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Autogenic Training

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Autogenic Training Defined

German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz had used hypnosis with his patients. In 1923, he developed autogenic training, which consists of a series of exercises designed to bring about these two physical sensations and, thereby, an auto-hypnotic state. Autogenic training is a technique to treat neurotic patients and those with psychosomatic illnesses. However, its use quickly expanded to healthy people who wanted to regulate their own psychological and physiological processes.

Although autogenic training and meditation both lead to the relaxation response, they get there by different means. Meditation uses the mind to relax the body. Autogenic training uses the bodily sensations of heaviness and warmth to first relax the body and then expand this relaxed state to the mind by the use of imagery.

Benefits of Autogenic Training


The physiological effects of autogenic training are similar to those of other relaxation methods that elicit the trophotropic response. Heart rate, respiratory rate, muscle tension, and serum cholesterol levels all decrease. Alpha brain waves and blood flow to the arms and legs increase. Other studies show that autogenics also helps with bronchial asthma, constipation, writer’s cramp, indigestion, ulcers, hemorrhoids, tuberculosis, diabetes and back pains.


Autogenic training has been found to reduce anxiety and depression, decrease tiredness, and help people increase their resistance to stress.

Doing Autogenic Training

There are two basic positions for doing autogenics: one, reclining; and two, seated. In the reclining position, you lie on your back, feet slightly apart, toes leaning away from the body. The seated positions have two advantages: you can do them almost anywhere, and they are less apt to result in sleep. On the other hand, they don’t allow as much total muscle relaxation as the reclining position.

The stages of Autogenic Training are sequential. You need to master the skills of each stage before practicing the next. Six Initial Stages Of Autogenic Training:

  1. Focus on the sensations of heaviness throughout the arms and legs.

  2. Focus on the sensations of warmth throughout the arms and legs.

  3. Focus on the sensations of warmth and heaviness in the area of the heart.

  4. Focus on breathing.

  5. Focus on sensations of warmth in the abdomen.

  6. Focus on sensations of coolness in the forehead.

(Source: The Relaxation Response, by Herbert Benson, 1975)

With experience in autogenics, it should take you only a few minutes to feel heaviness and warmth in your limbs, a relaxed and calm heart and respiratory rate, warmth in your abdomen, and coolness in your forehead. Remember, though, that it usually takes several months or more of regular practice to get to that point. However, don’t be too anxious to master it, since trying too hard will interfere with learning the skills. Proceed at your own pace, moving to the next stage only after you have mastered the previous stage.

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