Relax and get elastic with Mentastics. The Trager Approach is a method of passive movement and massage that aims to improve physical condition and mental wellbeing. It’s a two-pronged approach of tablework performed by the therapist and a series of related exercises to perform on your own called Mentastics.
It’s said that the Trager Approach works in a similar way to rocking a baby. The idea is that the gentle rocking and bouncing motions that the practitioner uses to move your body parts send pleasurable and reassuring messages to your brain. It’s also supposed to cause a slight confusion of the senses, because muscles that normally have to create movement are being moved passively instead. It’s this confusion that is thought to “reset” your movement habits and get you moving and grooving more naturally.
The ‘tablework’ involves combinations of extension, flexion, rotation, torque, compression, and distraction. In other words, your practitioner will lift, twist, move, bend and massage various body parts. This could include: lifting your head and gently turning your neck, using his or her hands to roll your stomach muscles or lifting your legs and gently wobbling them from side to side to try to find your body’s natural resonance.
Tablework sessions will last between 60 to 90 minutes and it’s best to wear comfy clothes. At the beginning and end of a treatment, your practitioner will try to get a feel for how smooth your moves are by asking you to perform a few actions and ask you about how your body feels.
The other element of the Trager Approach is called Mentastics (a word invented as a combination of mental and gymnastics). Mentastics are your homework: a series of movements you do on your own that are designed to allow various body parts the same feeling of passive movement as they get with tablework. Of course, you don’t have the practitioner there to move you, so the moves use the pull of gravity or support of other body parts to provide the moving force. These exercises are designed to give you a better awareness of your body and reset your patterns of movement like the tablework.
The Trager approach is all about connecting your mind with your body and working in harmony for a better understanding and sensitivity to your movements. If the treatment works well, you should experience “Hook up”. It’s a mental connection created through shared physical experience; rather than drifting away into a daydream, you are supposed to concentrate carefully on the physical sensations until you reach a mental harmony with your practitioner (or between yourself and your body in the case of Mentastics).
If you’re feeling stiff, achy or stressed, the Trager Approach might be able to put the spring back in your step. The treatment aims to give you an overall sense of wellbeing and relaxation, but it’s also claimed that it can ease a wide range of conditions including stress, muscle aches and pains, stiffness, back pain, mobility problems and headaches.
The Trager Approach was created by Milton Trager (1908-1997) after curing his father's sciatica with massage as a young man. He founded the The Trager Institute in 1980, which became Trager International in 2001 and is responsible for training and certifying all Trager practitioners.