The Trager Approach

Have you seen a crying baby stop crying when he is gently rocked in the hands of his parent. That is basically the method that is adapted in the Trager Approach to relieve stiffness in the muscles and joints except that it is more complicated than the simple rocking of a child to sleep.

The Trager Approach, as it is known, was developed by Dr. Milton Trager, M.D. somewhere around 1926 when he was 18 years of age. The discovery was opportune and Dr. Trager spent the next 50 years of his life expanding and developing this technique after getting his M.D. in his early forties. Milton was born in 1908 with a spinal deformity and a weak and sickly body which he overcame with practice and patience to build it to an athletic and graceful body of a gymnast. He began to practice his technique on his father and his friends and, astounded with the results, began a lifetime of exploration to perfect his technique. People with painful backs, polio, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, asthma and emphysema all responded with benefits ranging from greater ease to the miraculous.

Dr. Milton first taught his technique to Betty Fuller, whose severe neck problem he cured. They together founded the Trager Institute in 1980 and after sometime established a certification program to train and certify people.

The Trager Approach is an innovative one to movement education and broadly speaking it resembles “Bodywork”, since the client’s movements are manipulated and directed with hands-on cues and directions. On the other hand, the technique is more precisely defined. No lotion or oil is used. Rocking motions, light bounces, elongations and compressions are conveyed in a gentle and pleasurable way that the patient in reality experiences the possibility of moving every part of his or her body gracefully, effortlessly and freely by themselves.

There are two features to this approach. One is the passive one and the other is the active one. The first is generally called the “tablework” and the other “Mentastics”. The technique utilizes natural, gentle and non-intrusive movements to release unwanted physical and mental patterns to increase mental clarity, physical mobility and deep relaxation. In the Trager Approach, the basic aim is a form of neuro-muscular reeducation called “Reflex Response”; the reawaking and/or developing new coordinated movements where neurological connections were damaged, dormant or even deadened. Reflex Response is utilized to stimulate the protective spinal reflexes of the body in a paralyzed or frozen limb.

A Trager session usually lasts from an hour to an hour and a half. The tablework session consists of the patient lying on a padded table and the practitioner moves the patient in natural moves, the way they naturally move. The quality of the movement and touch is such that the patient receiving the treatment experiences a feeling of moving freely and effortlessly. No force is used so that the patient does not feel any discomfort or pain.

This tablework is reinforced and maintained by Mentastics. The patient is taught active self induced movements which are simple to perform and the patient has to do these movements by himself. The benefits of the Trager Approach are cumulative and for many people Mentastics becomes an integral part of their life, helping them to relieve tension and stress.

For those people who want to encourage a growing awareness in themselves and their anatomy, the Trager Approach is invaluable. Another potent facet of this approach is the ability to understand how it feels to move easily and a feeling of deep relaxation.