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How Do I Practice Autogenic Training for Relaxation?

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Updated December 04, 2013

Autogenic training is a relaxation technique similar to the meditation first introduced by German psychiatrist Johannes Schulz in the 1930s. It is believed that through a series of self-statements about heaviness and warmth in different parts of the body, a positive effect is induced on the autonomic nervous system. Although less well-known than other relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery, a meta-analytic study in 2002 found positive effects of autogenic training across a range of diagnoses. In terms of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), autogenic training may aid in relaxation and help to reduce symptoms of anxiety when combined with other forms of treatment.

For those who suffer with medical conditions, please consult with your doctor prior to beginning any type of relaxation training exercise.

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."

In addition to following these instructions, you may consider using a voice recording, such as the free MP3 audio file offered by McMaster University with directions on practicing autogenic training. Use of an audio recording will allow you to fully relax and concentrate on the technique.

Sources:

McMaster University. Guided Relaxation CD. Accessed June 18, 2008.

Stetter F, Kupper, S. Autogenic training: A meta-analysis of clinical outcome studies. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. 2002;27(1):45-98.

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