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The Trager® Approach: The Wellbeing of the Practitioner

by Harry Dalford and Julie Kingston(more info)

listed in trager, originally published in issue 156 - March 2009

Does the treatment of your clients make you tired and drain your energy? Is the complementary therapy you practise easy on your body? Would it be true to say that if you, as a therapist did not feel good in yourself, then you are less able to help your clients?

Before Julie and I were introduced to the Trager Approach, Julie practised as a Yoga Teacher and a massage therapist. Julie often remarked how, after a busy day of bodywork, her hands ached and her body was tired from the physical effort involved in massage. I noticed that as an Aikidoka of 25+ years that a session of Aikido practice would leave me aching for a couple of days afterwards.

Does this sound familiar?

As a Civil Engineer by trade I am a sceptic by nature and need to see, touch and experience something and then investigate it, to find out how and why it works.

The Appeal of Trager Approach

So what is it about the work developed by Dr Milton Trager MD that persuaded me to explore this way of doing things? 

Julie first saw Trager on a BBC programme called Jerry Hall's Gurus and was amazed at the profound and moving effect it had on Ms Hall. Julie wanted to try it for herself and said her first Trager session felt as though she was passively receiving Yoga or Tai Chi. 

When I received my first Trager session from Julie it felt as though she was practising Aikido with my body. Having had the pleasure of Julie's touch when receiving various flavours of Massage and Cranial Sacral Therapy, this 'Trager thing' was something both different and incredible. For both of us the 'feeling' information we received was that of joyful and effortless freedom of movement, deep relaxation and, paradoxically, vitality. 

As practitioners of the Trager Approach we have found an effortless way to move when we work with our clients, as well as in our day-to-day lives. We do not need to put ourselves under strain when we work with clients and it is a remarkable 'feeling' experience for both the giver and receiver of this work.  The physical effort required by the Trager Practitioner is minimal. Part of the training is personal awareness and a reduction in habitual tension that may be held in the practitioner's body. When I give all day 20-minute taster sessions I often feel better at the end of the day than when I started. 

We have also found a friendly supportive organization, and may attend courses in many different countries. Instructors are bi lingual and teach in English as well as their own language.

Without going deeply into the science or esoteric side of how the Trager Approach works, therapists know that 'touch' is a very important part of the physical/mental mechanism that is the mammalian body. In this mechanism we have sensory receptors that pick up information, and in a bio-electrochemical process, this information is sent to the brain, which processes this input and reacts to it.

When a part of your body is held in tension, and this can be habitual tension, that you are hardly aware of, several things happen:
  • The nervous system makes you aware of discomfort, which you can act on, or ignore;
  • The tension in the muscles and joints restricts the flow of bodily fluids and makes it more difficult for cell respiration;
  • Waste products are produced, but disposal is restricted by lack of circulation;
  • Flexibility in the muscle fibres can be lost as the area moves less;
  • Joints held under restriction experience more wear and tear;
  • Discomfort can become pain.
Bodies need movement to function well, and we live in a society where increasingly we move less and then exercise hard for short periods.

Trager Work uses gentle self-care movements that Milton Trager called Mentastics or mental gymnastics, and may be regarded as self-care/awareness/empowerment exercises. These are used both by the practitioner and the client.

Dr Trager found that for people with neurological or physical disorders, simple and gentle, fluid movements, practised within a pain free range, regularly improved function. Part of this process is to ask questions:  What could be easier with this movement?  What could be lighter?  How does it feel?

For example; become aware of your left arm, allow it to hang from your shoulder loosely and imagine your left hand is dangling into a bucket of warm soapy water.  Gently froth up the water with your left hand keeping the arm and wrist loose for no more than 15 seconds.  Pause and allow the arm to dangle for a moment and then ask your self what does the left arm and hand feel like?  How does it compare to the other arm?  How does the left shoulder feel?  If you enjoy that feeling try this exercise when you have been sitting at the computer for a few hours, or carrying heavy shopping, or massaging a client.  Small gentle movement practised regularly, whenever you become aware of discomfort, can make life a lot easier for you.

How Does a Trager Practitioner Translate this to Working with Clients? 

