Human Face

Post-‘Yolanda’ trauma/tension releasing exercise

/ 09:47 PM February 05, 2014

“Hurricanes destroy earthquakes shatter, war rips apart, economies collapse, businesses go bankrupt, people die. This is the way of the world. Human suffering is based on wanting to change the things that have happened and wanting to change people. When we understand that the only thing we can change is our response to people and the ways of the world, we can begin to find peace, we can be powerful people even in the midst of chaos and adversity.”

This can sum up the desiderata of Chris Balsley, an American corporate coach and Tension/Trauma Releasing Exercise (TRE) expert who, with his team of trainers, is in the Philippines for a month to help survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” The team is giving free training to Filipinos so that TRE can reach more people whose trauma needs to be addressed. The training lasts for three days, followed by one to two days of practicum for those who will be dispatched to the field.


TRE was brought to the country by Human Capital Development.

I participated in the last of the three days of Batch 1. I got to experience the entire menu and was with those who already had two “shaking” days. I, too, had my own shaking experience. More on this later.


I read up on TRE before interviewing Balsley ( I wanted to be a participant, not just an observing journalist. Having a psychology background, I am not a stranger to body and mind exercises, meditation, awareness and wellness seminars, even altered state of consciousness (ASC) experiences.

TRE is quite different in that it focuses mainly on the physical. Begun by Dr. David Berceli, TRE has been widely used to treat war veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and survivors of the Haiti earthquake and the Japan tsunami.

Although not physically present at our session, Berceli was on video to explain to us how TRE developed.

Berceli, who once volunteered as Mother Teresa’s driver in Calcutta, was in Beirut years ago when he found himself among individuals of different nationalities and races in the midst of bombings. Almost all of them had the same reaction to the danger: crouching and shaking. To make a long story short, Berceli later did studies and experiments that showed how human beings and animals reacted to and released tension.

A TRE video shows a polar bear shaking in the snow after recovering from a tranquilizing shot from wildlife workers.

Explains Berceli: “TRE exercises elicit shaking in a controlled and sustained manner. When evoked, this shaking, also called neurogenic tremors, begins to release deep chronic muscular tension held within the body. They come from the center of gravity of the body which is protected by the psoas muscles. When shaking is evoked at this powerful center of the body, it reverberates through the entire body, traveling along the spine, releasing deep chronic tensions from the sacrum to the cranium.

“When tension is released anywhere in the body, the brain registers a reduction in pain signals and produces new hormones for relaxation and comfort. Often this release of tension is much like receiving an internal massage.”


Balsley says TRE is ideal for people who have undergone trauma because “unlike talk therapy, TRE does not require them to revisit their traumatic experience while they are being given an effective way to let go of stress and tension.” Surprisingly, during our big group sessions, several participants said their long repressed experiences of abuse surfaced—to their relief, it seemed. If I may add, they can finally confront these and find closure with a therapist’s help. A man’s arthritic finger got unlocked, while a woman felt her gift to heal was reignited.

TRE does not adhere to any spirituality or religion. It is a science-based exercise. But practitioners are free to adapt it to their belief systems or physical disabilities. TRE consists of six simple exercises that help individuals release tension from the muscles, which then eases anxiety in the mind by evoking a muscular shaking process in the body.

On my first exercise, while I was flat on my back, with my feet positioned in a certain way, my lower limbs went into involuntary shaking. A trainer was beside me. When my shaking was fully on, Chris came over and asked me to give the answer to 2×2 and 8×8. I answered correctly. He said this meant I was fully aware, I was not in a trance. My shaking was a body thing and my thinking mind was at work.

We had a couple more exercises after that, in between videos and short lectures on the science behind it all. The alpha, beta, delta, gamma, theta states, how we are wired, the frequencies we emit, etc. We each had a guidebook to use.

Like in the video clips we viewed, there was also a variety of shaking and “sound effects” among participants: fine, pronounced, quiet, loud. Laughter, even. Indeed, there is science in the saying “Shake the blues away.”

During a discussion, I raised the fact that since TRE sessions in ravaged areas will be in halls without walls, how will the involuntary shaking look to the locals? How will TRE be explained in the local language? Would shaking mean panginginig, pagkurog or pangingisay?

Whatever TRE may look like, it is not hypnosis, exorcism or ASC, so the better for it to be explained well in places where spirit-possession or hysteria has been reported and where superstition thrives. It is important for TRE trainers to be “grounded” in the milieu.

More free TRE training will be held in Metro Manila, Tacloban, Bohol, Iloilo, Cebu and Zamboanga. Visit www. or contact [email protected], 6344478, 09062256181, 09479389834.

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TAGS: Disaster, Human Face, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, opinion, Tension/Trauma Releasing Exercise, TRE, Yolanda
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