An Introduction to the Trager Approach

What is the Trager Approach?

The Trager Approach is a gentle form of bodywork that uses movement instead of pressure to bring about change in the body. It makes use of the body’s natural movements to change a muscle’s tone while exerting the least amount of force possible. Trager also treats most areas indirectly by working on surrounding joints and fascial lines, along with providing stimulation to the muscle group itself.

Because of its principles of gentleness and ease, the Trager Approach is able to more profoundly shift the body’s habitual patterns than many other kinds of bodywork. After a Trager session people feel a deep sense of calm and relaxation, and they find that calm radiating outwards to affect their movements as well as the way they experience their bodies.

What can you expect when you come in for a Trager session?

We’ll start standing on the floor, breathing and getting into proper alignment and checking in with the body, paying attention to each part in turn, from foot to head. And then we may do some movements for whatever body part (joint, region) you notice most during the body scan. The guiding questions are “What could be lighter? What could be softer?” Then you begin to explore, getting softer and softer, looking for what could be lighter and easier. After that, you climb on the table.

Trager doesn’t use oil and often is performed as a clothes-on modality, however, clothing is not a necessity, and only a few of the bigger movements will need to be omitted or modified to allow for draping.

Once you’ve undressed to your comfort level or changed into clothing allowing for a free range of movement, you’ll climb onto the table. Most times with a session using the Trager Approach you’ll start face-up. In Trager, the practitioner does a lot of movements leaning or ‘perching’ on the edge of the table. I’ll sit on the table for neck work, and then for much of the time I’ll have one foot on the ground and one leg up with whichever limb I’m working on draped over it. Of course, this can be modified according to the needs of whoever I’m working with: I can do neck work standing up, and bolsters and pillows can be added for your comfort.

Since everything affects everything else, and everything is so connected, I may possibly start with a little neck work even if your focus area is your left ankle. During the session there will be lots of gentle movement; lots of it very subtle, but a whole other lot able to be easily felt. While one important part of the Trager Approach is movement, the other side of the coin is stillness. Several times during a session, I will allow the vibrations to sink in and fade away. This gives you a moment to feel more deeply inside of whatever we’ve been working on. The end result of the gentle movements combined with the moment of serene stillness is usually a feeling of greater ease and comfort, of being more at home inside of your body.

After the table work, we’ll do another check in with the body and move the focus area around again. The goal is not to look for the pain that was there before. Instead, the goal is to look for the good feelings that may have taken its place.

One of the best parts of the Trager Approach is that you can keep whatever good feelings you’ve had during a session. All you have to do is ask yourself how it felt, and your body will at least in small part bring the feelings back again, and the more you recall it, the stronger the good feelings that your body recalls will be.

It all starts with a breath, and a question. From there, it grows to a natural exploring of movement and stillness, opening and closing. Finally, at the end, there are possibilities for new patterns of movement and thinking.

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