Today we have an exciting selection of guest posts! I’ll give the word to freshly graduated TRAGER® practitioners who have completed the training, as well as to TRAGER Instructors around the world who have shared and embodied the valuable work of Dr. Milton Trager. 

> You can find the german version of this blog post here <

My Way To Becoming A TRAGER Practitioner

An essay by Eckhard Vossiek from Bochum, written in May 2022

At The Beginning There Was…

… curiosity. What is that, this TRAGER work? What is this „minimally invasive“ technique compared to the more intensive, more massive impact, e.g. through physiotherapy, massage or even Thai massage? I knew these three modalities. I’ve learned to appreciate them in different ways. And now TRAGER? A good friend drew my attention to: “Eckhard, there is a very special modalitity of body work, of relaxation and touch. That would certainly be something for you.” She reported from her received session and made me curious.

First Steps

I experienced my first TRAGER session with interest and attention. If you don’t know this method yet, you will be amazed at first: so calm, so fine, so relaxed, so attentive and yet so effective.

Why Is This Form of Bodywork and Touch Something for Me?

“Eckhard, you can touch people so well. You hug people so warmly,“ said the friend. Yes, that’s probably the case. Touches are different – they are different in intimacy, different in closeness. Touch can also have a healing quality and effect. But can I do that? Mmmhh, maybe yes. This includes empathy and intuition. I find the thought encouraging: “Anyone can touch. Touching is an art”. TRAGER work is probably a way to become an  artist? I followed my impulses and decided to do the TRAGER training.

From A Technique – To A Way Of Life

With everything there is to learn – and also to un-learn – I found the comprehensive and benevolent instructions very motivating. Like probably many of my fellow learners, I often had the impression of “spontaneous amnesia”; Learned three new moves (“moves”, yes, the language also needs to be learned) – and then forgotten again the following day?! Where did this knowledge actually end up? And why was it often „forgotten“ so quickly? I had an idea that my body and mind would remember that and be able to recall it again at some point. The combination of three-dimensional moves with the corresponding hand and body positions are complex and not at all easy. And I think it takes a considerable amount of time for the learned movements to really be internalized and integrated. Linked to the idea of how can it be lighter, freer, softer, less careful, maybe also happier and more lively? This attitude can be transferred to many situations in life, which may seem difficult and tedious at the beginning… To seek the path of lightness and joy is an attractive goal. The TRAGER questions interweave positively with one’s own attitude towards life for a lively serenity in everyday life.

Over the past year, the focus on “learning a new technique” has slowly faded a bit more into the background. Since the beginning of the training, it has always been said that this would happen at some point, but I couldn’t really believe it. It’s great to experience this development in my own system. I am aware that I am still on my way „from technique to intuition“ and that this attitude will continue to deepen in me. I also had to unlearn, for example: „A lot helps a lot!“. Because in TRAGER, less is more. This, at first astonishing realization is also easier to hear than to internalize. Even less. And a little less… But is that enough? Well, if I’m unsure, I can ask. That was not new to me, but I still have to do it consciously to this day: ask! I want to carry out all the fine movements, waves and impulses which I initiate in my client in a session with precision and routinely anchor them in me. The presence of the moment supports the letting go of my „doer mentality“ – towards being in the present and the perception of what is right now. It’s always amazing, my client senses immediately whether I’m present or not. In Trager, this form of being connected is also called “hook up”.

Trager Language – Peace work 

Avoiding terms like ‘grip’, as well as push, pull, press also needs to be learned. Oh well, it took me long to understand the term ‘take out the slack’. From my beginner perspective it was so much easier to say “pull my leg a little”. I understand better and better that language has already an effect. I either unconsciously use a stronger more violent language or choose a more empathic and sensitive one without pressure and power. Trager language already has a soothing and beneficial effect on the nervous system and supports the feeling of being safe. Trager is a mindful and peaceful approach that pacifies people. It can definitely be described as non-violent communication with the hands and finally it is peace work. Last but not at least I keep seeing people get up from the massage table and walk through the room with a peaceful, open expression. I have learned that the more peaceful I feel inside , the more this radiates out and is transferred to the other one next to me.

