Autogenic training (AT) is one of the most successful forms of relaxation. Most popular relaxation techniques. Because the positive health effects of the scientifically founded relaxation method, which people can achieve through regular practice, speak for themselves. Through a kind of self-hypnosis, during autogenic training one sinks into a deep state of relaxation, which can help to alleviate a variety of ailments – both physical and psychological. Autogenic training is an excellent way to reduce stress. Is often recommended by experts for vegetative dystonia. But how exactly does it work? Who invented this relaxation method? And for which ailments it can actually help? Here you will learn everything you need to know about autogenic training, how to do it and how it works.
What is Autogenic Training?
Autogenic training is a relaxation method in which the practitioner puts himself into a deep state of relaxation (trance or self-hypnosis) with messages directed to himself. These messages are called autosuggestions, where "autós" means "self" in Greek and "suggestio" is the Latin word for "inspiration".
Purposeful focus on a specific message
To enter this deep state of relaxation, the practitioner closes his eyes while sitting or lying down and concentrates on certain formulas, such as "My right arm is heavy". At the same time he tries, by virtue of his thoughts, to let this feeling arise. In this state, an attempt is made to completely block out the outside world and stay only with this one idea. Suddenly occurring other thoughts, on the other hand, should be let go of immediately.
Aim of autogenic training
Autogenic training can help – provided that it is practiced regularly – with various illnesses and complaints as therapy-accompanying measure. It is also used to calm the body, mind and spirit, or to prevent illness. Because any state of rest allows both the body and the psyche to recover, regenerate, and even allow healing effects to occur.
Effectiveness of Autogenic Training
Autogenic training is a western, medically recognized therapy method that works holistically, that is:
– on a physical level (physical) – on a spiritual level (mental) – on a spiritual level (emotional)
For example, autogenic training can be used not only to relieve physical muscle tension, but also to alleviate anxiety or treat negative thoughts and feelings.
For which complaints is autogenic training useful?
Autogenic training – provided it is carried out under professional guidance and on a regular basis – has proven itself as a complementary or sole therapeutic method for many physical, psychosomatic, stress-related and psychological ailments. These include:
– (chronic) pain in the musculoskeletal system such as back pain, neck pain – headaches (u.A. Migraine) – rheumatism – burnout – sleep disorders – restlessness and irritability – anxiety disorders – mild to moderate depression – cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure – allergic diseases such as asthma, hay fever, neurodermatitis – digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome – circulatory disorders – thyroid disorders – menopausal symptoms – addiction and dependency disorders – birth pains – other painful conditions
How exactly does autogenic training work in the body?
Autogenic training has a positive effect on the nervous and immune system
The independent immersion in a deeply relaxed state not only relaxes the body muscles, but also calms the autonomic nervous system. By detaching oneself from the outside world with its smaller and larger everyday problems and concentrating on the inner world, the practitioner creates a harmonious, calm state of mind and soul in which the self-healing powers can become more active again and healing processes can be initiated. Just as mental stress can weaken the immune system, regularly practiced relaxation techniques such as autogenic training can increase the number of antibodies.
Autogenic training focuses on vital relaxation
Tightening muscles is just as important for maintaining life as letting them go. This can be seen in the example of certain essential bodily functions, such as breathing or heart activity. For example, to be able to breathe in requires the active participation of all the muscles needed for breathing. When exhaling, these muscles are then released again. The same interplay of tension and relaxation takes place during the heartbeat. When the heart beats, it actively tenses, followed by a rest period in which it lets go. The tensing of muscles can only function if it is followed by relaxation.
Accordingly, much more attention should be paid to active relaxation, especially today, in our hectic world, in which many of us are under permanent time pressure with constant tension. Because it is actually necessary for life. Just because you don't seem to do anything during relaxation doesn't automatically mean that it is superfluous.
