Autogenic Training – Basics:   

History & General Information about Autogenic Training [AT]

Autogenic training is a technique for relaxation and self-regulation that was developed in Germany by Dr. Johannes Schulz in the 1920’s. He published his first medical book on it in 1932.

It was popularized around the world by his student Dr. Wolfgang Luthe who was the first to write about it in English.

Autogenics as a medical, therapeutic technique for relaxation and self-regulation of the body uses a series of six standard formulas repeated 3 to 6 times each in a self-hypnosis state to bring about physiological responses in the body through the autonomic nervous system. A person who is practicing Autogenics goes into a relaxed state and then mentally repeats and focuses on these six formulas. The attention is turned to different parts of the body, and the body learns to physiologically respond to the repeated formulas. The subconscious mind is the seat and control of the autonomic nervous system.

AT is referred to as a „homeostatic“ or „self-regulating“ technique because it allows a practitioner to have a positive, conscious, intentional effect on problems the body is having, especially problems that might have a psychosomatic cause or might be an effect of stress.  After going into a deeply relaxed autogenic state using the standard formulas, practitioners can use positive affirmations or suggestions about areas of life they want to affect.  These are called intentional formulas. There are the six standard formulas and then flexibility to use any intentional formula or affirmation that would be suitable to help with a problem or a goal. By practicing autogenic training daily, or ideally more than once a day, the body learns to respond to the formulas and bring about beneficial effects. It can take some weeks of learning and practicing before the body begins to learn these responses.  AT also goes on to include some additional formulas that are known as the advanced exercises or the meditative exercises. These formulas have more of a psychological or spiritual orientation where the six standard formulas have more of a physiological orientation.

The technique involves the daily practice of sessions that last around 15 minutes, usually in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evening. The technique can help alleviate symptoms of stress. During each session, the practitioner will repeat a set of visualisations that induce a state of relaxation. Autogenic Training restores the balance between the activities of the sympathetic (flight or fight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest) branches of the autonomic nervous system. This has important health benefits, as the parasympathetic activity lowers the blood pressure, slows the heart rate, and promotes the functions of the immune system.

Instructions

  • Plan on practising autogenic training at least once a day
    It only takes 15 minutes to become relaxed and start into a healthy life
  • Keep external stimuli to a minimum
  • Wear loose clothing
  • Choose one of the three basic AT postures

1.    Sit in an armchair in which your head, back and extremities are supported and you are as comfortable as possible

2.    Sit on a stool, slightly stooped over, with your arms resting on your thighs and your hands draped between your knees

3.    Lie down with your head supported and your legs about eight inches apart, your toes pointed slightly outward, and your arms resting comfortably at your sides but no touching your body

  • Scan your body to be sure that the position you choose is tension free and relaxing
  • Close your eyes or pick a point in front of you to softly focus on

Start the session #1   

Take a few slow, deep and relaxing breaths

1.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times:

  • My right arm is heavy
  • My left arm is heavy
  • My right leg is heavy
  • My left leg is heavy

2.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times:

  • „I am at peace“ or
  • „I am relaxed and calm“

3.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times:

  • My right arm is warm
  • My left arm is warm
  • My right leg is warm
  • My left leg is warm

The autogenic session is ended by flexing the arms and legs, breathing deeply, and opening the eyes.  Please always end the session that way. Never ever simply stand up!

Symptom Effectiveness   

Autogenic training has been found to be effective in reducing general symptoms of anxiety, irritably and fatigue. It can also be useful to increase resistance to stress and reduce sleeping problems.

Meaning of the six formulas:

  1. Heaviness, which promotes relaxation of the voluntary muscles of the limbs, reversing the tension in the limbs
  2. Warmth, which opens the blood vessels in your arms and legs, reversing the flow of blood to the center of the body
  3. Regular heartbeat, which helps to normalize the heart rate, reversing the quickened heart rate characteristic
  4. Regular breathing, which helps to normalize breath rate, reversing the quickened breath rate
  5. Relaxation and warming of the abdomen, which reverses the flow away from the digestive system
  6. Cooling of the head, which reverses the flow of blood to the brain

Deeper explanation of the six formulas:

  1. The first formula is for heaviness in the arms and legs. You may mentally repeat, „My arms and legs are heavy,“ 3 to 6 times. The physiological response for this formula is deep muscular relaxation in the arms and legs.
  2. The second formula is for warmth in the arms and legs. You may mentally repeat, „My arms and legs are pleasantly warm“ 3 to 6 times. The response in the arms and legs is pleasant warmth caused by vascular dilation, expansion of the blood vessels in the circulatory system.
  3. The third formula touches the heartbeat. You may mentally repeat, „My heart beat is strong and calm“ 3 to 6 times. The focus of attention is turned to the beating heart, and you may find that the heartbeat slows down, or becomes more regular, or becomes stronger.
  4. The fourth formula is for breathing. You may mentally repeat „It breathes me.“ This conveys that the autogenic state of deep relaxation is in control of the breathing. Breathing may become deeper or slower as the autogenic state reaches to the subconscious mind with the suggestion „It breathes me.“ An alternate formulation is „My breathing is slow and easy.“ This is not a breathing exercise or yoga, and the intent is not to alter the breathing, but instead to give control of the breathing over to the autogenic state.
  5. The fifth formula brings warmth to the internal core of the body and the visceral organs in the abdominal area. You may mentally repeat „Pleasant warmth is radiating across my abdomen.“ The person practicing AT can visualize that there is a little ball of sunshine at the solar plexus, and it is sending warmth and light radiating outward across all the internal organs of the chest and abdomen. The solar plexus is the place where many nervous system pathways come together just below the rib cage, so this formula brings a physiological response of warmth generated from this nerve center.
  6. The sixth and final formula is „My face is cool“ or „My forehead is cool.“ The cool feelings of the face and forehead contrast with the warmth in the limbs and the core of the body, intensifying the depth of the autogenic state.

At this point, when the body is in a deeply relaxed self-regulating state, there may be a series of suggestions or affirmations that are intended to deal with specific problems or motivations. Remember these affirmations are called the intentional formulas.

Contraindications

Autogenic training is not recommended for individuals with severe mental or emotional disorders. If you have any health issues, you should consult with your doctor prior to beginning autogenic training. It is always recommended to start a course with a professional Autogenic Training Instructor.

Start the session #2   

1.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times:

  • My arms are heavy and warm
  • My legs are heavy and warm

2.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times:

  • „I am at peace“ or
  • „I am relaxed and calm“

3.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times:

  • My heartbeat is slow and easy or
  • My heart feels calm

4.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times:

  • „I am at peace“ or
  • „I am relaxed and calm“

5.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times

  • My breathing is slow and easy or
  • My breathing feels calm

6.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times:

  • „I am at peace“ or
  • „I am relaxed and calm“

7.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times

  • My stomach is warm or
  • My stomach is relaxed

8.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times:

  • „I am at peace“ or
  • „I am relaxed and calm“

9.    Please repeat mentally 3 to 6 times

  • My forehead is cool or
  • My scalp is relaxed

10.   Finally repeat mentally

  • My whole body is calm
  • My whole body is relaxed
  • I am calm and relaxed

The autogenic session is ended by flexing the arms and legs, breathing deeply, and opening the eyes.  Please always end the session that way. Never ever simply stand up!

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