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The Trager Approach: What is Trager®?

by Harry Dalford and Julie Kingston(more info)

listed in trager, originally published in issue 160 - July 2009

The Trager Approach is a gentle way to let go of stress, lose pain caused by patterns of habitual tension and to rediscover relaxation.

The gentle rhythmic movements allow the body to let go and move easily. The unique feedback contract between the practitioner and client means that if the Receiver feels any discomfort, then we can find a different way to approach that area, thus even people with chronic pain have reported they can find relief.

The session is a partnership between practitioner and client, and the aim is to work together to bring comfort and ease to body and mind. More importantly, the client can learn simple interventions, in the form of self-care movements, to improve the personal situation on a daily basis. Dr Milton Trager called these 'mentastics' (mental gymnastics), and believed they were as important as the tablework in bringing awareness and ease.

Is it going to be an enjoyable experience, or something where the client grits their teeth and endures the session? Trager is very enjoyable, but don't take my word for it:

"I love my monthly Trager sessions. For me the benefits have definitely been noticeable, particularly – less anxiety, lower blood pressure, better sleep and generally feeling more able to cope with everyday life. Most significantly, I find the benefits to be long lasting."
Denise (62 year old left with some problems after heart bypass surgery)

Dr Milton Trager MD

The Trager® Approach was developed by Dr Milton Trager MD over his lifetime. In his practice he worked with a wide range of people, but had a particular interest in neuro-muscular disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's and Stroke.

This led him to believe that the most important part of the work was reaching the unconscious mind and helping people to become aware of the mind-body link.

Increasing Awareness

  • Increasing awareness of feeling is an important part of the work.
  • What could be easier?
  • What could be lighter?
  • What could be softer?
  • How does it feel?
As Trager practitioners, we ask these questions in a quest to restore a comfortable range of movement to the body. We use soft, fluid and rhythmic movements. Each gentle sculpt, extension or small wave like intervention, reminds the body of how it felt before it met the stresses and strains of life, and recalls what being relaxed feels like.
"I continue to be amazed by the benefits of Trager. I can arrive at a session feeling very stressed, tired and unable to wind down by myself. One and a half hours later, I leave feeling 'lighter', deeply relaxed and, above all, much more able to cope with the stresses of everyday life. 

"I am a 41 yr old single mother of two. I have been a sufferer of anxiety disorder and panic attacks for seven years. Since attending Trager sessions, I have found myself, for the first time in years, really coping with events/work situations that would previously have left me in an anxious state for days. I haven't had a panic attack since my first Trager session."
Lisa

Mind-Body Education

The Trager® Approach is a method of mind-body education designed to reintegrate the awareness of the mind with the sensory input from the body. Often people ignore aches and pains until the body really has to produce pain to get noticed. Trager helps to unlock old patterns of tension, structural misalignment and brings about a deep feeling of ease and peace.

The reconnection to the 'feeling body' and 'recall techniques' enable people to replace feelings of stress with those of pleasure. The whole body is addressed as an integrated unit, and the self-care exercises called Mentastics recreate the feelings experienced on the couch and in the session at home. Remind your body of how it felt before you experienced stress.

The Benefits

  • Increased ease of movement
  • Letting go of habitual areas of tension
  • Improved posture
  • Mental calm and peace
  • Relaxed energy and vitality
  • Letting go of chronic work stress
  • Expanding you comfort zone after being hurt
  • Trusting your body
  • Pleasurable awareness of self

The Main Elements

Tablework

This takes place on a wide massage couch without using oils and lotions. Light clothing can be worn or underwear. There are also options for working from sitting or standing to accommodate those that find lying difficult.

The body is more than the sum of its parts; it is a complex integrated unit, so we work on the whole body.

The movements involve: elongations, sculpting, waves, rocking light bouncing and gently taking the weight of a muscle group to allow passive release.

Sessions can last from 1 to 2 hours, but 90 minutes is the usual amount of time. It is a pleasurable process, and clients often report feeling taller, lighter, relaxed and energized after a session.

