Roger Tolle is a veteran practitioner and instructor of the Trager® approach to movement education and mind-body integration. We interviewed Roger to learn more about his perspective on the transformative healing potential of bodywork. The Teal Center hopes to host a workshop with Roger Tolle in the future.
TC: You’ve been practicing the Trager approach for 30 years — over the years, have you noticed changes in the way people tend to relate to their bodies?
RT: There has been a sea change in the consciousness in this country over the past decades. There are articles and workshops and trainings everywhere now that present mindfulness as a high value. Yoga classes are available everywhere. Even fitness trainers acknowledge the importance of being present, engaging the whole body, and connecting to emotion and spirit. I believe we are finally beginning to heal the split between body and spirit that has dominated western culture for the past several hundred years.
TC: Who did you have in mind when you created the “Opening the Heart” workshop? Is this a class that people without a background in bodywork can benefit from?
RT: Originally I developed this material as a series of evening workshops for my Trager clients and dance students in NYC. The focus on heart-full movement, unrestrained tenderness, whole-body presence and an attitude of appreciation proved itself a powerful catalyst for personal opening.
All this came out of my own personal explorations, and my work with my private clients, and was fueled by in-depth study with pioneers in the field of somatic movement education. That study had altered everything about my relationship to my own dancing and choreography. When I was asked to lead a one-day workshop on this theme as part of the 1989 Trager Conference, I got the extraordinary experience of leading these explorations for 50 people. The intensity of that day, and the simple fact that Dr. Milton Trager walked into the room halfway through and gave the work his blessing, catapulted me into the next couple decades leading these workshops for the Trager community around the world…for their personal growth, of course, and in order that their professional touch be informed by these principles.
TC: If you were to give a single piece of self-care advice to the general public, what would it be?
RT: Bring extraordinary, heart-centered presence to every ordinary movement of your day.
TC: What sorts of habits contribute to living an open-hearted life? What’s the most common obstacle?
RT: Practicing appreciation of your own beautiful body, the natural world around you, and all the people you come in contact with makes a huge difference. Appreciating is an active verb. And practicing it repeatedly, daily, in easy situations first, then more challenging situations…this is how we build new habits. Oh, and every time I interrupt an old habit, I grow new brain connections! Learning something new makes me smarter!
Nothing gets in the way of an open-hearted life like a dislike and distrust of the rich and nuanced feeling life that resides in our sensory experience.
TC: Do you have any favorite stories about how this work has impacted someone’s life?
RT: What comes to mind right now, is how completely this work has changed my life. It brought me ease and comfort in my body. It opened some really sweet connections with clients and with lovers. I showed me how letting go more reveals what is even deeper and richer in each connection.
It grows me daily. It challenges me to admit what is true…that I am no longer a young dancer, but that I can love my body experience even more. It teaches me what is possible with this gift, this remarkable toy I call my body.