You know when you are so relaxed, you just want to stay in that space and relish it? Sink deeper into it. So calm, so quiet, so wonderfully present.
That is how I felt at the end of my first TRE® session with Sae Kani. On a rainy afternoon, while the skies crackled, I was shaking and tremouring on the floor. Not because the thunder was triggering a traumatic response. On the contrary, I was releasing stress, tension, and trauma that remained unresolved in my system.
TRE stands for Trauma Release Exercises, a series of seven simple physical movements designed to allow the natural completion of survival responses.
Stress is a reality in life and artificial stimulation from cell phones, man-made noises, and chemicals, for example, further trigger our nervous system. Some nervous systems are more sensitive and some people more hypervigilant. For a myriad of reasons, including social conditioning, humans in general have “lost” the body’s natural ability to release, like animals still do. When we are told to go “shake it off” there is truth to that. Shaking it off is a primal mechanism for the body to release stress and trauma. TRE is good for this, and for building resilience.
Resolution, or the completion of the survival response, comes when a sense of safety is internally reset. When we are in an emergency, the body takes over, and likewise the body, not the logical mind, returns us to this state of being.
We feel grounded, in the body, and connected. When we feel unsafe, many people dissociate, to separate from their feelings (because it is too much) and from themselves in all that means and implies. This shows up as vacant eyes, disinterest in life, low emotional intelligence, disengagement, and more.
A sense of safety and security, through healthy attachment for example, is key to a healthy, resilient, and responsive nervous system. Evolution means that those of us alive are here because our ancestors were “nervous” enough to dodge predators and other threats to survival, and also resilient enough to reproduce and pass on their genes. As research shows, we are also the product of transgenerational trauma, an important dimension to our well-being in an increasingly stressful world. The question is, do we all have the tools to release this collective and build-up of tension to birth future generations of healthy happy and productive adults?
In an impromptu session with Sae, I once again experienced the power of TRE. I was lucky to have been introduced to it by a somatic experience practitioner friend and had the opportunity to sit down with the founder of TRE Dr David Berceli (read the interview with Dave to find out why I love TRE and all the good work he’s doing in war and disaster zones, for both the victims and the perpetrators to shift the environment).
I could feel myself coming back into my physical self in the session and when the shaking started, it was glorious. Seriously. At first, you may wonder if your body would ever shake and release and when it does start, you may wonder if you are doing it consciously. Just breathe, and enjoy the pulsations travelling through the body.
Sae led me through the exercises and used strategic hand placements to invite deeper and more expansive tremours, allowing time for integration, before a second round of shaking. Integration is important. A trained practitioner ensures that a person is not dissociating or flooding or shaking too much. While it is helpful to shake often, those with a deep or major challenge is advised to shake once every few days ((or even once a week) to allow integration on the amygdala, limbic, and neocortex levels and that takes time.
It all starts with the psoas, the deep muscle that connects the upper and lower body, the pelvis to the back. In a survival response, the psoas muscle tightens and moves us into a ball, protecting our vital organs and making our spine more resilient. The fetal position essentially. When the psoas muscle is stretched, the brain is signalled that it is safe and tremors begin. We do not shake while in trauma. In fact, we do not do much that does not support fight, flight, or freeze. This means our immune system, digestion, and reproductive capacity are all out the window during emergencies and remember, many people are in some level of constant fight, flight, freeze at all times! Unpack that.
Once the tremors start, this further reinforces the brain that it is safe and when the pelvis region relaxes as a result, neurogenic responses are seen throughout the nervous system, in the wrists, arms, neck, back, and so on. For many people, Sae comments, the heart centre is closed off, and that area is likely the last to shake. Shaking in this region, is a pulsation. Think, a wave rolling through your entire body, dancing, releasing, uncoupling the links to the trauma.
This is not to say that TRE is only for trauma. Saying it is just a stress management tool is reductive as well. TRE builds resilience. TRE shifts the state of being from an activated sympathetic nervous system to a grounded parasympathetic nervous system. They call that social engagement nervous system. That is when we are present, when we feel what we feel and can understand what others feel. This, Sae says, is what makes humans human. We are fundamentally heart-centred and through releasing trauma, we can stop ravaging ourselves and others. Sae’s vision for her work with TRE is global. TRE could help shift the world and give peace a real chance. Humanitarian work has been her dream since she was 14 years old. Of course, she says, it starts with one individual, one family, one community, and it ripples out. As a species we can shake out our personal, tribal, and collective trauma. After that, who knows what is possible.
Speaking of shifts, my friend said he felt a palpable change in energy during my session. He felt the calm and an uplift in energy. That was with one person, in less than 15 minutes.
And that night? I slept great, and was rested the next morning.
side note: I am currently going through divorce proceedings and understandably more stressed than usual. I would suggest anyone going through relationships issues or the ending of relationships to connect with Sae to help release the tremendous stress of this challenging life event, and the tension that comes from holding it together, especially if you have kids and other dependents for whom you want to be a stable and reliable force. A personal session would be very supportive and the way to go for anyone going through tough times as the practitioner will ensure you are not “over-releasing” to help with a smooth integration. Sae also offers couple sessions; these can help improve intimacy and connection.
Sae Kani specializes in post-disaster management, life coaching, facilitation, and training. a TRE Globally Certified Provider, Certified Integral Coach, and the co-founder of Humanitarian Support Asia. Her expansive and deep experience of working with over 600 people throughout Asia with stress and trauma places her uniquely as a bridge, with an eye on helping improve people’s individual lives as well as global change. Sae spends her time offering humanitarian services and teaching TRE worldwide. Originally from Japan, Sae has lived in the UK, Indonesia, Thailand, East Timor, and Nepal.
Sae Kani visits Singapore regularly to offer TRE workshops and private sessions (individual, couple, and family). Contact Gallery Helios at email@example.com to book your private sessions or to sign up for TRE workshops. A weekly supervised practice is also available on Thursdays at Gallery Helios