In Conversation with Ho Kah Keh

Ho Kah Keh is a certified coach and Trauma Release Exercises® Practitioner, a trained vocalist, musician, professional stage performer, and one of the founding partners of Gallery Helios.

He is passionate about working with people to make meaningful changes through coaching. Kah Keh is also excited about offering TRE to people as a tool for stress release, resilience building, and strengthening mental health. In this interview, Kah Keh shares with us what TRE is and what his personal journey has been.


WHAT IS TRAUMA RELEASE EXERCISES?

TRE is learning to release stress built up in our bodies. For most people, it’s a lifetime of accumulation. Most of our stress has been relegated to our unconscious and forgotten in our consciousness. We are often habitually numbed to it. While we may not be aware of it, our bodies remember – that’s where the memories and stress are stored. It shows up, for example, as stubborn tight muscles with limited flexibility.

With TRE we learn to release these stresses gradually. Through this letting go process, we begin to reconnect with ourselves and start to be more aware of our physical bodies and sensations.

What drew you to become a certified practitioner?

The funny thing is that I was initially put off by TRE. It seemed so trivial and I failed to be convinced of its effectiveness. In hindsight I was probably too caught up in my cerebral reasoning, that the implausibility of something so simple being effective.

However, when it was introduced to me again some years later, it clicked. I found it fascinating this notion of tempering the nervous system independent of cognition.  By that time I had been exposed to and was accepting of the idea that deeper work was not dependent on the conscious brain.

I had also become more physically aware of myself and so the experience had changed for me and I started to notice its effects on my nervous system.

What was the most surprising thing for you during the training?

I started with the mindset that the more we shake or the bigger the shake, the better. I also found that each person has a unique signature. We all have a pulse as an organism and we are allowing that to return to our bodies. How we shake can also change. We can even overdo it!

It was also humbling to see how much nervous energy can be jammed in the body.

And for yourself personally?

How much tension I was holding as a result of being my parents’ caretaker. The attitude of expecting the unexpected had my body in chronic flight-or-flight. I had thought it was a good thing, always being ready. Now I know otherwise.

In the TRE training I was still quite cerebral about it whether my body was moving me or was I moving my body. The answer is that it doesn’t matter because sooner or later it will move itself. We are working with a neurogenic response; that is, movement coming from the nervous system. I also found how some parts of my body, like the abdomen, were like a block of wood refusing to budge.  It took a while for my body to go into full abandonment, a process that is still evolving.

How has your personal practice evolved?

From thinking too much to just letting go. Mental analysis tightens my body and constricts my breathing. Now it’s just letting go and letting the shake happen, for it to take whatever form or way it wants. I particularly look forward to the big sigh that creates a big sense of release in the body. This letting go is becoming more enjoyable and calming

Shaking it out sounds so simple. How often do we have to do that?

We suggest three times a week for starters, with a duration of no more than twenty minutes. It can be counterproductive to do it continuously.  

The aim of TRE is to build resilience in the nervous system through opening up and discharging in stages the years of stored tensions. Resilience also helps us deal with stresses from just normal daily living and bigger challenges in a healthier way.

The important thing is to inculcate a practice and listen to your body. The effects of TRE are cumulative. There is no instant fix.

How do you approach TRE with your clients? You are also a coach. Do you incorporate that?

My own feeling is that TRE needs to be practiced regularly over a period of time. This allows the body to settle into some kind of habit. From there, the uncovering process begins.

After the introduction workshop, I like to work with the person one-on-one or in a group at least three or four more times over a period of six to eight weeks. Coaching is part and parcel of the process to support the person’s increased awareness of the physical and emotive states.

Because it is so simple to do, what are some common misconceptions about TRE?

Like so many things that we perceive in our environment, because of its simplicity, we may think that it can’t be any good. Or that its depth of effect is limited. People may then think that because the effects seem small, they want to do TRE all the time.

On the other end of the scale, there is a tendency not to practice on your own. Some may not feel expert enough to trust themselves. That it will not be effective without supervision. They may therefore just want to trust the “experts”. 

I would say that with TRE we must do our homework. In doing so, we are also slowly weaning off our dependence on others all the time while developing our competency in tuning into our own physical self. After all, it is we who inhabit our bodies.

How does TRE help in this stressful world and support fragile mental health?

With greater awareness and calming of the nervous system, resilience is built over time. This allows us to manage what life throws at us more effectively and with increased objectivity and calmness. 

Kah Keh offers one-on-one and group TRE sessions. His TRE Intro & Practice sessions are a great way to learn more about how our nervous system works and how TRE helps to release built up stress and to build resilience over time. For more information or to sign up a private or group session, please email Kah Keh at KahKeh.Ho@GalleryHelios.com or text/Whatsapp +65 9679 3706.

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