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The Trager Approach (by Barbara Obernesser)

    The Trager® Approach is a mind-body approach to movement education. It is a system of gentle, rhythmic movement and touch aimed at facilitating deep relaxation, increased physical mobility, mental clarity and promoting the body’s optimal performance. The benefits of Trager® sessions are long lasting and cumulative with successive sessions.

   Your practitioner uses touch and movement to communicate with your body/mind the feeling of a greater and easier way of being and moving. Because the mind is involved, the client learns to relax, rather than being made to relax. This learning process allows changes to be more conscious and long lasting.

   There are three aspects of the Trager® Approach. In the first, you, the client, lie on a well padded table in a safe, comfortable environment. Your body is gently rocked, stretched and moved within its pain-free range and natural rhythm. You may choose to be fully clothed or partially clothed and appropriately draped.

   The quality of touch and movement given to you by your Trager® practitioner is such that you experience the feeling of moving freely and effortlessly. As your body and mind receive these soft movements, tensions disappear and new movement patterns become possible.

   The second aspect of the Trager® Approach, called Mentastics®, involves instruction on self-care movements. Mentastics® can be performed anywhere, are fun and feel great! Mentastics®, are taught both in private sessions and group classes.

   The third aspect of the Trager® Approach is “recall”. Recall brings the power of the human mind to aid in changing how you use your body. By combining awareness and remembering positive feelings, you can control how you feel, how to use your body and experience the world around you.

   The overall feeling you receive from this approach is one of “lightness” and moving more easily. Pain disappears. Self-awareness increases, and life becomes more   fun, moving freely and effortlessly.


The Development of the Approach

   The Trager® Approach was the creation of a single individual, Milton Trager, M.D. He first encountered its principles intuitively during physical exercise, at the age of 18. He then spent the next 50 years, first as a lay practitioner and later as a medical professional, expanding and refining his approach. Dr. Trager died in 1997. His work is carried on by Trager® International and instructors and certified practitioners worldwide.


Principles and Aim of the Approach

   Dr. Trager’s manner of manipulating the body was not a technique or a method, in the sense that there are no rigid procedures claimed to produce specific symptomatic results. Rather, it is an approach, a way of learning and of teaching movement re-education. He stressed that his clients should come to him ready to absorb a lesson, instead of ready to simply receive a treatment. The Trager® Approach is not concerned with moving particular muscles or joints, per se, but with using motion in muscles and joints to produce particular sensory feelings, positive, pleasurable feelings which enter the central nervous system and begin to trigger tissue changes by means of the many sensory-motor feedback loops between the mind and the muscles. The effects of a Trager® session are intended to penetrate below the level of conscious awareness. Dr. Trager noted that the immediate results of the session could be re-enforced and deepened later by clients exploring simple movements that recalled the bodily sensations of the session. The essence of a Trager® session is the projection of a calmer, more attentive, more meditative feeling state from the sensibility of the practitioner to the sensibility of the client. Dr. Trager called this “hook-up”.


The Certification of Practitioners

   The United States Trager® Association certificate program takes a minimum of six months to complete. A Trager® practitioner receives a minimum of 409 hours of training which 226 are supervised. The training includes a Level I training (6 days), a Level II and Level III Training (each 5 days), Mentastics®  training (three days), and a six day Anatomy and Physiology training with a period of fieldwork and evaluations after each of the levels of training. The fieldwork consists of giving and documenting a total of at least 90 Trager® sessions without charge, and receiving at least 30 Trager® sessions. There are also continuing education requirements after becoming a certified Trager® practitioner.


A Sample Session

   A session typically lasts from one to one and half hours. The client wears underwear or light, loose clothing and lies on a padded table in a comfortable environment. The practitioner makes touch-contact with the client, both as a whole and partly with individual limbs and segments. No lotions or creams are used. The central feature of the work is the sensory quality of the physical contact consisting of gentle coaxing elongations, softly penetrating compressions, and pleasurable rhythmic rocking, sending resonating ripples throughout the body’s fluid structure.

   After getting up from the table, the client is given some instruction in the use of Mentastics®, a system of simple, effortless movement sequences developed by Dr. Trager to maintain and enhance the sense of lightness, freedom, and flexibility that was instilled by the table work.


Benefits and Cautions

   Some conditions for which Trager® might be used: The Trager® Approach is reported to help release or re-balance physical and mental patterning, to facilitate deep relaxation, and to increase physical mobility and functional awareness. The Trager® Approach has been reported to ease or help manage a wide range of conditions including:

- Stress
- Back and Neck Pain
- Limited Movement
- Muscle Spasms
- Headaches
- Poor Posture
- Physical/Emotional Trauma
- Sports and other injuries
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Depression
- Fibromyalgia
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Post-Polio Syndrome
- Cerebral Palsy

Some conditions for which active Trager® movements should NOT be used:

- Active Thrombophlebitis (blood clot)
- Recent surgery on joints (less than three month)
- A pregnant woman in her first tri-semester

   It also might not be advisable for a client to receive a Trager® session if she/he is in a severely debilitated state, who is extremely frail, or has had recent hospitalization for severe illness.


My Experiences with The Trager® Approach

   I was first introduced to The Trager® Approach in 2001 at a weekend workshop. After receiving a session I knew that I had to learn how to provide this wonderful feeling   to my clients. The “lightness” and “freedom of movement” I felt, was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. The approach of affecting the unconscious mind to let you  “hook-up”, release tension throughout your body and move with ease, is well worth the experience. A Trager® session feels like liquid sunshine, a sense of celebration and hope. A reminder of what is good, natural, fun.

   Due to logistics of tutors, instructors and trainings it took me three years to complete the requirements of becoming a practitioner in 2004. Since then I have continued with my trainings, tutorials and monthly meetings with the original Trager® crew that learned first hand from the master himself, Milton Trager M.D. These meetings always include exchanges of sessions that have proven to be invaluable!

   My clients have explained to me the value they feel they get from each session and how they cumulate from one to the next. They apologize for drooling on the table and the induced coma they leave in. I thank them for allowing themselves to “let-go” and enjoy being brought back to what it felt like when they were a child.

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