MILTON TRAGER: The Man Who Defragmented Minds
Milton Trager created a healing modality sometimes described as ‘psychophysical integration therapy’, but don’t let that put you off! Trager began his work with polio patients and went on to work with people with many conditions including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, strokes and psychiatric disorders. Martin Clout has been a
Trager practitioner for over 20 years. Here he tells HIP about his own practice and about the man who created the Trager method.
When Milton Trager was a teenager, in mid-1920s America, he became fascinated with the relationship between thought and movement; how they affect one another and how this relationship can be improved. He saw the mind and body as one: we are psycho-physical beings, muscle tension is created in the brain, and so in order to release it, the brain needs to let go. Over the years he developed his approach from observing how he and others best responded. He was hugely successful, and people sought him out as a lay practitioner. However, by his 40s, he wanted the medical profession to take note of what he had discovered, so he trained and qualified as a doctor. It was only when he retired from medicine in 1975 that he started to teach his approach to others, which he continued to do until his death in 1997.
I originally trained as a violinist but went to a teacher who deconstructed my technique, and with it my love of playing, so I stopped. When I first experienced The Trager Approach, in 1995, I immediately knew it was what musicians and singers were looking for. Lying on a comfortable therapy table, my body was gently mobilised section by section, reminding me of qualities of movement I’d lost or forgotten. I could feel the resistance being gently coaxed out of me. As individual cells let go, my body became more flexible, more fluid. While this was happening, I experienced my mind and body in a new way; like dropping through a fractal video, seeing an entirely new landscape of curious, pleasurable sensation while watching my mind quietly process past memories released from where they had been held. From time to time I was asked to resist the practitioner. When I did, they’d take their hands away to create an elastic rebound in me. They did this in order to increase specific muscle tone, release tight restricted muscles and introduce freer levels of movement.
They’d take their hands away to create an elastic rebound in me
As well as the tablework, Milton also created, from the mid-1920s, Mentastics® Movement Education. Milton coined the term combining the words ‘mental’ and ‘gymnastics’ to describe his method of gentle exercise designed to promote relaxed, more playful but efficient movement of the body.
During more than two decades of Trager practice Martin Clout has seen the evidence. For many years he worked with musicians and singers at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama helping them to “achieve truly resonant qualities of sound”. He regularly sees increased energy levels and release of chronic pain in people with chronic illness. In some cases displaced vertebrae have been “drawn back into position and nerve impingements (like sciatica) released.”
The Trager method, which has been described as having a ‘similar focus’ to Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique, is reportedly effective at treating a great variety of conditions. Trager can also be effective in the rehabilitation of stroke patients.
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