A reader shares her awesome trauma releasing experience; another TRE video

I checked my email this morning right before work and saw one saying that someone had posted a blog comment. It was in response to my very first post on the Trauma releasing exercises, posted way back in May of 2010, close to two years ago.

Jen wrote:

Learnt the TRE technique from a friend. After my 4th session (last night) I got up and my body started swaying at the hips, then shoulders went mad, neck went into awesome neck rolls (felt a lot like yoga) and then an intense feeling from the centre of my belly, rolling upwards. Went on for at least an hour before I eventually went to bed to sleep. Just the one hand kept doing a little shake.

This morning on my way to work, my neck started rolling. Once at work I was standing telling my friend about this when my entire body started swaying and all morning (at least the last 4 hours) have been spent with my neck going into involuntary neck rolls, shoulder rolls, back stretches. It has finally stopped, but I am just a bit concerned. What does this mean?

I got really excited reading this! The trauma release process is working for Jen very well. To have this response after only four sessions is excellent. Her body is releasing trauma! To have a release from the hara (belly center) like that is very liberating. Maybe her yoga helped.

When I was first experimenting with the TRE exercises, I remember feeling some fear around the idea of “letting go”. What exactly is being let go of, and if I let go (i.e., lose control), will I get my self-control back?

Then once I started shaking, trembling, rocking, and rolling, I wondered: Would I be able to stop? What if it was embarrassing?

I needn’t have worried.

I responded right away:

It means you are unfreezing and coming alive, Jen! Do it as much as you can when it feels right. Enjoy and know it will eventually slow and become “more voluntary” when you’ve released more of your stress. Awesome to hear from you!

She wrote back:

Wow, thanks for getting back to me so soon – you have put my mind at ease. My friend and I were laughing hysterically this morning as it just wouldn’t stop and then we started getting a little worried that it would NEVER stop. But this afternoon has been fine and when it starts again I will know it is normal and let it out!

Keep well

I haven’t blogged about the trauma releasing exercises for a long time, but I haven’t forgotten them. Once I learned them and began shaking, the process deepened. I released long-held tensions, especially in my shoulders. Every time I did them was different. I did them frequently for a while.

Sometimes nowadays when I am at Ecstatic Dance Austin or at home, I release tension in my legs and occasionally my arms/shoulders. I don’t think about it too much; if the thought pops into my mind, I never second-guess it. I just allow the release to happen. I’m standing, and my legs are shaking or my arm is writhing — something is moving, for sure.

And when I’ve had enough (again, without thinking about it), I dance (or rather, I do a more intentional dance, becaus release is dance) or go onto the next activity.

I’ve considered doing the training to become a TRE facilitator and may still do that when the time and money come together. For now, I’m happy to answer any questions that readers may have based on my experience and what I’ve seen and read of Berceli’s work.

I’m also happy to watch the exercises on video and do the exercises with anyone who wants to try them and prefers to have an experienced companion. There is something contagious about doing them with someone who already releases. It’s like permission to your body. (And a few people don’t need this; in my experience, it’s helpful to most newbies because releasing goes against the grain of what we’ve been taught, to be “in control” at all times.)

Also, I viewed David Berceli’s 2004 video, Mitchell Jay Rabin’s A Better World presents David Berceli Trauma Release, and I don’t think I posted anything about it.

Berceli tells Rabin the story of how he began developing the exercises, which I’ve read in abbreviated form but had not heard from Berceli before.

He was a Catholic missionary in the Middle East, living in Beirut during a civil war in the late 1970s. He was working with war refugees, and he himself became traumatized.

When he came back to the U.S., he was suffering from PTSD. He went to counseling (the only thing he knew to do) for two years, and at the end he realized he was still suffering very severely from PTSD, but it seemed to be more in his body than in his psyche.

That started him on the journey of exploring what PTSD is, how it affects us as human beings, how it affects the psyche and the body differently, and what healing processes need to occur to effect a complete resolution of trauma recovery.

He learned that the body holds in memory the contractions from trauma as a defensive behavior. He studied bioenergetics, tai chi, yoga, and other modalities, but was seeking a quick, body-based method of trauma release that could be taught in any cultural context to a large number of people even without knowing the language. 