Autogenic training strengthens self-awareness and promotes stress resistance
The deeply relaxed state that is repeatedly targeted during autogenic training can be transferred to everyday life after a few practices, and one reacts correspondingly more calmly to stress. One finds the calmness in spite of hectic work atmosphere. Muscles do not tense up so quickly. Because autogenic training also improves self-awareness, so that in stressful times the muscles are consciously relaxed and the breathing is not tense. As a result, stress-related complaints or illnesses in particular can disappear or at least be alleviated.
People who practice autogenic training can also restore their inner equilibrium more quickly and in a more targeted manner after extraordinary stresses, i.E. They can promote the currently much-cited resilience. Therefore autogenic training is an efficient method for successful stress management.
Autogenic training improves the functioning of the organs
Studies have shown that autogenic training influences and harmonizes all unconscious bodily functions such as heartbeat, breathing and digestion, which can alleviate or even completely eliminate illnesses.
Autogenic training creates a positive mood
Since the autonomic nervous system is closely connected to our feelings and thoughts, a calming of the nervous system always has a positive effect on our feelings, which is why psychological complaints also respond well to autogenic training. Autogenic training also makes one's thoughts clearer and more positive because by focusing on one's inner life, one (re)accesses one's needs and focuses on what is important.
Autogenic training increases physical and mental performance
Studies have shown that autogenic training not only increases physical performance, but also improves mental performance. Autogenic training ensures that the body has more energy available – both on a physical and mental level. Better blood circulation (due to a lower level of tension in the muscles) and an optimal oxygen supply, which are achieved through Autogenic Training, provide more physical energy. The increased clarity in thinking through learned concentration on the essentials leads to more energy in the mental area.
Autogenic training strengthens self-confidence and problem-solving ability
Studies have also found that people who practice autogenic training benefit from increased self-confidence, are less anxious and depressed, and are more active overall. In addition, with the relaxation method you develop a better problem-solving ability. Often practicing brings out new thoughts, ways of seeing and behaving, which can initiate changes in life, lifestyle and personality.
Limits of Autogenic Training: When not to practice the technique?
Autogenic training should not be used in case of severe physical or mental illnesses. This includes:
– a heart attack – hypochondria – severe depression with no external cause (with a physical cause, such as a tumor) – severe obsessive-compulsive disorder – psychosis with a physical cause (z. B. Schidzophrenia)
Autogenic training not appropriate for certain conditions
For people with cardiovascular disorders, migraine or epilepsy, the forehead chill exercise of autogenic training is not recommended. This is because it reduces blood flow to the head, which can have a negative effect on symptoms.
How long does it take to feel success in autogenic training??
According to experts, the first effects can already be seen after initial practice. More comprehensive health effects can occur after a few weeks or months of regular practice (for example, in the case of underlying diseases such as an anxiety disorder).
History of Autogenic Training
To cure diseases and pains with suggestion is already a very old form of therapy. Already the ancient Egyptians knew the phenomenon of the targeted influence of the psyche to relieve ailments.
British surgeon James Braid first researched hypnosis, one of the most important suggestive procedures we know today, in 1843 and began using it as a therapeutic procedure. Based on the work of Braid, the German brain researcher Oskar Vogt also conducted research into autogenic training at the end of the 19th century. The most important information of the twentieth century on hypnosis, more precisely on the importance of self-hypnosis.
Schultz develops a form of self-relaxation: autogenic training
The founder of autogenic training is the German neurologist Johann Heinrich Schultz. He built on Vogt's findings and finally developed Autogenic Training in its current form in 1932 to put oneself in a deeply relaxed state. But he also recognized the therapeutic effect of autogenic training, i.E. That it can be used to cure many ailments. Today this method of Schultz is used mainly in Europe.
The basic level in autogenic training – effective relaxation exercises
The basic level of autogenic training consists of certain fixed formulas, which you say to yourself up to six times, either mentally or silently. It is recommended that you first learn the basic technique of autogenic training under professional guidance in a course, because here you can also ask questions if necessary. After some time, when you have mastered the exercises, you can perform autogenic training regularly on your own. Alternatively, you can also work with an audio CD.
In which position do I perform the autogenic training exercises??