Training of Attention and Perception

During the training I experienced how my senses and my perception are becoming more and more sensitive – more subtle. And I meet my clientas a „finely tuned instrument“. May this always be the foundation and basis of meeting the other. This is how it becomes a path from a so-called „treatment“ to a felt perception training. It has the intention: I train the perception for myself and then for my client. This gives the client space and inner permission to feel more  themselves. With trained perception, he/she will become more and more aware of one’s own tension and relaxation situations and find an easier, freer and more lighthearted way of dealing with one’s own body.

Efficiency and None-Intention

So fine, so „minimally invasive“, so effective. How can this work? The lack of intention is such a thing: a lot helps a lot. That’s how we’re conditioned. First there is the impulse “I have to help. I need to fix something, restore something. At least my client should relax and I should make him/her happy…“ And letting go of this internalized impulse wasn’t (and still is) not that easy. We like to repair a lot. In my day-to-day life, I’m often „something like a repairman“, at least when it comes to technical things. And because of my job as a social worker, there is also a professional “repair perspective” here. Although the realization is that trust can grow first and an attentive form of going along is very important – and not immediately pulling out the toolbox for repairs. In curative education, Paul Moor (1899-1977) said: „Not against mistakes, but for what is missing“. Applied to TRAGER I would say: not against the tension, but for the mobility, the lightness. In my opinion, this is both a facilitating change of perspective and a question of attitude. And also through the eyes of my client, significant change is desired, maybe even demanded? I first had to learn to deal with that: there are often expectations of my client to “heal” something. Taking the attitude here: „We’ll set off together and see where we end up“ is different from „Let’s see if I can fix you!“. This becomes clear with „First start with the chocolate side, not with the tension.“ This strengthens trust and then leads to a loosening and letting go of tense areas. What applies to verbal, human communication also applies to TRAGER, in my opinion: „The biggest problem with communication is that we don’t listen in order to understand. We listen in order to answer” (M.B. Rosenberg, 1934-2015). When I transfer that to TRAGER, it’s first about perceiving and understanding the other person – in connection with the perception of myself. And it’s not about (my)an immediate answer or a technique that I use, but about listening to myself with the question: What could be appropriate here, lighter, freer, more agile, more relaxed? This is also a way to deepened perception and more body awareness – for me and for my client.

What is currently continuing inside me is: to free myself from a lot of heavy stuff that I have carried with me. With the basic attitude of a „hunter and gatherer“ this is not an easy task, but I feel the possible, greater freedom behind it. The TRAGER idea inspires me to follow this plan.

Perspective

In the beginning there was curiosity. And that’s how it will probably continue, because I’m sure my awareness of TRAGER and its ideas will continue to develop, deepen and refine. It’s probably a lifelong process. And it is a process that is not about higher and further, but about softer, gentler and finer.

First encounter and experience with Dr. Milton Trager

Bill Scholl, is an American TRAGER instructor now living in Switzerland. Together with his wife Gabriela and Peter Fankhauser, he founded the TRAGER School Switzerland in the Kientalerhof.

My first impression of Dr. Milton Trager was that he was an athlete, stocky and clearly very strong. I was a new student in 1981, excited and very curious to be in my first class with him.  The first morning, he moved effortlessly around the room, greeting each person individually with a broad smile. Those he knew were greeted with both a hug and a smile. When he came to me, he shook my hand, asked my name, and welcomed me. I can still recall the quality of his handshake. His contact was effortless, and he was completely present with me. Every part of him, from the ground up, was in his touch!
Dr. Trager could be exceptionally kind, but also quite gruff. Over time, I realized that he was almost always very present, always with the person in front of him. Through words and touch, he was able to help that person, whether student or client, be more of who they could be. 
To learn from Dr. Trager, one had to be willing to feel rather than understand. For almost all his students, who had been taught in an educational system to have correct answers ready, the invitation to focus on the questions rather than the answers was both confusing and revolutionary! Trust, listening, and pausing were the elements we needed when learning with him. His language in teaching was quite simple. Letting go of opinionsand knowledge and immersing ourselves in a state of feeling required a new kind of curiosity! Once we „got it,“ he acknowledged us!  I remember one day in class when I was standing across the room, and he had his back to me while helping another student. He raised his head and said, „Bill got it!“  I still don’t know exactly how he did that….

