“there is a way of being which is lighter, which is freer, a way in which work as well as play becomes a dance and living, a song. we can learn this way.” – milton trager, M.D.
part of my education is training in TRAGER® bodywork, a system of non-intrusive and painless active and passive body movements developed by dr. milton trager. while i do not actively practice bodywork anymore, what i learned during my training still deeply influnences me in my practice. what follows is a descrption of TRAGER, compiled from a paper i wrote some years ago:
TRAGER facilitates physical mobility and flexibility, pain relief, relaxation, a better body image and an increased body awareness that tends to bring about and sustain good health.
a TRAGER session consists in table work (where the client lies on a massage table), MENTASTICS®, and discussions between the practitioner and client with topics such as purpose and limits of the session, a profile of the client’s general health, feedback during and after the session, and recommendations for health practices. MENTASTICS are movements designed to enhance a person’s flexibility, relaxation and body awareness.
effective TRAGER sessions are heavily dependent on a well-developed ability to physically, intellectually and emotionally understand the client’s state of health, sometimes in minute detail. this requires regular personal practice of the TRAGER approach, via receiving sessions, and via doing MENTASTICS.
practitioners are also encouraged to record their reflections on sessions and their continuing personal practice and use of the TRAGER approach.
one of the core processes or states is “hook-up”, a meditative process and state that is somewhat similar to what psychologist csikszentmihalyi refers to as “flow”. difficult to describe, it is essentially a strongly and sometimes spiritually felt connection with one’s own body and environment, as well as with one’s clients or others with whom one practices TRAGER.
among other things, hook-up heightens and facilitates the sensitivity necessary to understand the more subtle aspects of the partner’s state of health (e.g. minute tissue changes, small differences in movement of two limbs, etc.)
a similarly important process for anyone practising the TRAGER approach is to understand the role of gravity on a person’s movement and posture (this is similar to certain practices in the martial arts where the practitioner is exhorted to “work with the enemy” not against him). a physical and intellectual understanding of this is what facilitates the lightness, freedom and ease that typifies the TRAGER approach. again, only personal practice can bring about this understanding.
feedback is an absolutely essential aspect of TRAGER, and it is formally built into all interactions. it is encouraged and often required by all participants in the interactions. for example, during a TRAGER session, the practitioner frequently checks in with the client about her physical and emotional comfort, whether a certain move needs adjustment, etc. the practitioner, where appropriate, imparts to the client any information he gains (e.g. “the right shoulder feels a bit more tense than the left one – how does that feel for you?”).
one could almost say that TRAGER is about feedback. “what could be lighter? what could be freer?” are questions that permeate TRAGER; they are almost a motto. a body is felt, the questions are asked, adjustments are made. they are the questions that teach the TRAGER system: a way of being.
the TRAGER approach can loosely be seen as part of certain (movement oriented) types of bodywork, such as feldenkrais, alexander technique, or as part of the non-massage types of bodywork (from reiki to rolfing)
a TRAGER student’s personal progression through the certification process can be quite rocky emotionally. he addresses his relationship with his own body and that of others; he learns an approach that requires a concentrated yet seemingly effortless use of his physical, mental/intellectual and emotional resources; he begins to understand how to be close to the client without violation of boundaries, etc. the degree to which this is required of a good TRAGER practitioner is high even for those who have previous experience in the health field.