What is Trager?

By Frank Merillat

     I am often asked this question and I thought this might be a good time to explore this wonderful approach to working with the body. I consider the Trager Approach to be one of the best-kept secrets in our bodywork.

So what is Trager? It is an approach to how we, as humans, interact with life. It is based on the experience and teachings of Milton Trager. Milton was a curious sort. He noted there was a connection between the inner workings of the mind and the connection to our physical body. He began a process of exploration by simply asking questions about his experience. How could this be in this moment? What could be easier? What could this be like? Out of these questions came awareness of possibilities. Awareness is the prime component of Trager, it allows us to fully participate in our experience.

We are sensory-based beings. We take in information via our sensory receptors, we feel. What we feel is what triggers our response to our world. Via soft, gentle touch the practitioner feels the tissue of the receiver. Based on what is felt and by an intention of curious interest in the feeling experience, the client is offered safe and pleasant sensations. Weight, wave, elongation and compression are all sensations that are offered without any experience of discomfort. Inquiry through gentle questioning is offered to the receiver to increase awareness and to note change. Any time discomfort is experienced the giver backs off and looks for ways to offer a feeling of ease and comfort. “We will go swimming in the sea of pleasantness” is how Milton described the experience.

Thus Trager is a cooperative interaction between giver and receiver, each with an interested and inquiring exploration of the sensory experience. The practitioner does not do the work. The practitioner offers the body information through the quality of touch, it is the receiver’s nervous system that allows the touch to be felt and thus allows change. When the body feels well contacted, safe and is given relevant information and the opportunity to explore possibilities, change becomes possible. Milton said, “muscles are dumb, it is the mind I am after.” The nervous system, the mind, runs the show. This approach offers connection between body and mind.

Being in present time is a key component of the approach. Because we are bombarded by so much sensory information in our daily life, we often run on automatic. We develop reflex arcs, patterns of behavior that help us move in the world without conscious thought or awareness. These patterns can be useful or detrimental to our health and experience. The only way to accurately assess the effectiveness of our patterns is by being in present time. Milton called this “Hook Up”, being in a state of present time awareness. When we are in this state we feel, are aware and can thus make conscious choices about our experience. In Trager, both the giver and the receiver use this state of present centered awareness and the process of inquiry to feel an easier, more comfortable way of being.

In conclusion, Trager is a gentle approach using awareness, inquiry and touch to explore our state of being. It is a cooperative process involving interaction between giver and receiver. It takes place in present time, looking at states of sensation and explores the interaction between body and mind. It focuses on what feels good and right in the body. It explores patterns of movement and holding. Through this approach the possibilities of change become accessible. It is an approach to engaging our body and mind to make our experience easier.