The „it“ Dr. Trager spoke of he referred to as „Hook-up,“ being connected to what is happening in the moment and being present with himself and the client.  When asked if there was a difference between „Hook-up“ and meditation, he replied, „There is no difference.“

After more than 40 years of practice and all the years learning directly from Dr. Trager, I still admire his commitment to his patients and his students, who allowed him to teach them what he knew.  He never stopped teaching. Every day offered the opportunity to learn from him when we were ready. 
There were two moments I remember in particular. I was sitting in the corner of his practice room watching him prepare for a patient who was about to arrive. He opened the file box on his desk and pulled out a card. He said to himself, „Who is coming to teach me today?“ I have never forgotten this; we can learn something from every person we meet. We just have to be attentive!  The second moment came during a course for instructors. He was working on a hand when another instructor asked him, „Milton, what are you thinking about right now? Are you thinking, what could be freer? What could be softer?“ Dr. Trager paused for a moment and then replied, „Even that is too much.“  He was all about being fully present with the person and the moment, and anything that led into thinking rather than feeling meant that presence was diminished. 

A Poem

by Gertraud Neumayr, TRAGER instructor in Austria

„The silence we find in Hook-up,
 It is a seed of peace and strength,
that grows in us every day – very gently.
Let the weight of peace sink into you
and be a witness in your words and in your hands.” 

Pausing

by Roger Tolle, dancer, singer, world-renowned TRAGER instructor

I begin with a pause.
Pausing is full of opportunity, full of rich sensation, full of possibilities to pay attention in a new way. Pausing gives me a chance to sit back and reflect. Pausing lets me gather my perspectives, let go of what I can quickly see as my illusions, and set out on a new course of action.

I begin with a pause.
I give value to these moments of non-doing, and I let them remind me of the feeling of no effort that I can bring into my ordinary daily actions. I let them remind me to let my life symphony have cadences, one phrase or one whole phase of life coming to a close before the next begins.

I return often to pauses. Sinking into a pause, decelerating, slowing down is itself a pleasure ride. A new breath, slower and easier, this one with my attention there like a child full of exhilaration and wonder as the amusement park ride sighs and shudders just a bit to fit back into its starting blocks.

I pause again. I begin again. I pause again–an endless cycle.

I practice letting go of the cultural norms and family patterns of keeping busy. I let go, but not entirely since I am a product of my parents‘ well-intentioned upbringing, of having to be productive, to be of value. I do still value what I produce–ideas, dances, loving relationships, effective body therapy, service to community, body mind healing–but I also now value the time of being as much as the time of doing. I give value to rest, to relaxation, to renewal, to rejuvenation. 

Rediscover healing movement

Former dancer Siegrit Salkowitz from Rosenheim brought TRAGER to Germany in the early 1980s. She wrote in 2007:

Mentastics are a gentle movement process that invites the body to develop an appropriate and easier movement pattern. They are fundamentally something different than physical exercises that serve “training”, “being fit” or muscle building. The path of those who embark on the exploration of Mentastics leads to a more holistic body feeling that can be expressed in inner serenity, greater suppleness, natural uprightness, improved balance and a more stable sense of self.
The goal of Mentastics is to achieve a state of „hook-up“, as Dr. Trager called it. Hook-up is a state of inner awareness in which we become aware of our inner body worlds, the outer world and the life pulse flowing through everything. This sounds great and maybe overwhelming at first, but it is not so in no way. Meditation practices have been available to us for thousands of years that can lead us into this experience. In his book, Dr. Trager himself said “it is like meditation”.
Movements, sequences of movements, which are explored and discovered in the state of hook-up, not only relax the muscular body, but basically awaken lightness and gentleness in the entire body-mind. Changes in the body through Mentastics do not happen at the „push of a button“ but are subject to an ongoing path of practice that includes the body-mind and at some point, becomes accessible to us in everyday life through „recall“ (perceived movement memory). When we engage in Mentastics and TRAGER bodywork, we walk a path to greater autonomy and inner autonomy.

Siegrit Salkowitz 2022:
Many years later, after reading this text again, I realized that I had the great privilege of being in active meditation with the Trager work for 40 years. Resting in Total Awareness is a state in which, I am filled with gratitude for Dr. Milton Trager, for teachers and students who have accompanied me.

Translation of the German-language contributions: internationally recognized Trager instructor Eva-Maria Willach

Links

Here you can find more information about  TRAGER, the principels and a treatment in the practice for holistic body therapy in Bad Honnef.
TRAGER international is represented worldwide. Here you can learn TRAGER everywhere and contact the respective national associations: