Trauma Release Exercises, Bioenergetics and Qigong

Trauma release exercises (TRE ) are a a form of physical exercises to increase the tremor reflex,  a natural response for releasing the muscular tension that accompanies stress and trauma. 

While I was in Florida recently doing my workshops, I talked to an old friend Sherry Mills about these exercises.  David Berceli, MD, the founder of TRE, had asked her to develop the certification program, which she worked on for over seven years. These exercises are very similar, sometimes identical, to bioenergetic exercises. Sherry confirmed that Dr. Berceli had in fact consulted with  Dr. Alexander Lowen, founder of bioenergetics, about developing these exercises.  Lowen was very supportive.  Both TRE and bioenergetic exercises help develop the tremor reflex or muscle vibration that releases tension. “Good vibrations” as the song goes.

TRE has been very successful. Even the Department of Defense has done some research on them. to deal with PTSD. While the exercises have spread around the world, especially in Europe, Asia and Africa,  they’ve been slow to develop a following in the USA. It is interesting to note there are also three times as many bioenergetic therapists in Europe as in the USA, which seems to highlight the lack of interest for this kind of body oriented work in this country, although interest is growing. 

Another method, spontaneous qi gong, developed out of the Chinese qi gong tradition, does much the same thing, working with shaking and moving the body to develop spontaneous releases of tension and emotion. In China people do this openly in the parks. 

So all these methods move to the same objective—to develop the  “shaking dog” response. In the cartoons,  the dog gets out of the scary situation and he starts to shake until he’s done, and then trots away as if nothing had happened. This is a natural mammalian response to stress and trauma. Over the span of human existence, people have developed ways to initiate this natural response.  In our rational and scientific age, we left these methods behind. But in current times,  we are beginning to rediscover this response —to free up the body so can continue living fully in the world.