Reach the Body, Teach the Mind – Milton Trager
Milton Trager, M.D., a legendary pioneer in the fields now known as neuroscience and somatic education, originated the Trager® Approach at the age of 18 and continued refining it for the rest of his career. In the 1970s, after fifty years of defining and practicing his approach, he began teaching his volume of original insights to those in and outside of the medical profession.
Over his lifetime, he helped countless people with Parkinson’s Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, asthma, emphysema, back pain, post-polio syndrome and paralysis. There is now both a growing body of research supporting the efficacy of Trager for a variety of conditions, and over a thousand Certified Practitioners throughout Europe, the Middle East, North America and Asia.
Born in Chicago, in 1908, with a congenital spinal deformity, Milton Trager overcame a weak and rather sickly childhood through practice and patience, until he achieved the athletic, graceful body of a dancer and gymnast. In his late teens his family had moved to Miami Beach and he was training to be a boxer. His trainer, Mickey Martin, used to give him a rub down after each boxing session. One day, when Mickey was looking particularly tired, young Milton offered to work on him. The trainer was astonished at what he felt from the young man’s hands. Milton, surprised and encouraged at the result achieved, went home and applied it to his father who had been suffering from sciatica, a chronic complaint that cleared up after two sessions from Milton.
So began the exploration that lasted a lifetime. Milton would apply his approach with everyone who was open to experiencing it. People with emphysema, asthma, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, polio and thousands of painful backs – all responded to his touch with degrees of benefit ranging from greater ease to the near-miraculous. Early on in his development, Milton applied his approach to a friend of his who was 19 at the time, with post-polio syndrome, and confined to a wheelchair. Milton’s approach helped him walk again, after four years of paralysis.
Dr. Trager was no stranger to challenge and determination, having surmounted obstacles both physical and educational that would have seemed daunting to many of us. Years of working with people with all kinds of neuromuscular complaints convinced him that he had something to offer the medical profession. After the Second World War, he applied to seventy medical schools in the United States, but was refused by all of them because of his age (42). Dr. Trager says of this time, “My big aim was to teach registered physical therapists my work, because of the results I was getting in comparison with the results they were getting.” He persevered and was accepted into the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara in Mexico, not knowing a word of Spanish at that time! They set up a clinic for him to continue his work in psychophysical integration, and six years later in 1955, he received his M.D.
Milton continued to work with clients within his practice for the next 20 years. In the1970’s he was invited to Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, to give a demonstration of his work. Betty Fuller (who was also instrumental in bringing Moshe Feldenkrais to the United States) was teaching at Esalen at the time and having tremendous problems with her neck. Milton offered to see what he could do for her neck, and after a few minutes her neck was no longer in pain. Betty was instantly “hooked”, and went on to co-found The Trager Institute, with Dr. Trager. Shortly thereafter a certification program was established to train people in his approach.
Forty years after Milton’s determined efforts to reach the medical profession, he was gratified by the interest of an increasing number of holistically-minded doctors, nurses and physical therapists who make use of the Trager Approach in their practices.
For a more comprehensive history of Dr. Trager and his life, see the biography entitled Moving Medicine, by Jack Liskin, available at http://retail-shop.tragerus.org/.