Thursday evening I had my first (of three) TRE workshops. TRE (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises), if you haven’t heard of it, consists of a set of exercises designed to provoke tremors deep in the body. This can provide both a physical and emotional release. I had heard about it from the mind-body therapist I work with every couple of weeks, and when a class was offered nearby, I decided to try it.

I went in to the class feeling pretty low, well, very low actually. I’d been experiencing lots of strange body sensations and confused thinking, though I couldn’t link any of it to anything in particular.

The class was held in a yoga studio I hadn’t visited before, and I was relieved to see there were no other classes happening at the same time. It felt quieter and more private that way. The students were 12 white women, ranging in age from probably 25 to maybe 60. (I notice this and am reminded again that one thing I’d like to do is create a place that offers accessible and affordable body work and healing to a wider range of people.) I settled near the wall, in a corner, as far from the teacher and the center of the room as I could.

When the teacher began by talking about how TRE was developed and what it was designed to do, I observed myself thinking: Yeah, sounds good, but I bet it won’t work for me. I won’t be able to induce the tremors, or they won’t do me any good. I noticed those thoughts and shook my wiser self awake to help. She told me, Okay, you are doubting whether this will work. It might not. But let’s just try and see.

So I went through the series of initial exercises designed to bring some fatigue to the large muscles in the lower half of the body. Then the teacher demonstrated how to start the tremor and how we could control the intensity, slow it down and even stop it if we wanted to.

I lay down to try it. With my feet flat on the floor I drew my knees closer together, and almost instantly, my legs were shaking–big, dramatic, intense.

I had my eyes closed. Suddenly, I saw a man’s face in front of me, large; one size of his face, eye, eyebrow, and the nose very close to me. This shifted quickly to a face missing an eye, and a few moments later, to a skeleton. The images were threatening, but I could observe them without feeling afraid.

The scene in my head shifted again, this time to the scene in Steven’s apartment that horrible night. Same place, same people, but instead of acquiescing, I was protesting. Really protesting, telling him that it was my body and I wasn’t going to allow him to hurt me. I was powerful and unafraid. Meanwhile my body was continuing to shake, hard. Most of the tremor was in my thighs, with some in my hips.

And then the scene from Steven’s apartment faded away, and I wasn’t seeing anything in particular anymore. I just felt as if something was falling away from me. I almost wanted to laugh–it felt so good. The teacher told us to rest, so I did, but then I quickly returned to provoking the tremor again. Something was getting released. I found I could move my knees closer together or farther apart and control the speed of the tremor. It was incredible. I felt I needed to keep going, keep going, there was something I was trying to reach that I couldn’t quite get to. Then the teacher said to stop. Don’t overdo it, she said. It is possible to go past release to a place where you overly agitate yourself. Take your time and explore the right amount for you. We’ll do it again.

So I stopped. It was easy; stopping worked exactly as she had described. We rested for a time in savasana. Then we sat is a circle and those who wanted to could share what they’d experienced. Some had stopped early because it felt “weird” to them. Some had experienced a very subtle tremor and wondered if that was all right (it was–and subtle tremors can yield plenty of benefits, she said).

For me, what I felt physically was an openness in my pelvis that I don’t think I’ve felt since before my hysterectomy last April; that in itself was great. But to me the amazing piece, the piece I am still examining with surprise and wonder, was the emotional release. I feel I can breathe more deeply. I don’t stopped thinking I’m so bad, though it was been my predominant thought for the past couple of days. I don’t feel any urge to hurt myself.

Will it last? Was it a fluke? Will the relief grow over time, as the teacher says it often does? Was it just the novelty of the experience that moved me? I have no idea. I hope it will turn into a tool that I can use on a regular basis. I notice that despite last evening’s remarkable experience, I am clinging to some skepticism. But I also notice a little bit of hope has crept in to keep that skepticism company.

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