Or, more officially, Tension, Stress and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE). Intrigued by the idea that inducing involuntary tremors might be another way of tackling deep tension and chronic pain, in August of this year I went along to a day-long workshop run by Steve Haines to learn about shaking as a form of self-regulating the nervous system.
I booked this workshop a long way in advance, thinking that it might be a useful addition to my quite varied daily practice which consists of some combination of yoga, meditation, writing, breath work, restorative poses, chanting, dancing around the house, and now shaking. What I didn’t foresee was that the week I attended, I would have developed a mysterious but very painful ache in my jaw. There being no obvious physical cause, I was left with the sneaking suspicion that, despite 2018 being my first year out from behind a desk, apparently “taking it easy”, I was suffering from troubles of the mind and some pretty deeply-held tension. The irony was not lost on me.
Threatened with liquidising my food until it was sorted, it is fair to say that I was pretty motivated to investigate methods of tension release, and I was looking forward to this workshop to see what shaking might have to offer.
We were provided with a comprehensive handout and an explanation about the practice of shaking. My understanding is:
I found the process to be very accessible and immediately effective – I was shaking well before I finished the exercises, and enjoyed the sensation of release. It was disconcerting to be moving in a way that was entirely guided by my body (and not my thinking mind, which I had to politely ask to step away) and in particular to be doing so with a room full of strangers. But at no point did I feel uncomfortable or out of control. I’ve practiced at home about once a week since the workshop and I continue to enjoy it and find it relieving.
I find it particularly appealing that this isn’t a demanding exercise – you can listen to music or even watch the tellie, and, to my relief, no analysis or narrative is required. You are not asked to face your darkest fears, remember or re-live your trauma or attribute it to early childhood events. I am reminded of an earlier workshop – Ourmala’s Trauma-Informed Yoga Training – where we learned that yoga can be more effective for sufferers of PTSD than talking therapy, especially initially, because embodiment, and the resulting repair of brain connections, are needed first before accessing healing through intellectual process.
I also appreciate that TRE is a self-healing tool. It can only result in becoming more embodied, more aware of our internal workings, more connected. In the broadest sense of the term, that makes it yoga.
I’m pleased to say that my jaw is much better (and I can eat!). I attribute this to giving myself permission to rest properly (and not just talk about it), daily practice of Max Strom’s breathing exercises (see Friday Featuring… Breathing), acupuncture and the introduction of the practice of shaking.
Have you tried shaking? Has it helped? I’d love to hear about your experiences, or other tools for dealing with trauma, stress and tension. We’re all in it together!
Breathe, make space, be compassionate.
Steve Haines is a body worker and has a background in yoga, shiatsu massage, and is a trained chiropractor. He currently offers Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy and TRE treatments in London and Geneva, and also has extensive experience in teaching teachers of these modalities. There is lots more information about Steve and his offerings on his website. He also has a dedicated TRE website with videos, blogs and links to TRE groups and providers. He has written three graphic books, Pain Is Really Strange, Trauma Is Really Strange and Anxiety Is Really Strange. These are said to be excellent explanations of these complex topics.
Steve also spoke about the experience of dissociation (the opposite of embodiment) which I found fascinating. I will write about in a future episode of Friday Featuring …. [and in fact, I did! See here]
TRE was created by Dr David Berceli, who designed it “to help large populations of people who experience everything from mild stress to severe trauma whether from past experiences or in the present moment”. It is a self-help method that works across cultural and language barriers, and can (and in some cases, should) be integrated with therapy (though it isn’t itself therapy, or energy work, and nor does it have any spiritual connotations).
He has written a number of books on the topic, including The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process and Shake It Off Naturally. The TRE website links to this short video which follows the experience of an ex-Marine who gives TRE a go. It gives a good idea of what the tremors actually look like.