Most meditation techniques suggest that the path to mental peace is one of stillness and quiet contemplation. The latest mindfulness craze is set to shake that idea up. Literally.
TRE (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises) – nicknamed “shaking meditation” – is a practice that uses seven simple exercises to activate a natural tremor mechanism within the body. And it’s popping up in trendy yoga studios across London as the latest way to slay anxiety, emotional blockages and stress.
What is TRE ?
It's surprisingly physical, promising a healthy dose of toning alongside the emotional release. A session starts with some deep stretches to open the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and ankles. The exercises then flow to include a standing backbend, squatting against a wall, swinging the head side-to-side upside down like a pendulum and balancing in a half-chair yoga pose.
It’s in the bridge position – pelvis raised upwards from the floor, and reclining bound angle pose – lying on your back with feet together in a diamond shape, that the tremors really kick in. The shakes continue for at least 15 minutes and travel from the lower back upwards to the torso and arms. Finally, savasana, or corpse pose, offers sweet relief and eases the body after the quaking.
During sessions, people are taught how to switch on tremors, how to pay attention to the feelings generated and also how to stop the tremors. TRE allows the shaking to generate new feelings within and switch off over-active threat-detection systems.
“Shaking releases tight muscles and wakes up our connection to ourselves. Think of it as a reboot to the nervous system, where the involuntary shaking acts as a burst of good news from the shaking muscles straight to the central nervous system,” says Steve Haines – TRE teacher and author of award-winning books Anxiety Is Really Strange, Pain Is Really Strange and Trauma Is Really Strange. “Each time someone shakes, a series of different feelings are triggered.”
How to alleviate anxiety disorders?
More than 60 million people across the EU are affected by anxiety disorders every year. The pressure of modern life is constantly putting our bodies into a defensive mode of “fight-or-flight”, according to Haines. This causes a numbing of physical reality and locks us into our stress responses unwittingly, trapping us in protective patterns – often accompanied by tense muscles and jaw, shallow breathing or racing heart.
“Living with life-or-death responses being triggered by everyday events is exhausting. If we can switch of the threat detector inside us, such that we are not in stress mode all the time, every system in the body will work better,” Haines explains. “We have less unnecessary muscle tension and pain, as we are not braced against life. We can feel safe and think more clearly.”
Ultimately, with skill, practice and the right context, TRE helps to reset the primitive parts of the brain and allows it to work from the present moment. The result is more creativity, better sleep, improved mood and even better digestion of our food, as most food intolerances can be traced back to over-active stress responses.
Writer: Kate Johnson