Mentastic – Self care Movements

Mentastics is learning a number of simple movements for unlocking the body to help recreate the freedom found during the table work. It empowers the client, because no matter how serious their condition there is something they can do for themselves. Trager for Self Healing by Audrey Mairi has an interesting story by a lady with MS. She found herself paralysed on the bathroom floor, a long way from the telephone, but she used the Mentastics she had learned by recalling the feeling of movement and asking question of her body, until little by little she recovered the feeling in her body enough for her to reach her bed. It gave her a tool to use that also helped her to overcome feelings of panic and helplessness.

Pausing

Pausing can be both the simplest and the most difficult of skills to develop. It is an approach that allows the client and practitioner to check-in see how things are feeling and take some action if necessary.

So for instance, if someone habitually gets tension in the neck muscles from working at the computer, pausing occasionally allows them to monitor how they are feeling and use an appropriate mentastic to release the tension.

Pausing is also important emotionally, as it can enable people to connect to how they are feeling, find their feet and choose how they wish to react. Making pausing and listening a habit can revolutionize relationships and stop the habitual reactions we all tend to have as part of our lives.

Feedback and Recall

It is important for clients to feel comfortable about speaking their 'truth'. If something doesn't feel good they say so, if they really like something and want a little more time on that area, we want to know. Sometimes releasing an area can bring back memories, and part of letting go can be verbalizing those recollections. It is important to us that clients receive the best from a session, so listening and asking is part of the process. We will ask for feedback: how does it feel, what could be softer here, etc.

In order that the mind can begin to integrate what has changed we will ask at the end for the client to explore and recall the feeling. This is an important part of the session and that recall can be used when perhaps the person is not feeling so relaxed or their body isn't working quite as they want it to. Sometimes it is the struggle to put a feeling into words that anchors the positive changes for people. A 7-year old client with cerebral palsy said her legs had felt like hard chocolate from the fridge, and now they felt all warm melted and yummy. Whenever she had cramp and pain she imagined her legs were melting like chocolate.

Hook Up

Milton Trager was one of the first people to be introduced to transcendental meditation in America as his wife was the secretary to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of Beatles fame. Milton believed that one of the most important parts of the work was for the practitioner to be in an open and receptive state, an open eyed meditation which he called Hook Up. The success of Trager for him was to 'hook-up' to the universal energy and allow the mind to dwell softly, without effort, in the present moment and to transfer that peaceful gentle feeling to the person on the couch. Although a medical doctor, his intention was not to 'fix' people, but believed that healing could happen if the practitioner got out of the way and stayed in a gentle questioning state of mind.

What Happens in a Session?

YouTube video of a Trager session:  http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=3xjaWm66-tY  
Like most practitioners of any discipline, we will start by taking take a medical history.
It isn't advisable to have a session if you have had a major operation in the last 3 to 6 months in the first or last trimester of pregnancy. Check with the practitioner if you have specific concerns.

Practicalities

  • The client can wear light clothing such as shorts and singlet. It is better not to wear something with a collar or thick or shiny material. Underwear is also OK
  • Jewellery, particularly earrings tends to get in the way;
  • The session is usually about 90 minutes and for a first session 2 hours is recommend;
  • A session includes asking for feedback and includes self-care movements and tablework in any combination that suits the circumstances.

How Often Should I have a Session?

There is no set time frequency and it depends on the reason for the visit.

A Final Word

Trager is about feeling and being aware that mind and body are structured by our senses; describing a feeling is not always easy.
Milton Trager said:
Not until we experience it, Is it more than just words
After we experience it, there is no need for words
The value of words is to stimulate the desire to experience.
The best way to understand Trager is to experience it; practitioners can be found on the Trager UK website www.trager.co.uk  or www.trager.com  for the rest of the world.

Bibliography

Trager for Self healing, Audrey Mairi, ISBN 1-932073-19-1, PUB HJ Kramer and New world Library. 2006.
Job's Body. Dean Juhan, Barrytown NY Station Hill Press. 1987.
Moving Medicine a Biography of Milton Trager, Jack Liskin, Barrytown NY Station Hill Press. 1996.
Bill's Trager Toolbox. Paper by Bill Scholl. 2007.

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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;  harry@tragersurrey.co.uk  www.tragersurrey.co.uk            

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; julie@tragersurrey.co.uk   www.tragersurrey.co.uk

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