over time and after having worked with a provider, individuals can do TRE on their own. You can locate a provider on the global website www.traumaprevention.com. Christine Varnavas, MS, RYT, is a certified provider and lives in Eau Claire,Wisconsin. She has been working with clients and holding small group classes in the Eau Claire area since 2014.

The series of exercises is designed to stretch and stress muscles in the body from the feet to the shoulder region. The first movement is done with the provider and client together, and then subsequent movements are demonstrated by the provider and then recreated by the client/student in the way their body will allow. After completing the first few exercises, the client then relaxes on the floor, completes a few more movements, and the tremors begin. The client is always in control of the shaking and can stop it at any time. Once done, a resting period is advised, similar to savasana at the end of a yoga practice. A typical session, although it varies from client to client, lasts an hour, and that includes the exercises, the shaking, and the rest.

What it helps?

TRE can be used to aid in everything from handling daily stress to helping reduce the fight/flight/freeze response individuals with PTSD and other acute trauma. The beauty of this self-help tool is that it is a very gentle, user-friendly, calming and healing tool designed for anyone to use. It has been reported to help decrease worry and anxiety, reduce symptoms of PTSD, improve relationships, decrease emotional reactivity, and lessen workplace stress. It can encourage better sleep, reduce muscle and back pain, provide greater emotional resiliency, help heal old injuries, and help with chronic medical conditions. In Los Angeles it is currently being used as a workplace wellness and conflict-resolution tool.

By simply being a human being we have stress, tension, and trauma. It varies for all of us and can be anywhere on the stress/tension/trauma continuum from low to high, small to gargantuan, frequently to infrequently, and all the other areas in between.

To learn more about TRE, visit cvtre.com, traumaprevention.com or call Christine at 715-828-3378. Drop-in group classes are currently taught at The Center on Highway 12 in Eau Claire, Fridays at noon. There is an opportunity to try TRE on Saturday, February 27, 2016, at The Lismore during Chippewa Valley WellFEST.

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