Berceli then worked all over Africa and the Middle East with people traumatized by conflicts and civil wars. He discovered that conflict resolution is useless unless the underlying emotions can be released, that trust is impossible as long as the body holds the memory from trauma.

He worked with 150-200 people at a time, teaching the exercises to create neurogenic tremors and release the terror, anxiety, hurt, and fear of trauma, and then people would feel their bodies letting go of trauma behaviors embedded in their musculature.

Berceli relates the same knowledge that Peter Levine discovered and wrote about in Waking the Tiger, that animals don’t get PTSD because when they get out of danger, they shiver and shake and release the trauma from their bodies.

People tend to stifle the trembling after a trauma, and it remains embedded in the musculature. Berceli developed exercises to target the core muscles deep in the body affected by trauma (the psoas major, which impacts the energetic centers of the root and sacral chakras, the dan tien, the hara). Release of the psoas ripples throughout the body.

I love the psoas. It connects the legs to the torso and is the “fight or flight” muscle. We palpated it in massage school, getting to it through the lower abdomen.

I know that doing the trauma releasing exercises has been instrumental in releasing more trauma and defensive armor from my body. TRE has freed up my body and my dance! And in case of being retraumatized, however slightly, these exercises are good to do again.

There are more good stories on this video, even praise of dance as release, release, release. It’s inspired me to do the TRE exercises more frequently. Who knows what else can be released?

21 thoughts on “A reader shares her awesome trauma releasing experience; another TRE video

  1. Hi I am new to this blog . i agree the psoas is the fight and flight muscle. Its on the kidney meridian . Also just wondering if anyone can help with neck trauma release excercises? I have the DVD and doing the excercises but it doesnt seem to include the neck specifically . I saw the stuff on neck rolling spontaneously but wondering if there is any excercise to isolate and fatigue neck muscles specifically?


    • Hi, Kristin, and welcome! One of the trauma releasing exercises specifically has you looking over each shoulder, and in the inverted positions, I’m sure it’s good to allow the head to hang. The reader who had spontaneous neck rolling was a yogi, and maybe her level of flexibility allowed the tremoring to move quickly into her neck. It took a while for my shoulders to begin to release — they were tight. Release patterns are different for every body, and they change over time. Keep doing the TREs and eventually you will release neck tension.

      The neck is a complex, fragile structure. Please be careful! Massage, stretches, and range-of-motion could be helpful. (And never crank the neck all the way back, chiropractors say.)


  2. Kirstin. Don’t be too concerned about your neck, just let the shake happen and go any way it wants. But you CAN tire (fatigue is the word!) your neck, if you want to try rolling it gently on the edge of a chair or something similar. From side to side, for a few minutes. Raymond. Isn’t it just GREAT !!!


  3. I’ve been doing TRE for some time… I’ve read the book and watched a few videos… I’ve heard it mentioned that one can do something to turn on the deep belly laughter but haven’t come across any explanation of “how to”. Does anyone know how to turn on the laughter tremors?


    • Mariana, thanks for your post. What you could try is to fake it. Just start laughing like you’re an actor, and your script tells your character (you) to laugh. Often that feels and sounds so ridiculous that you start genuinely laughing. If you do TRE with a friend, the laughter can be amplified, because it is contagious. Ride that out as long as you want. Also, laughter and sobbing are not that far apart. One may turn into the other. If fake laughter doesn’t work for you, try fake sobbing. As with so much about TRE, there’s the initial action you do to get things going, and then it’s all surrender. One last thought: there are Laughter Yoga clubs worldwide. Attending one of those may help you get started. http://www.laughteryoga.org/english.


  4. Hi , I suffer from a mental condition caused by trauma. I just started practicing TRE. I got strong tremors in my legs but they did not migrate to my upper body. Will it take time before I start shaking throughout the whole body or am I doing something wrong?


