What is autogenic training?
Autogenic training is a relaxation process created in 1932 by a German psychiatrist named Johannes Heinrich Schultz. The technique is a daily process of 15 minute visualization sessions that can be conducted at any time with the intention of bringing the patient into a deep state of relaxation. The process is intended on training the mind to relax itself on command to alleviate a variety of psychosomatic disorders that can be caused by stress. Though it is thought to work on the process of relaxation alone, many also conclude that the deep relaxation brainwave level consciously induces the body’s very own healing abilities to take action. It has many similarities to common yoga and breathing meditation techniques that rely on consciously manipulating the nervous system through relaxation into an alternative state of being.
Autogenic healing is a repetition of several affirmations corresponding to different bodily systems or areas to bring about a deeply relaxed, yet conscious state, whereby the brain lapses into a different and healing wavelength than normally found during conscious times. It is a form of conditioning whereby the body responds to either the vocalization of the patient themselves or a prompt from the therapist. After practicing the technique with a professional most patients can practice it on their own at home. The name itself implies the fact that this is a self teaching method, though at first many autogenic training practitioners need professional guidance it is up to the patient themselves to repeat the phrases and condition the mind to respond.
What happens during an autogenic training session?
An autogenic training session requires the patient to repeat a series of command phrases multiple times until the mind and body become relaxed. There are in total 6 autogenic training exercises, each of which is used by practitioners to influence different parts of the body and different levels of relaxation.
These 6 exercises were designed to break down the process of relaxation of the entire body into a more manageable area by area process.
These levels are the:
- muscle system,
- circulatory system,
- abdomen and
- the head or cerebrobascular system.
This first involves the patient taking several deep breaths until they are more aware of the feel of their body and their mind is focused. Then they will begin to repeat phrases such as:
“My right arm is heavy and warm” three or more times until they feel that the body part has that quality.
It is then repeated by a more abstract phrase such as “My heartbeat is calm and regular”.
At this point the teachings can divide and while some advocates prefer to start at the tips of the toes and working your way up the body slowly before working back down until all tensions are released.
“My forehead is cool” and
“My solar plexus is warm”.
The final phrase to repeat is “I am at peace” at least three times until it permeates the body.
Generally the process is repeated two or three times before the session is complete. At first many students will not be able to make it through, simply falling asleep at the deep relaxation that is induced within moments while others will need to complete multiple cycles to achieve a complete conscious relaxed state.
What is an autogenic training session used for?
Authogenic training is mainly used as a deep relaxation method. It is even taught in more progressive schools as a meditation to be done before sleep so that the body is cleansed of any stress or negative tension that may disrupt an otherwise deep and peaceful sleep. There are also physical benefits to using autogenic healing sessions including:
- a lower heart rate,
- lowered blood pressure,
- improved immune function,
- and improved digestive effects.
Autogenic training is used as a healing tool since it puts the body into a deep relaxation state. It is similar in theory to the repair that our bodies get while in a deep and relaxed sleep only it is a consciously achieved state.
The process works on the assumption that the brain relaxes into a different brain wavelength than that generally be found during waking hours and that this brain wavelength vibration is what causes the healing effect on the body and mind of patients who practice it.
Autogenic training is not suggested for hysteria or schizophrenic problems but can be effective in treating other psychosomatic disorders. Though most of the issues treated by autogenic training are mental or psychological in nature some physical ailments have also shown to be improved by it as well. These include:
- migraines, and
- muscle pain.
Is there any evidence for autogenic healing?
Unlike many relaxation techniques and brainwave therapies autogenic training has been clinically studied and found to have genuine positive effects on the human patients. Studies have been conducted from the time of it’s conception until recent years showing the connection between the deep relaxation that patients feel and positive physical effects.
In 2002 a meta-study concluded that the technique was comparable to others in the field, and that the positive effect of treatments could be seen over a number of diagnoses. The process is considered to be safe though patients with heart conditions are advised to discuss its use only under their healthcare providers supervision. Many centers that offer autogenic training, either in group or individual sessions, are also happy to provide client testimonials showing the effectiveness of their treatments. There have also been studies conducted showing the effectiveness on both mother and baby when using autogenic training during pregnancy. It has even been reviewed in such popular publications as Good Housekeeping magazine, and autogenic training become much more mainstream because of it in the last few years.