You can do the exercises of autogenic training both lying down and sitting up. It is important that you choose a place for it where you can be undisturbed and feel comfortable.
Autogenic training in the lying position
If you choose to do the exercises lying down, lie down with your back on a surface. Let the legs fall apart. The head and arms lie loosely on the floor, the palms of the hands point downward to the mat. Now close your eyes.
Autogenic training while sitting
It is practical for in-between sessions if you do the exercises while sitting, for example in your office chair. Sit upright and bring your buttocks, back and head to the back of the chair. Feet are completely on the floor, upper and lower legs at right angles to each other. Arms rest comfortably either on the armrests or on your lap. Then close your eyes.
When is the best time to do the autogenic training exercises??
Optimal for the effectiveness of autogenic training are three short exercise sessions of about three minutes per day. Especially suitable for this is the time after waking up in the morning, the lunch break and the phase before falling asleep.
If you have your own office, then you can close the office door for a few minutes. If you work in an open-plan office or in another place where being alone is not possible, you can also do autogenic training in the toilet if need be. The most important thing is that you practice regularly. Better more short sessions than one long one. This especially continuously. Only in this way can complaints be alleviated or completely subside over time.
The basic exercises of autogenic training
In the basic level of autogenic training, you will first learn the basic technique of autogenic training by means of certain exercises. The instructor teaches these one after the other in individual sessions. For each exercise, the practitioner says a short, simple formula to induce and maintain deep relaxation, and then repeats it several times in succession. As a rule, six exercises are learned at the basic level:
– the heaviness exercise to relax the muscles: "My right arm is very heavy" – the warmth exercise to relax the blood vessels in the arms and legs: "My left arm is very warm" – the heart exercise to consciously perceive the heart's activity: "My heart is beating calmly" – the breathing exercise to perceive natural breathing – the solar plexus exercise to relax the abdominal area – the forehead cooling exercise to regulate blood circulation
The withdrawal after each exercise of autogenic training
Before starting the actual exercises of autogenic training, it is important to know in advance how to bring yourself out of the deep state of relaxation after each exercise. This regression is done with certain formulas in three steps:
– "Arms tight": clench fists, pull forearms to body, then loll and stretch arms – "Breathe deep": inhale and exhale deeply – "Open eyes": Open eyes to restore contact with the outside world
The gravity exercise in autogenic training
In the heaviness exercise in autogenic training, one tries to imagine how a part of the body, such as an arm, becomes very heavy. Not every practitioner succeeds immediately. Patience and practice are needed. The heaviness exercise is about really letting go of every muscle in that area of the body. To do this, the formula "My right arm is heavy" is spoken. Sooner or later, a heaviness in the arm will actually set in, which can be clearly perceived. Then the muscles have successfully released.
Generalization in Autogenic Training: from the detail to the whole
If the imagination of heaviness in one part of the body is successful, the practitioner can proceed to generalization. That is, the idea of heaviness is transferred to the entire body. The formula for this is: "Arms. Legs are heavy" or simply "heaviness". After some time of practice in Autogenic Training, this 1-word formula alone is enough to cause a comprehensive relaxation response throughout the body.
The warmth exercise in autogenic training
The warmth exercise in autogenic training involves the practitioner imagining how a part of the body – such as the left leg – becomes warm. In addition the formula "My left leg is warm" is repeated six times. To make this easier, you can imagine how this area of the body is warmed by the sun's rays.
After some practice in autogenic training, you are then actually able to perceive a local warmth that has been shown to result from increased blood flow to the area. Then it is possible to generalize again, i.E. To use the formula "My whole body is warm". When training the heaviness exercise and the warmth exercise, it makes sense for right-handed people to start with the right limbs. Left-handed people, on the other hand, start with the left leg or arm. Then switch to the right side.
The heart exercise in Autogenic Training
The heart exercise in autogenic training aims at consciously concentrating on the heartbeat. Quite a few people also find this difficult at first, because the heartbeat does not seem to be perceptible. With a little practice, however, one also succeeds in doing this. The formula for the heart exercise, for example, is "The heart beats calmly and regularly". This formula is also repeated about six times to deepen the relaxation.
