TRE stands for Trauma/Tension Release Exercises. Up until last month, I had never heard of it. But I had it recommended to me, as mentioned in this post here. Then, when my yoga teacher’s email newsletter announced she would be doing a Yoga/TRE workshop, it just felt like it was meant to be and I signed up straight away!
TRE is simply a series of exercises that activate the body’s ability to shake, or tremor. These tremors release muscular tension and have a calming effect on the nervous system. This effect is used a lot in nature, where you will see a buck- that has been chased and nearly eaten by a lion- shaking uncontrollably for a bit- and then calmly joining the herd and eating grass, as if nothing has happened. I have certainly noticed that my dog, Benji, shakes uncontrollably at the vet. Up until now, I have just felt terribly sorry for him when this happens, but now I realise he is actually rather fortunate to have this way of “getting his nervousness out”, whereas I – in similar, scary circumstances- would suppress all the trembling and nervousness I may be feeling and store it all as muscular tension. So, effectively, TRE aims to make me more like Benji!
The workshop consisted of 2 hours of yoga and then an hour of TRE (but only actually tremoring for about 15 minutes). There were about 6 participants in the workshop and then the 2 teachers. The yoga part was lovely and time just flew by. I am finding yoga beautifully healing and calming, so it is a treat to have more yoga than usual this week!
Then came the TRE part.
There are a series of very simple exercises that one needs to follow which seemingly prepare the muscles for going into the tremoring. They felt almost too simple, especially compared with the yoga, but we all did them dutifully. The last one before lying on the mat involved sitting with your back against the wall. We had done this during my very first yoga class, and I had noticed then that this caused my legs to shake (specifically my quads).
We then had to lie on our mats, and, starting with the soles of our feet touching and our knees as wide as they can go, you slowly bring your knees up and at some point – very weirdly- your legs start shaking. For some of the time, I was not sure if I was MAKING my legs shake, or if it was involuntary (as I think it is meant to be), and from time to time they stopped shaking. To reactivate the tremor, you just need to open your knees and start raising them slowly again. If the tremoring feels too much, you lie your legs out straight and it will stop.
It felt a little arbitrary- I was not sure what I should be feeling/that I was doing it “right”/what exactly was going on, but the feeling was not unpleasant, just a bit strange. Our teacher had warned us beforehand not to have “tremor envy” and I did notice that the people who were not new to TRE seemed to be tremoring a lot more vigorously than I was! So perhaps one develops this new skill with time.
We were told to drink lots of water and try to have as gentle a day as we could afterwards. I left feeling not at all sure of the benefits of the practice.
But then, 2 things happened that made me think, perhaps the effect has been a lot bigger than I realised!
The first thing that happened, is that Sophie dropped a glass- that smashed to the floor right next to me- and I didn’t even jump. Now, normally, I am a very jumpy person. My standard reaction to that happening would be to physically jump (or at least tense my shoulders), and then scream/shout at the person who had given me the fright, as no doubt, adrenalin pumps through my system. I didn’t flinch. I just said calmly- “that is OK”, and Sophie and I picked up the pieces of glass and cleaned the floor.
That is pretty amazing on its own. But there’s more!
My sleep last night was beautifully deep and restorative. Truly blissful. I am not feeling terribly stressed or anxious at the moment- without a job my life is as calm as it can possibly be- but to be able to feel that relaxed, was revelationary.
So, despite some initial misgivings during and directly after my first experience of TRE, I URGE you to try it for yourself. It could be mind-altering and life-changing and I, for one, am booking a private session and I can’t wait for more! For those of you also in Cape Town, please click on this link to find a practitioner near you.