Learning how to release tension in the body with TRE

Tammy Hayano came to New Life this past weekend to lead a workshop on TRE. TRE® (tension or trauma releasing exercises) is a simple technique that creates a natural response for your body to remove blocks deep within your cellular level. This happens by inducing the body’s natural shaking response through a series of exercises. TRE is highly effective, therapeutic, and relaxing.

New Life residents, as well as guests and volunteers, spent four hours exploring ways to enhance release of tension from the body, learning the TRE exercises and understanding different types of stress and trauma.

Tammy began the workshop with a demonstration of a body scan using her own body to show how the tremors can appear in different parts of the body. It can be quite disconcerting watching someone’s body contort automatically like a reflex. According to Tammy, this is the body doing its own thing. It naturally rids itself of the tension through these patterns of tremors.

She then guided us through four points to try and do while performing TRE: relax, stay present, follow your guide, and self-regulate. The first and foremost is to relax. It is necessary to be aware of the breath without controlling it. Also, a body scan is helpful to locate areas of the body that are holding tension. Music, controlling the temperature, and a safe space all can contribute to a more relaxed body which allows a greater release of tension.

Another point is to stay present. It is important to let go of thinking, but to stay grounded and to maintain a mindset of no expectations or attachment to outcome. It is also helpful to avoid distraction, give yourself plenty of time and no judgment of yours or other people’s movements. We all have different patterns of discharge of tension from the body.

Also, remember to follow your guide ‘tag along’ and ’follow the breadcrumbs’. Sometimes it is beneficial to sit up or stand during the tremoring part of the exercise. Placing attention on specific areas of the body with touch, visualization, and breath or body scan to get more information.

Don’t forget to self-regulate. Using a scale of one to ten and only allowing up to twenty minutes tremoring. Tammy taught us to constantly check in with the body and rate what is happening. Typically, if it is a seven or more on a level of discomfort or effort, it is necessary to take a break and to lower the experience. This is done quite simply at any time throughout the process. After the process, we want to notice how we feel by checking in with the body continuing into the next day.

We were then shown the specific TRE exercises. We first work the legs and then move above, tiring the muscles and creating a trembling response. which begins in the legs and often spreads throughout the body. This gentle shaking is actually the nervous system’s way of discharging long-held tension or unconscious muscle contraction. The tremors release tension all over the body and in particular in the Psoas muscle, the main muscle of Fight or Flight. Since the Psoas contracts every time something scary or unpleasant happens, it tends to be tight everybody.

Then we laid down on our mats for about twenty minutes and allowed the body time to release while Tammy came around to check in with each of us, giving us each different feedback depending on what was happening in our bodies.

Relaxing tense muscles and the fascia structure reduces pressure on the spine, neck, shoulders, and pelvis. When tension is released anywhere in the body, the brain registers a reduction in pain signals, producing new hormones that promote healing and a positive mood. After the tremors, I felt completely blissed out, like I was floating. We laid there for a bit relaxing doing nothing and then she taught us grounding exercises to do afterward to keep us centered and clear, for example patting down the body or putting our feet in the water.

The second part of the workshop was comprised of lecture and question and answer. Tammy explained the four reacting scenarios that the body goes through when encountering stress and especially trauma known as fight, flight, freeze, and dissociation. In all of these scenarios the energy does not get released properly and is stored in the body. It tends to be the body’s default system for dealing with stress or trauma. TRE helps to override these scenarios by allowing a natural way for the body to release the stored energy.

She also discussed the different types of trauma: physical, mental, emotional, and energetic and ways to assess stress versus trauma on an arc as one gets more activated we go higher up the arc into the region of trauma.

TRE is highly useful being suitable for all levels of physical fitness as the exercises can be modified to accommodate anybody’s needs. Another great thing about this practice is that once you learn it, you can incorporate in your life and do it by yourself, anywhere and for free. Also, TRE complements many other practices such as yoga and meditation. Many tension patterns and contractions are deep inside the body, often without our conscious awareness that other practices do not necessarily uncover.

Tammy’s method of teaching is highly accessible to anyone new to TRE and also very supportive of continuing a regular practice. It was great to have the opportunity to learn about TRE in depth during my time at New Life Foundation in Thailand.

by Tara Myers

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