    • Hi, David. By all means, keep doing the TRE sessions, daily if you can. Where your body shakes seems to change over time. You are not doing anything wrong, and by the way, congratulations on getting strong tremors in your legs! Learning to “allow” the shaking is a surrender skill. Trust that with time and the desire to release and let go of tension patterns, your body will shake where it needs to. Blessings on your path.


  5. I haven’t found any info on my question yet and was hoping you could provide one. Do the exercises have to be the exact same that Ber Eli recommends or can they be any other exercise that create the tremors. thanks


  6. Yachna, the Berceli exercises are done to induce tremors. If you can induce tremoring using other ways, a different order, or one or even none, no problem! I myself found that after doing all the Berceli exercises to induce tremoring, after 5-10 times I could just do the “chair pose” exercise. And then it got to where I didn’t need to do any exercise at all. I could mentally realize that I was holding tension and “decide” to release it, and I would start tremoring.


  7. Hey there!
    I know this is an old post but I just learned about TRE yesterday. So my one fear about this, can you MAKE yourself STOP the tremors? Like if I’m driving and I start having a tremor that doesn’t sound safe while I’m driving, can I do something? Or I do public speaking and that would be a very inconvenient time to tremor lol. Is there an “on and off switch”?


    • Jackie, you can make yourself stop tremoring. You induce the shaking, and you can stop it. It’s best if you choose a safe place and time and allow yourself to shake for up to 20 minutes. Do it for every day, and your system will get calmer. If it starts on its own at an unsafe or inconvenient time, you should stop it. You are in control. Hope this helps.


  8. I started to look this up because I began spontaneously shaking/convulsing when I was very stressed, it was usually during arguments with an ex partner, or the opposite (moments of intimacy if you catch my drift) . Luckily she was very caring and would sit it out with me. Initially it seemed to be coming from my belly, my muscles would convulse quite alarmingly, over time it has been working its way up my body, now it seems to be around my neck more. The more I have shaken the more I seem to be able to control the frequency of the shakes, from slow wave like movements (anti clockwise hoola hoop actions or my hips or neck rolling) to higher frequency ones (shakes) , at will. I always viewed it as a negative thing but I am glad to know that perhaps it might be positive. When I told someone about my ‘shakes’ they told me about TRE.


  9. I find that my lower hips,pelvis and back go wild each time,too the point where my lower back aches,and I seem to have corrected something in my gait,as I feel that something has changed with my left leg as though I am rebalanced
    Anyways I feel like I have been so violent in allowing these gyrations to run amok,that my whole pelvic – low back at sacrum feels like I overworked it
    Should I stop the shaking if it becomes uncomfortable,then resume and keep this under any discomfort level ?


    • Ryan, definitely cut back or stop if you are feeling like you’re overworking it. Rest for a few days until your body feels recovered after a particularly wild shaking session. This should be therapeutic and not cause any damage. If you feel sore or achy, Epsom salt baths are good.


      • Thank you MaryAnn
        I just read this today–
        TRE Self-Regulation Guidelines:

        These exercises should be done only if they are pleasurable and you feel safe and grounded in the process. If you begin to experience physical pain adjust your position and/or modify the speed or intensity in a way that relieves the pain. If no adjustment and/or modification can be found, stop the process, sit up and get a glass of water.

        If you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed and/or uncomfortable, slow down or stop the TRE process until you feel safe and grounded again. Once again sit up and get a glass of water.

        If you are doing TRE for the first time, TRE for All, Inc. recommend you only tremor for a maximum of 15 minutes and only do TRE 3 or 4 times a week.

        Once you have learned the skills of “self regulation” and you have been doing TRE for a few weeks you can lengthen your tremor time and/or increase your frequency at your own discretion.

        I am guessing this is what you also are advising. Felt so good,I went too far lol!! Again Thank you RR


  10. It is correct that physical therapy is very effective for the back pain and sciatica you are experiencing. You can also avoid surgery and the consumption of medicines because it is a natural treatment. It involves different types of therapies and exercises to improve your physical condition and reduce pain. You can notice an enhancement in the strength, range of motion, and mobility of your muscles and joints. One should get the treatment regularly if you want to eliminate the pain and live pain-free. And if your therapist suggests you should practice the exercises at home also.


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