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  • Writer's pictureMara Sonntag

How to Release Deep Tension and Trauma in Your Body Naturally

Stress and anxiety sometimes seem to be the “new normal” feelings in our culture. All the unsettling news we see day to day and the uncertainty of the future has exacerbated this since 2020. Throw all of this onto the actual trauma in our individual lives from our present and past circumstances and it's a recipe for a seemingly endless amount of fear, shame, anxiety, and depression.

A few years ago, I was introduced to something that would begin to radically improve the effects of stress in my life. A friend of mine invited me to a TRE session (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises) at her Wellness Center. I went as support for my friend and thought “who doesn’t need to release tension?” I invited two friends to join me. The session began with simple exercises. So simple that I immediately became annoyed and wondered how any tension would be released with these gentle movements. I did the “seven simple exercises” and in the end, laid, as instructed, with my back on the floor, feet on the ground, and knees pointing toward the ceiling. Suddenly, I began to tremor in my legs. I felt a flush of embarrassment that my legs were tremoring, I didn’t know if anyone else’s were. Then, I felt anger. That’s when the TRE Provider/Teacher came over to me to ask how I was doing. She asked everybody this, but I was particularly annoyed that she asked me when I was dealing with so much emotion, which was so unlike me at the time, and it seemed to be coming out of nowhere!

When the tremoring time was over, which I found out was normal in TRE, we laid on our sides and rested. When we were done, I found out my two friends who came with me had very different experiences. One had cried in the session, and the other said memories came up that she had not thought of in years, painful memories of when she was in foster care. However, even though we all had different things happen, we all felt better after the session. It’s like when you cry really hard after not crying for a long time, you feel better afterward because you’ve had an emotional release. The next thing I knew, I decided to pick up a flier that advertised “Become a Certified TRE Provider!” Two years and three trips to North Carolina later, I am now a TRE provider!

According to Dr. David Berceli, founder and creator of TRE, hurtful experiences in life can deeply mark us in both our minds and body. The good news though is that even though we can’t change our past, “the most damaging events can become a pathway to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.”

When I spend time with clients I often hear, “This was beyond my expectations” or “Why am I crying? I never cry.” I had a client text me after a session and share that she had burst into tears after I left and then started laughing. I have seen grown men go from very hard and guarded to soft and open emotionally, sharing their feelings and fears, joys and dreams. There’s so much that goes on under the surface of a TRE session, but the main thing I see after each session is that each person feels better after their own unique internal process brought on by TRE. When my husband and I were dating, he came over for a date night and was so stressed from work when he entered my apartment. He was unable to stay present and couldn’t engage in conversation or feel anything but distraction. I asked if he would do TRE with me, he had done it before, but not when he was stressed. Reluctantly, he said “yes” and we tremored for 12 minutes. When we were done he was grounded, present, funny, full of joy, and literally could not believe TRE “worked.” It’s like he just needed to “process his emotions” by shaking out his body and then was able to be present with me and let go of his work. I’m not kidding, I’m constantly amazed by TRE! The reason there are such changes in your body and you feel less tense (causing you to feel more joyful and free) is because TRE specifically works with the nervous system and the ventral vagal. It’s where our Fight, Flight, and Freeze response comes from. When our nervous system is dysregulated, which just happens in life, we can feel stress, agitation, frustration, shame, hopelessness, etc. in our bodies and minds. To see this more clearly, a chart has been made called The Polyvagal Theory. The black curve is a way to “map” your own nervous system. Your body’s nervous system is meant to literally shake out deep patterns of muscular tension and return to a state of relaxation when you do TRE.

As you review the chart, take note and see where your emotions fall. It is natural to feel emotions throughout the chart, however, if most of your time is spent in the fight, flight, or freeze sections, this is an indication that your nervous system has an opportunity to be regulated and TRE can help connect your body and mind by using your body’s natural tremor mechanism to help retrain your nervous system to the parasympathetic state, which is responsible for rest and digest, and social engagement, among other processes. I’ve learned so much about the nervous system through this process. For example, in different seasons of life, I need TRE more: during my wedding planning season, when I started a new job, after an argument. I normally do TRE at least once a week or every other week during times when I am in slower seasons of life. However, TRE also helps my body recover faster after workouts. I was trained in TRE with a woman who teaches CrossFit, and she began having all of her athletes do TRE afterward so their muscles could recover faster. I also have had the privilege of working with adults who have been trafficked, young girls who have been to the juvenile detention center, and the mentors who work with them. I have watched them cry and then process their emotions with a counselor and get a level of healing they never thought possible. What I have learned throughout my time in TRE is that HOPE and healing are possible when it comes to our emotions. I have also learned that the time I need to do TRE the most, is when I want to do it the least. For example, I had neck pain for a year largely due to stress. My chiropractor told me I need to figure out what’s stressing me out and stop it! I was shocked by his bold directness. It wasn’t too long after that I found TRE and decided to be trained in it. For my certification process, I had to do TRE myself three times a week and write about it. During that time my neck muscles loosened, I had more peace through the day and I honestly grew in gratefulness. I have heard the quote from renowned functional medicine Doctor Mark say that “Our thoughts have a profound physiological effect on the body and can either help or hinder the healing process.” Through TRE, I can confidently say my mind has changed into one that is more positive.

If you would like to try TRE, I normally recommend five sessions before going off and doing it on your own. My website, is where you can sign up or have a phone call with me to see if TRE is right for you. And no matter what you choose in life, may you always know that your life matters and nothing from your past can keep you from a future filled with joy and peace.


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