What is Trager®?
The Trager® Approach is a form of movement education and mind/body integration, created and developed over a 65-year period by Milton Trager, M.D. The Trager Approach uses gentle movement to create the feeling of freedom and lightness in the body, easing pain, reducing stress, increasing mobility and balance, releasing habitual patterns, improving athletic performance, and supporting a greater feeling of awareness and well-being. It does so through hands-on work that elicits positive feeling experiences, rather than engaging old patterns and resistance. These feeling experiences send positive sensory signals to the mind, teaching it what it feels like to move in an effortless way.
Dr. Milton Trager was a boxer, a gymnast, a man known in his youth for the acrobatics he and his brother, Sam, performed every Sunday on the beaches in Miami. One Sunday, Sam said, “Let’s see who can jump the highest.” Without thinking, Milton replied, “Let’s see who can land the softest. What can be softer?” Milton speaks of that experience saying, “This simple question opened up my mind to new possibilities of how to perform other movements in an effortless manner. To jump high takes force. One must build up a physical feeling and give it all one has to perform that movement. This is effort. To land softly means that one must ask, utilizing one’s mind to direct the movement, questions such as “What is softer and what can be softer than that? What is lighter and lighter and even lighter than that?”
This space of questioning is a hallmark of the Trager Approach. It is in this conscious awareness and questioning space that Trager practitioners work, asking “What is freer? How could it be easier? And what is easier than that?” Milton continued asking these questions and spent the rest of his life exploring the effects of gentle movement on the nervous system, developing The Trager Approach, and later teaching his work at an age when most are looking to retire.
“Every shimmer of tissue is sending a message to the unconscious mind in the form of a positive feeling experience. It is the accumulation of these positive patterns that can offset the negative patterns to where the positive can take over. Nothing can change until the old pattern is broken. ”
Trager is the process of experiencing something lighter, easier, freer and integrating the information into a new way of being.
There are two aspects of the Trager Approach: the tablework and self-care movements known as Mentastics®. During the tablework the client is passive, lying comfortably on a padded table in loose fitting clothing. The practitioner supports and gently moves the body using rocking, swinging, lengthening, spiraling, and shimmering movements. The work can also be received while sitting in a chair. The qualities of effortlessness and ease signal to the mind new, positive ways of moving and feeling.
Joe Lee Griffin, Ph.D., a retired Trager Practitioner, shares his experiences saying:
“Life is movement. When you are hurt, sick, or stop movement for other reasons, the neural circuits that operate your body become less effective through loss of practice. Too much, too little, or unbalanced muscle tension can result. Gentle rhythmic movement of your comfortably supported body gives your functional mind sensory information about where your body parts are and how they feel and move.”
The Trager Approach invites the body and mind to explore a lighter way of being through movement. Tension patterns may develop through poor posture, repetitive actions, injury, illness, hereditary factors, and/or the stress of daily life. As your body and mind yield to feeling effortless movement, physical and mental blocks begin to dissipate, unneeded tension is released, movement becomes easier, and new movement patterns become possible. Because the work is so gentle, never engaging resistance or forcing movement, Trager cultivates openness, while facilitating a deep relaxation, increased physical mobility, and mental clarity.
New movement patterns and qualities of lightness and freedom are supported and further integrated through the instruction and use of Mentastics, an expression Milton Trager and his wife, Emily, coined meaning “mental gymnastics.” Mentastics are simple, active, mentally directed self-care movements which the client and practitioner explore together during sessions, and which clients can do on their own at home or during daily activities to recall the lightness and freedom felt during the table work and to further integrate the work.
“The mind is the whole thing. That is all I’m interested in. I am convinced that for every physical non-yielding condition there is psychic counterpart in the unconscious mind, corresponding exactly to the degree of the physical manifestation. The purpose of my work is to break up these sensory and mental patterns which inhibit free movement and cause pain and disruption of normal function.”
In his book “Job’s Body,” Deane Juhan so beautifully states:
“The skin is no more separated from the brain than the surface of a lake is separated from its depths…….To touch the surface is to stir the depths.”
NOTE: The Trager Approach does not involve treating or diagnosing any disease, nor is it a substitute for medical attention. The Trager Approach uses the feeling of comfortable, rhythmic movement to educate your functional mind to release unneeded tension and balance needed tensions. When there is any indication of physical or mental disease, we recommend that a physician be consulted before you receive Trager sessions. For further information on the Trager Approach, please visit the United States Trager Association’s website.