Autogenic Training: A Looney Name For An Effective Therapy

LionRelaxed3

I just read this article:

How I Beat My Insomnia – With A Cure From The 1930s: The German Self-Hypnosis That’s Making A Comeback, Daily Mail, 28 August 2016

… which reminded me of the classes I had as part of my Integrative Health degree. We learned meditation, visualization, and various forms of progressive relaxation, including what we called back then the body scan. It sounds just like the therapy in this article. You get into a comfortable position, preferably lying down, and focus on parts of your body, working your way up from your toes, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, fingertips, shoulders, etc. to eventually your head (see photo) . You imagine each part getting heavy, and warm, and relaxing. It really does work, or at least it did when I practiced it years ago.

I never heard of Autogenic Training (AT). Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Autogenic training (AT) is a technique that teaches your body to respond to your verbal commands. These commands “tell” your body to relax and control breathing, blood pressure, heartbeat, and body temperature. The goal of AT is to achieve deep relaxation and reduce stress. After you learn the technique, you can use it whenever you need or want relief from symptoms of stress, or you can practice it regularly to enjoy the benefits of deep relaxation and prevent the effects of chronic stress.

In 2002, a meta-analysis of 60 studies was published in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback,[4] finding significant positive effects of treatment when compared to normals over a number of diagnoses; finding these effects to be similar to best recommended rival therapies; and finding positive additional effects by patients, such as their perceived quality of life.

That 2002 meta-analysis said:

Positive effects (medium range) of AT and of AT versus control in the meta-analysis of at least 3 studies were found for tension headache/migraine, mild-to-moderate essential hypertension, coronary heart disease, asthma bronchiale, somatoform pain disorder (unspecified type), Raynaud’s disease, anxiety disorders, mild-to-moderate depression/dysthymia, and functional sleep disorders.

From WebMD:

Autogenic training (AT) is a technique that teaches your body to respond to your verbal commands. These commands “tell” your body to relax and control breathing, blood pressure, heartbeat, and body temperature. The goal of AT is to achieve deep relaxation and reduce stress. After you learn the technique, you can use it whenever you need or want relief from symptoms of stress, or you can practice it regularly to enjoy the benefits of deep relaxation and prevent the effects of chronic stress.

Finally:

Without regular practice, autogenic training is not likely to have an effect. For this reason, only those people who are motivated and committed to learning it are likely to get any benefit from AT. But for those who master the technique, it works, and it can be an effective treatment for chronic stress.

I’m grateful for this reminder!

I found this example. It’s somewhat abbreviated from the body scan I’m used to, but a good overview:

How to Practice Autogenic Training

  1. Find a quiet place free from distractions. Lie on the floor or recline in a chair. Loosen any tight clothing and remove glasses or contacts. Rest your hands in your lap or on the arms of the chair.
  2. Take a few slow even breaths. If you have not already, spend a few minutes practicing diaphragmatic breathing.
  3. Quietly say to yourself, “I am completely calm.”
  4. Focus attention on your arms. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, “My arms are very heavy.” Then quietly say to yourself, “I am completely calm.”
  5. Refocus attention on your arms. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, “My arms are very warm.” Then quietly say to yourself, “I am completely calm.”
  6. Focus attention on your legs. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, “My legs are very heavy.” Then quietly say to yourself, “I am completely calm.”
  7. Refocus attention on your legs. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, “My legs are very warm.” Then quietly say to yourself, “I am completely calm.”
  8. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, “My heartbeat is calm and regular.” Then quietly say to yourself, “I am completely calm.”
  9. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, “My breathing is calm and regular.” Then quietly say to yourself, “I am completely calm.”
  10. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, “My abdomen is warm.” Then quietly say to yourself, “I am completely calm.”
  11. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, “My forehead is pleasantly cool.” Then quietly say to yourself, “I am completely calm.”
  12. Enjoy the feeling of relaxation, warmth and heaviness. When you are ready, quietly say to yourself, “Arms firm, breathe deeply, eyes open.”

2 thoughts on “Autogenic Training: A Looney Name For An Effective Therapy

  1. Marj

    Thanks for the directions for autogenic training, have tried some semblance of that but what you have posted is better. Actually, though, just gazing at the photo of the lion ought to do the trick! (for me anyway). Love it!

    Reply

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