Trauma release exercises (or tension release too) — the body speaks

Update 2015 – From the archives. This is something I can again do now if and when appropriate. Our body/mind/spirit changes as it heals. I also found that the neurogenic tremors arose spontaneously in my yoga practice quite often when I simply relaxed in savasana at the end of a yoga session. I took to letting them come. Our bodies know this stuff. It is not new, it is ancient knowledge that our bodies know. How silly that we need a trademarked version to make us remember. But alas, most of us do. This is a good system. Go easy and listen to the body. If it’s not the right time for this it’s not the right time. Those of us with severely impacted nervous systems from psychiatric drug withdrawal need to become highly adept at respecting the body’s timing. It always knows best. 

trauma release - 1 I do various sorts of trauma release practices. I’ve not been using this particular method of release anymore as it actually prompts a release that is too much for my compromised body at this time. The method, is, however, very good for people who are physically healthy and not in rehab. I’m sharing the post again because I continue to find that our bodies hold trauma and psychological distress in ways that we are just beginning to understand. We are truly holistic beings and our minds and bodies are intricately intertwined.  The segments I share about the video talks a bit about that.

(Update: this sort of trauma release became appropriate for me again, as I continued to heal. It’s something I use when it feels appropriate. I find that many forms of exercise actually prompt this sort of release in me as I’ve come to relax into the phenomena and the healing process…it’s basically wired into us as human beings and is simply something we forgot how to do. These exercises help the body remember)

For me yoga is a very important somatic part of my healing. (more recently ecstatic dance too has become important) For now it’s the priority for me, but everyone is different and most people also need different things at different times. Oh! dancing, too, helps me release and heal and so does walking in nature and gardening while I mindfully pay attention to my body. One need not do structured exercises all the time if one really listens and pays attention to their body! That is what I’m finding out during this very long rehab journey I’ve been forced to take. There is a sort of luxury in total disability. Not one I would have chosen, but I do have lots of time to pay attention to my mind and body and I truly do appreciate that.

This is the original post from 2011 with a few edits:

Trauma release exercises (or tension release too)

I’ve done these exercises a couple of times now. I’m very impressed with how they work and feel they will be an ongoing part of my wellness practices. I can’t do them often at this time as they actually take a lot of exertion and I’m still very weak. I did, however, discover that because I’m weak I can take several breaks during the exercises and still achieve results. One need not be fit to do these, they need only exhaust the muscles which will take much less exertion if one is weak.

The most wonderful part is the profound deep relaxation after they’re done.

I’ve mostly cut and pasted info about the exercises below.

I bought the DVD and it is available on Amazon — Trauma Releasing Exercises Step By Step Video Instruction and Demonstration (it’s a bit less expensive on Amazon if you get the DVD)

Below the creator speaks a bit about the exercises. I like how one of the first thing he says is that TRE can stand for trauma release or tension release, underscoring the practicality of these exercises. Everyone experiences stressors from which one can benefit in releasing.

The blurb at the site for selling the video:

Trauma is stored in both the body and psyche and affects us for years to come unless we specifically release it.

Dr. Berceli personally takes us through the Trauma Release Process™ in real time so we can follow along. As he does so, he demonstrates how to perform each of the exercises in the most beneficial manner. To make it easy to use the demonstration as a daily guide, the exercises are presented in a separate chapter of the DVD.

Along with showing us how to do the exercises, an in-depth interview with Dr. Berceli explains the different kinds of trauma and how they affect the mind and the body. Dr. Berceli relates how he first came to understand the impact trauma has on people, then reveals why the effects are enduring and impact the quality of our life for years to come.

After revealing how the body retains an accurate record of all the trauma we have experienced in life, Dr. Berceli shares with us how he developed the exercises and why they restore the muscles to a stress-free state so effectively.

The DVD also discusses how accepting the inevitability of trauma, rather than resisting it, can accelerate not only our personal growth but also our development as a species.

From the website Trauma Release Exercises: Releasing Stress, Tension, Trauma & Pain:

What are Neurogenic tremors?

Most people have experienced involuntary shaking (neurogenic tremors) such as ‘shaking like a leaf’ or ‘knocking knees’ after a severe shock or fright, when extremely nervous (such as before public speaking) or even in moments of extreme excitement and joy.

The tremors are the central nervous system’s innate way of discharging excessive tension through the rapid muscle contraction and relaxation of the tremors to calm the body down from an over excited adrenal state.

Neurogenic tremors are innate to all mammals and are easily observed as a horse sends a tremor through its’ entire body after a fall. Other examples are gazelles shaking after escaping a lion attack, ducks flapping their wings after a fight or the rapid vibration felt holding a scared rabbit or guinea pig.

In most cultures these tremors are seen as a sign of weakness and vulnerability, tending to be suppressed or avoided resulting in chronic pain and tension rather than allowing them to organically restore the body to balance.

How do the tremors restore the body to a calm relaxed state?

The tremors turn down the central nervous system’s automated and hyper-aroused fight or flight or freeze response by creating a vibration of contraction and relaxation that releases the built up energy and tension held in the muscles and connective tissues of the body. While this shaking is the body’s innate response to calm down the body when it is traumatised or overexcited, it is often seen as a sign of weakness and there for suppressed, leaving the body held in a chronically stressed and tense state.

The tremors release the traumatic experience in the same way that it was created in the body — by the brainstem initiating a discharge of the physical tension associated with the event. The Trauma Release Exercises are designed to invoke the tremors from the deepest core muscle of the body (that flexes us forward into defensive and defeated postures) before spreading throughout the rest of the body.

Is there an emotional response during the exercises?

While some people experience significant emotional release during the Trauma Release process, others may experience no emotional response whatsoever. Some may experience intense memories of a trauma, while others may have no memory or recollection at all while still achieving a significant physiological and psychological release.

An enhancing attribute of the Trauma Release Exercise process is the physiological states associated with a trauma are often able to be released without having to actually relive, remember, or talk about the actual traumatic event itself.

Some people who have experienced severe trauma may at times feel frightened during the exercises, not due to experiencing the tremors themselves, (which most people experience as mildly pleasurable) but occasionally due to the nature and intensity of the emotions surfacing that they are no longer able to control or suppress during the process.

In such situations these people should be guided through the process with direct professional assistance being clearly informed that at any stage if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable the tremors can be immediately stopped by simply straightening the legs or rolling onto their side.

All of this work makes me think of Peter Levine’s work as well. Alt-mentalities talked about Peter Levine’s work here.

This video with Peter Levine speaks of trauma and somatic experience as well. He talks about releasing the energy slowly over time. The above exercises are in keeping with that idea. Peter Levine’s work, too, is brilliant.

This is Peter Levine’s program I tried for releasing trauma: Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body. I found it a very useful book even though I didn’t respond all that well to the exercises – I still learned a lot and felt validated by his insights about trauma.

More on Beyond Meds about healing our body/mind/spirit through becoming conscious of the body:

More posts that feature Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, HERE

More on Trauma and PTSD

See also: Professional denial is a form of retraumatization

Peter Levine has also written books that have become classics in the field of recovery from trauma.

●  Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences

●  In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness

●  Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters