Autogenic training was developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz in the 1920s. Schultz was influenced by the work of Oscar Vogt, a German physician, and neurologist. Vogt researched sleep and hypnosis and was interested in the connection between the mind and body. During hypnotic trance, patients reported heaviness and warmth in their limbs and other signs of deep relaxation. Schultz decided to reverse the idea of hypnosis, and thus developed autogenic training.
Schultz's idea was to suggest feelings of heaviness and warmth in the limbs and by doing that achieve deep relaxation. Schultz soon realized that repeating phrases, which focus on signs of deep relaxation (warmth, heaviness, a slow heart rate, etc), enables deep relaxation.
Luthe's and Schultz's work
Schultz studied his autogenic training and presented his research to the Medical Society in Berlin in 1926. In 1932 he published his book Das Autogene Training and later with his companion Wolfgang Luthe wrote six volumes on Autogenic Therapy. In the volumes, they presented numerous carefully researched case studies about where and how autogenic training can be applied successfully. To this day the six volumes are considered the Bible for autogenic training therapists and are still used as instructions for teaching patients this relaxation technique in a safe way.
However, autogenic training is just one of the techniques that constitute autogenic therapy as Schultz described in Volume 1. The six standard exercises, which were developed by Schultz, were later modified by Luthe in a way to get the maximum benefit and safety for the patient. The core of the six standard exercises remained the same, but the exercises are structured in a way that allows more gradual and systematic learning of the technique and is influenced by Luthe's own research.
Autogenic training today
Today autogenic training has several activity centers throughout the world (including Japan, Germany, and the UK) with the same core of six standard exercises. However, in spite of its usefulness and effectiveness, autogenic training is unfortunately still relatively unknown to the broader public. The potential of autogenic training or other relaxation techniques is vast, not only because of their low costs, as they do not require medication, but also because they have a wide spectrum of effects. Imagine a pill that improves sleep, lowers stress, lowers blood pressure, improves concentration, treats migraines, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, enhances our immune system, helps fight cancer, improves overall wellbeing, and more. Fortunately, this medicine is already here, we just have to use it!
How to do autogenic training?