What is Autogenic Training?


Autogenic training (AT) or autogenics is a relaxation method, often referred to as Western meditation. It uses simple mental exercises, which focus on different parts of the body (e.g. my right arm is heavy; my heartbeat is calm and regular; my breathing is calm and regular; my solar plexus is warm, etc). Once learned, these suggestions allow you to achieve deep relaxation in just 10 minutes. This relaxation method is practiced two or preferably three times per day and holds all the benefits of eliciting a relaxation response. Autogenic training is easy to learn and is not based on any religious beliefs, as it was developed by a German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz in the 1920s.

How to learn autogenic training?

As with every new skill in life, this stress management technique requires some time and patience in order to learn it properly. The best place to learn autogenic training is in a therapist's office, where all your numerous questions and concerns can be best answered. Therapists hold the knowledge to overcome any difficulties that surface and may tailor the process to your particular needs. Another important role of a therapist or course is that it gives you additional motivation to continue.

How does autogenic training work?

During the practice of autogenic training, your stress response is switched off and the so-called "fight or flight" mechanism is replaced with the "rest and digest" phase. During the rest and digest phase, your blood flows into your abdomen, stress hormones are lowered, blood pressure drops, the immune system strengthens, and you can enjoy all of the positive effects of a relaxed state.

Relaxation can also help treat conditions that are caused by chronic stress. Autogenic training has been studied extensively and has been proven to help treat stress-related problems such as:

  • anxiety disorders (panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, etc)
  • mild depression
  • migraines
  • tension headaches
  • stress-related hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • insomnia
  • poor concentration
  • and many more.

What benefits does autogenic training have?

positive-effects-of-autogenic-trainingThe power of autogenic training is not just short-term, i.e. when we are relaxed. Regular practice of relaxation techniques enables you to withstand higher stress levels than a person not practicing any form of relaxation. Practicing autogenic training for longer periods of time (i.e. 10 or more years) can also affect your gene expression, which leads to additional positive effects. In the long-term, you become a more rational, calmer person. You also look at situations in your life differently, with less anxiety and a more positive outlook.

People report all sorts of positive changes, and studies have shown cognitive improvements such as increased memory, improved concentration, and behavioral changes (including the ability to quit smoking, better relationship communication, etc). Many studies have been conducted, where relaxation methods and the lowering of stress response result in many benefits, which are not just psychological, but also physiological in nature. Excess stress leads to many different medical problems, almost all of which are worsened by stress.

The effects of autogenic training are similar to meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, applied progressive relaxation, and many other forms of relaxing from a modern way of life. Although they all differ from one another in the way they achieve relaxation, they all have in common an elicitation of the relaxation response and contribute to overall health in a similar way. Once learned autogenic training can be practiced anywhere as long as you can sit or lay down. It can be practiced in an office, on an airplane, on a bus, or in a park on a sunny day.