This article was written by Sylvia Benoist.

(Note from Steve: Sylvia recently completed her training as a TRE – Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises – supervisor (mentor with me), and I asked her to share her journey with TRE and Ankylosing Spondylitis, a type of arthritis that causes inflammation in the joints and ligaments of the spine. We are pleased to announce a one year TRE training in Nice, France starts Oct 2024. with Steve and Sylvia.)

In March 2015 I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a type of arthritis that causes inflammation in the joints and ligaments of the spine.

My illness came very quickly and was fairly aggressive. Not much was explained to me about the illness other than there was no cure, and that at this point only medication would help alleviate the pain and slow the illness down. 

So I was given a cocktail of about 6 pills to take everyday from anti-inflammatory tabs to Methotrexate which actually is a chemotherapy drug. For somebody who barely took a headache tablet this was a hard pill to swallow, literally!

On a bad day, I would barely manage to move out of my bed, my husband would have to carry me to the bath and wash me. On a good day, I would drag my aching body around my home unable to work or function properly. On top of it, I developed hectic anxiety. I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, my mind racing, I wanted to pace around my bedroom like a caged animal. 

I really thought I was going mad. I started to be scared of being in public in case I had a panic attack. Those were very dark days.

Luckily I went to see this amazing homeopath one day, who was also a functional doctor. He explained to me that my illness was an autoimmune condition and what it meant physiologically. Yes there was a genetic component to my illness but genetics alone didn’t make me sick. My immune system was on overdrive and was now attacking healthy parts of my body: my joints. 

He also explained my inflammation markers were through the roof, and that to be better I needed to lower those numbers. I had a lot of time on my hands as I wasn’t working anymore and I researched many alternative practices which could help me. One answer was to work with a diet to help lower this inflammation. 

The other one came from a book. The book mentioned the link between trauma and illnesses, this spoke to me straight away. It also mentioned a method called TRE created by Dr David Berceli.

So I wanted to know more about TRE, and trauma work. One thing led to another and I enrolled into TRE training. I was then managing my illness with medication and a change of diet which was starting to help lower my inflammation markers.

During my TRE training I learnt about the functioning of the Autonomic Nervous System. Although a complex system, I loved the way it could also be explained easily to me. I love the image of the nervous system being your watchdog checking for danger. It collects information from the outer world but also from your inner world, it is known as Neuroception.

I learnt about the Polyvagal Theory. In simple terms, when your ANS senses danger it has 2 survival strategies to mobilise, commonly known as ‘fight-or-flight’, pumping your body with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to get your muscles ready to fight or run away. 

The second strategy is to immobilise, commonly known as the ‘freeze’ response. 

When there is no perceived danger, the ANS is on its baseline happy, calm and socially engaged with the world.

Those survival strategies are very useful and have served us for a very long time. They were meant to be quick responses to an actual threat. The problem arises when the ANS gets stuck in those defence strategies. For example, if it perceives danger all the time and wants you to run all the time, it will keep pumping adrenaline and cortisol into your body which will create inflammation over time.

Learning about the physiology of trauma during my TRE training helped me understand how my past traumas would have got my ANS to be stuck in this hyper vigilant state, never feeling safe. Over the years this caused the inflammation now present in my body. 

So now could I reverse this? Knowing TRE helped my nervous system to regulate, could it be a tool to help my body find its health back.

Once I understood all of this process, I was super excited to get going with my practice. The nice thing about doing TRE for me was this innate feeling that my body knew what to do, yes it was surprising and at times bizarre even, but somehow I felt the tremors were “good for me”. It is a reflex of the body and I could actually feel that.

I was also learning to trust my body, I felt, and still feel, so grounded after each session, more connected to myself. I could also see a direct effect on my inflammation markers which was amazing.

Don’t get me wrong – this wasn’t a quick fix, It was a slow process and I had to be patient. My body would get tired quickly at the beginning, and I couldn’t shake for 20 minutes. 

I had to learn to listen to my body, and stop when it “told” me to. I had to learn to be kind to myself and also to be curious about what was happening. Going slow and learning not to push my body too much was key to this process. 

I realised that working with years of complex traumas and feeling of being unsafe could not be done overnight.

My nervous system had to learn to regulate, like any new skills it takes practice, patience and compassion. I learnt to trust this and that my body would find its way back to health in its own way and time if I gave it the right tools. And it did.

TRE has been a very empowering tool in my life, on top of the evident benefit of managing my illness without medication or pain, it has also brought me the soothing concept that I was never mad, bad or broken to start with. Working within a trauma informed world has been hugely humbling and empowering and I could not wait to share this practice around me.

BIO: Sylvia Benoist, TRE Mentor

Originally from France, I’ve had the chance to travel and live for many years in London and Cape Town. My life took a drastic turn when I was diagnosed with 3 auto-immune conditions, it was the beginning of a hard but wonderful healing journey. It was during that time I discovered the link between childhood traumas and chronic illnesses. I knew I had to find somatic methods to help me regulate my nervous system, to help reconnect myself to my body and understand what was happening to my whole organism.

It is in London I came across TRE® and I only needed one session to understand and feel my body in a whole new way. I was then already studying Sophrology and TRE became the perfect practice to deepen my studies and my understanding of the effects of trauma on the body. I am passionate to help other people on their own healing journey.


Upcoming Trainings with Steve Haines: 

Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE®)
TRE intro days:
London: 20 May, 15 Jul, 23 Sep, 18 Nov

New TRE 1 year training:
London: starts June 2024
Nice: starts Oct 2024 – with Sylvia Benoist (English with French translation). 

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST)
The Art of Touch 2 year trainings:
London: starts Oct 2024
Galway: join at Sem 2 May 29- Jun 2 2024
Waterford: starts Oct 2024

The Art of Touch intro events:
London (evenings): 9 May, 11 July
Galway (evening): 11 Apr
Waterford (days): 11 May, 29 June