TREmbling experience

  By Mallika Chaulagain

Communication and Research Uptake Officer


There is not a single person in this world today who is free from all the stresses life has to offer. But how many of them realize the presence of stress and decide to do something about it? Just like physical health and fitness,exercises can be done to boost our mental health, peace and well-being. TRE is one of those exercises.

Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) is a set of innovative exercises, backed by research, which are performed to reduce stress, release tension and heal trauma. These exercises enable the body to naturally shake away stress, tension and trauma in an intentional and controlled manner. It was created by Dr. David Berceli, PhD, who is an international expert in the areas of trauma intervention and conflict resolution.

I first came across this exercise while attending a project closing event of TPO Nepal. I watched the entire process of TRE for the first time in my life, while simultaneously clicking pictures of the participants. The beginning looked like any regular stretching exercises, but during the last step, participants had to lie down on the floor allowing the tension to release. Their legs began to tremble, which was hard to believe, almost as if they were shaking it themselves.

On February 2, 2018, I got to participate in the TRE session myself, when Joan McDonald, an expert on TRE came to TPO Nepal for the supervision of TRE facilitators. I volunteered to participate, thinking that it was going to be a wonderful experience.

Our facilitator started the session by giving brief introductions about TRE. She explained about how all animals have some sort of intrinsic ability to recover from any shock, fear or excitement by shaking their bodies. We humans have that ability too, we just learned to suppress it over time because trembling was frowned upon in social circles, often labelled as signs of weaknesses, leading to pent-up emotions and stress. TRE exercises safely activate a natural reflex mechanism of shaking or vibrating that releases this stress, calming down the nervous system.

The exercises consisted of seven steps. The initial six steps focused on grounding as well as stretching and putting pressure on the ankles, calves, thighs and psoas muscles gradually.

The last step was to lie down on the floor. That’s when the trembling started. It felt like my legs and hands were moving of their own accord. Blood rushed to my cheeks making me feel warm throughout my body. Our facilitator kept on checking us individually to see what was happening during the tremors, making us aware and encouraging to communicate about anything we may have felt. The tremor lasted for about 10 minutes and felt extremely soothing. I had only experienced these tremors a few times before in my life, especially before exams and interviews. I didn’t know back then that this was my body’s way of naturally getting over the fright.

After the session, it felt like every tension had been wiped clean with a magical sponge from my body and mind, thus making me believe in the power of TRE.

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