The Trager Approach® is a gentle somatic movement practice that reeducates your body and mind to release limiting holding patterns that interfere with how you physically move and mentally function.
One of the insights of the developer of this technique, Milton Trager, M.D., was that your mind holds all the tensions that show up in your body and that to change your body, you have to change the mind.
Trager is a type of somatic movement education, not a type of massage, although some massage therapists learn Trager therapy and incorporate it into a massage practice. You can experience this technique in two ways: one in which you are passive (tablework) and the other in which you are active (Mentastics).
During the tablework session, you lie, comfortably dressed, on a padded table while the practitioner moves you in ways that you naturally move, without using oils or lotions. A session usually lasts from 60 to 90 minutes.
The practitioner uses gentle touch and movement, and never uses force, to help you experience the feeling of moving effortlessly and freely. This natural, easy movement helps you release deep physical and mental patterns and also deeply relaxes you while improving your physical mobility and mental clarity.
According to an article in the May/June 1997 issue of Massage Magazine:
To maintain and reinforce this quality of effortless movement, you can do Trager Approach Mentastics on your own. These simple, active movements help soften muscle tension, calm and focus your nervous system, and more. The movements have the same intent as the tablework in terms of releasing deep-seated patterns and helping you learn to move effortlessly and freely.
Trager work creates motion in the muscles and joints to produce positive, pleasurable sensations that enter the nervous system. These sensations move through the sensory-motor feedback loops between the brain and the muscles and initiate changes in the tissues. Thus, practitioners aren't changing the condition of your body's tissue with their hands but are communicating a quality of feeling to your nervous system.
In fact, Milton Trager believed that if practitioners try to relax the muscle tissue, they fail, according to practitioner Deane Juhan. Trying is an effort that creates tension, while the goal of a Trager session is to create relaxation. Juhan wrote:
Certified Practitioners have successfully completed the program provided by The Trager Institute, and have maintained continuing education and other requirements of the institute.
Milton Trager said the key quality for anyone wanting to become a practitioner is receptivity, according to the Massage Magazine article. Practitioners must learn to enter a meditative state called "hook-up" where they can maintain a relaxed, quiet, non-reactive emotional state while working. This state lets them listen to any tensions or inhibitions they encounter in your body.
Practitioners must also develop a quality of touch that is soft, light, and gentle, and always be asking: What can be lighter? What can be softer? What can be easier?
Deane Juhan, M.A., "The Trager Approach: A Comprehensive Introduction," The Trager Journal, Fall 1987.
Don Schwartz, Ph.D., "What Could Be Lighter?: The Work of Milton Trager, M.D." Massage Magazine, May/June 1997.
Roger Tolle, "The Trager Approach," Massage Therapy Journal, Spring 2005.