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Autogenic Training

Autogenic, which means "self-regulation or -generation," refers to the way in which your mind can influence your body to balance the self-regulative systems that control circulation, breathing, heart rate, and so on. Autogenic training allows you to control stress by training your autonomic nervous system to become relaxed.

It is suggested that you learn progressive relaxation first. Autogenic training will then teach you to respond, in a passive manner, to verbal and visual cues that reduce tension. By focusing on relaxing phrases and images, the training conditions positive, relaxing responses, such as rhythmic breathing and heart rate and a warm, relaxed, heavy feeling throughout the body.

Autogenic training is based on the notion of passive concentration: that is, you try to achieve your goal of relaxation by not working actively to do so (as in progressive relaxation).

Practice autogenic training twice each day in order to maximize the benefits. Choose times and places that are feasible for an uninterrupted session. Wear comfortable clothes. Sit or be in a position that allows total support for your entire body. When you begin autogenic training, first work on reducing your heart rate and calming your breathing; then you can move on to trying to evoke warm, heavy, relaxed sensations in your limbs and body.

As you practice, try to combine phrases with images in order to keep your mind occupied. If thoughts do intrude into your session, just observe them and let them go.

A Sample Session

Following is an example of a session using phrases and images. You can run through this mentally as you practice, or you can make a tape recording to guide you through the session.

Sit comfortably and gently roll your head in a half circle in front of you. Roll from side to side a few times then bring your head up to face forward. Take a deep breath in, drawing the air deep into your stomach. Slowly release the breath.

Concentrate on your breathing, which is smooth and rhythmic. Imagine that your breaths are like waves lapping at the shore. Keep this image in your mind as you repeat to yourself, "My breathing is rhythmic and smooth . . . my breathing is rhythmic and smooth."

With each breath, feel relaxation wash over you like the waves. The waves wash over your feet and legs, your stomach and chest. Feel them cover your arms, your neck, your head. Your arms and legs feet warm and heavy. Feel the waves of relaxation sweep over you. Feel your limbs growing heavier, warmer. Your breathing is calm, rhythmic, and smooth.

Now move your focus to your heart. Imagine the waves of relaxation washing over you, calming your breathing and your heart. Say to yourself, "My heart- beat is gentle and even . . . my heartbeat is gentle and even." "I feel quiet, calm, relaxed . . . my heart- beat is gentle and even."

Your body feels peaceful and tranquil, you are relaxed. Concentrate now on your right arm and hand. Say to yourself, "My right arm and hand feel warm and heavy . . . my right arm and hand feel warm and heavy." Imagine the sun shining on your arm and hand. Feel the warmth spread through your arm and hand as they grow heavier and heavier. Say to yourself, "My right arm and hand feel warm and heavy . . ."

Now focus on your left arm and hand. Say to yourself, "My left arm and hand feel warm and heavy . . . my left arm and hand feel warm and heavy." Again imagine the sun shining on your arm and hand, or that they are soaking in a hot tub. Feel the warmth spread through your arm and hand, and feel them grow heavier. Say to yourself, "My left arm and hand feel warm and heavy . . ."

Concentrate now on both of your arms and hands. They both feel warm and heavy. Say to yourself, "Both of my arms and hands are warm and heavy . . . my right arm and left arm are warm and heavy . . ." Feel the warmth flow through your arms and hands, down into your fingers to the tips. You feel relaxed all over as your arms and hands get warmer and heavier. While your arms are warm and heavy, scan your body from head to toe to find any muscle tension in other parts of your body. Make sure your shoulders are dropped and relaxed, your jaw is not clenched, your legs are relaxed. You should feel relaxed all over, your mind free from thought.

Now turn your concentration to your legs. Feel the warmth and heaviness from your arms flow down into your legs. Say to yourself, "My legs and feet are warm and heavy . . . my legs and feet are warm and heavy." Imagine bathing in the sun and feel the warmth spread over your body, radiating through your arms and hands, down through your legs and feet. Say to yourself, "My feet and hands are warm and heavy . . . my arms and legs are warm and heavy." All of your limbs now feel warm and heavy. Your body is relaxed and calm, your breathing is deep and rhythmic, your heart is beating gently and evenly.

To complete the autogenic exercise, take a deep breath and exhale. Picture yourself now in the room where you began the session. You are calm and relaxed, and you will become more relaxed each time you do this exercise. Take a few more deep breaths, open your eyes, and you will feel relaxed yet alert and refreshed.

After The Session

If you are going to resume physical activity, you can follow your autogenic exercises with stretching to stimulate your muscles. If you find yourself yawning, don't assume that you are now tired. Take this as a sign that the exercise has worked-that you are relaxed and free from tension.


While autogenic training is effective in reducing stress, tension, and anxiety, it is not recommended for people with severe mental disorders. You should have a complete physical examination before beginning to practice autogenic training, and people with diabetes, hypoglycemia, heart conditions, and high or low blood pressure should practice only under the supervision of their physician. If you feel any adverse side effects, discontinue your practice and consult with an experienced autogenic training instructor.

Related Topics: Meditation, Biofeedback, Guided Imagery

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