Another part of the Work involves the Practitioner giving physical information via their hands to the body of the receiver.  This is hands-on work using a specialized approach to movement and touch, which is normally performed, on a massage couch. It can also be adapted to a seated or standing position to suit the individual needs of the client.  The relationship between practitioner and recipient is a partnership in which feedback/dialogue is encouraged.  The more information the Practitioner receives verbally, and from the client's body, the more tools are available.

A Trager practitioner attends to the body as a whole, which can mean that while holding the foot or leg the practitioner can also be addressing the neck or the shoulders.  As the song goes, 'the foot bone's connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone's connected to the leg bone, the leg bone's connected etc., etc., etc.' As a therapist I would ask you, 'Would you like to have a therapy that makes you and your clients feel great? 

I have found personally that in my work with clients who have cancer, Trager can bring relief from pain and a chance to feel relaxed, in addition to receiving techniques that the client can use at home or in hospital.  Trager has also worked well with people suffering from chronic anxiety, and the educative part of the process has helped them to manage their own stress and become more self-aware.

Personal Experience

Shortly after I began training in this Work my scepticism began to surface.  The Work felt very pleasant, but was it doing anything and did it work?  Then I had an accident.  During my day job I fell off a roof and crunched myself badly.  I was very lucky; the fall could have been permanently debilitating or terminal.  So I was in hospital for four days and had six weekly physiotherapy sessions over the seven week period.  After eight weeks I was still confined to bed and every movement was painful.  The physios said they had done as much as they could; the doctor was dosing me with painkillers, which were not doing much.  I asked Julie to do some Trager Table work with me and I commenced using the self-care exercises.  Within days I began to move more comfortably and stopped taking the painkillers.  Within a month I was fully fit and back at work as an engineer/surveyor/builder without discomfort.

Deepak Chopra said, "Milton Trager's work will benefit anyone wishing to lead a healthier and more dynamic life''.

According to Deane Juhan (author of Job's Body, a handbook for bodyworkers) "The Trager Approach is the best kept secret in Bodywork".


Juhan D. Job's Body. Barrytown Station Hill. 1987. 2003.
Trager M and Hammond C. Movement as a way to Agelessness. Station Hill. 1987.
Marie A. Trager for Self-Healing. New World Library. 2006.

Further Information

Yam may visit the Trager UK website, for trainings and practitioners and YouTube for a demonstration Alternatively, contact Julie or Harry to experience a Trager session. A session lasts 90 minutes. If you quote 'Positive Heath' Julie and Harry will offer an additional 30 minutes free. They are happy to give talk demonstrations to groups, or run a Self-Care exercise workshop.
Julie Kingston and Harry Dalford are both Licensed Trager Practitioners.


  1. Connie Tanzer said..

    ... I really like your article ... it's time to get back to the wonderful work of Milton ... For some reason I was taken away ... wish I could assist a seminar sometime in the near future. And maybe one day our paths will cross again! (I did level 3 in the U.K with Hedi)
    One question: do you work with musicians?
    Looking forward to hearing from you ...
    Kind regards
    Connie ( from Duesseldorf/ Salzburg )

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About Harry Dalford and Julie Kingston

Harry Dalford BEng(Hons) IPTI LTP is a former Paratrooper, sky-diver, skin-diver and rock-climber who practises and teaches Aikido. He is a self-employed, Engineer/Surveyor/Builder and practises Trager in the self-built studio he shares with his partner of 15 years Julie Kingston. He is the current Chairman of Trager UK, and is also the Trager UK Newsletter Writer/Editor. He may be contacted via Tel: 01483 894741;            

Julie Kingston BA(Hons) LTP BWY MIPTI MICHT IHHT VTCT became a British Wheel of Yoga Teacher in 1993, went on to study CranioSacral Therapy, Life Coaching, Indian Head Massage and Swedish Massage.  She has two grown-up children and practices Trager and other therapies in her home studio. She is also a partner in a drumming company, Drumheads Live organizing community, education and corporate djembe drumming events. She is currently UK representative and the Trager International vice president on the Council of Trustees of Trager International, and has also served on the TUK Board of Directors. She may be contacted via Tel: 01483 894741;

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