I recently read the book Trauma Releasing Exercises by David Berceli, kindly lent to me by John Daniewicz, a member of my sangha, after we had a wide-ranging discussion that included healing from trauma.
Berceli came up with a set of seven physical exercises based on bioenergetics whose purpose is to tire the leg and hip muscles so that they tremble, quiver, and shake. He did this after spending time in war zones in Africa and the Middle East, wanting to find a way to help victims, witnesses, and caregivers release trauma energy from their bodies without psychotherapy. Some cultures don’t include psychotherapy, and some circumstances make it impossible.
The trembling releases the energy frozen in the body from trauma or prolonged stress (which in my view and some others’ has the same effect on the body as a true trauma).
I’ve been doing the exercises a couple of times a week. They take 20-30 minutes to do. At the end, I lie on the floor, knees up, with my legs going through cycles of fine tremors, visible quivering, and gross muscle shaking.
When I feel done, I just straighten my legs and the trembling stops. I feel more present.
Berceli has a newer, more sophisticated version of the book, The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process. Both are available on amazon.com.
The exercises are pretty much the same in both books. (By the way, the latter book got 5 stars from all 21 reviewers on Amazon, pretty remarkable in itself.)
There’s a video too, which I haven’t seen.
I think everyone should at least know about the exercises, and if you’ve ever had trauma in your life or been a caregiver to traumatized people or been under prolonged stress, please consider actually doing them, no matter how long ago it was.
This is definitely remedial work, but the more we can let go of the past, even as it resides in our bodies, the more capacity we have for being present, in my opinion.
And that’s how I tie this topic into my meditation blog. It’s about cultivating presence, and this helps.