The breathing exercise in autogenic training
Another important exercise in Autogenic Training is the concentration on breathing, the breathing exercise. Here, the practitioner directs the focus on the natural breathing process without influencing it in any way. One simply tries to notice how the breath flows in through the nose and out again, how the lungs fill up and the chest and abdomen rise when breathing in. Then try to feel how the chest and abdomen lower again when exhaling.
The breathing formulas in autogenic training
During the exhalation, the formula for the breathing exercise is directed to oneself, such as "Breathing calmly" or "My breath is flowing calmly and evenly". The breathing formula can be repeated up to six times in this exercise. After that, the resting formula "I am completely calm" can be used for autosuggestion, which is repeated once or twice. Try to let go of thoughts that arise and not pursue them further. Keep your attention on your breathing.
Breathe in a certain rhythm: brings mind and soul to rest
In another breathing exercise, try counting to three on the inhale and then to five in the same rhythm on the exhale. Then you make a small breathing pause in which you count to one and then breathe in again.
The role of free breathing in health
It is undisputed that our thoughts and emotions are closely connected with our body, for example breathing and muscle tension. There are studies on this. We can see this, for example, in the fact that in the event of a stressful event we feel the tightness in the chest when breathing and perhaps a lumpy feeling in the throat.
However, we also react to psychological stress, for example, with increased muscle tension in the neck, shoulders or back. This in turn prevents breathing from developing freely, which often leads to fatigue, reduced performance and many other symptoms. Therefore, it is important that breathing is unhindered, and this is only possible with relaxed muscles. Here the autogenic training can exert positive influence.
The solar plexus exercise in autogenic training
Another exercise in Autogenic Training focuses on the awareness of the abdominal region, the so-called solar plexus. This is the name given to a point at the transition from the rib cage to the pit of the stomach, where a network of nerves is located which, among other things, helps to regulate the function of the abdominal organs. Autogenic training can be used to calm this region by focusing specifically on it, which can relieve many stress-related ailments (autonomic disorders) in the abdomen.
The exercise formulas are: "My solar plexus is streaming warm" or "My belly is soft and warm". This autosuggestion is also usually repeated six times. This can be followed by the resting formula "I am completely calm", which is repeated once or twice.
The forehead cooling exercise in autogenic training
The sixth exercise in Autogenic Training is the forehead cooling exercise. By focusing on this area of the head, the blood flow to the head should be optimally regulated. Many people perceive a cool forehead with an otherwise warm body temperature as pleasant.
The forehead cooling formula in Autogenic Training
Possible exercise formulas for the forehead cooling exercise in Autogenic Training are: "My forehead is pleasantly cool" or "My head is free and clear". This autosuggestion is also best repeated six times in a deeply relaxed state. Then the rest formula can follow again. During the forehead cooling exercise, it is important to relax all the muscles in the area of the head, such as the jaw muscles, the muscles of the forehead, cheeks, tongue, as well as the muscles between the eyebrows.
Forehead cooling exercise not recommended for certain conditions
Caution: The forehead cooling exercise as part of Autogenic Training is not recommended for certain complaints and diseases such as headaches, cardiovascular disorders, migraine or epilepsy. Because the resulting reduced blood circulation can further aggravate the existing complaints.
The advanced stage of autogenic training
When you have mastered the basic level of autogenic training, you can continue with the advanced exercises. The advanced level is often about discarding certain behaviors and finding new, more favorable behaviors and attitudes. Examples of this are smoking cessation or weight reduction. But also the development of creative solutions for a problem or the work on one's own personality (for example: "I am strong and self-confident") can be the focus of the advanced level.
In addition, in the advanced stage of autogenic training, one tries to practice an even more intensive state of relaxation. Also, the practitioner is given access to inner images. How with their help certain resolutions can be implemented.
Who covers the costs of therapy with autogenic training?
Many statutory health insurance companies now contribute to a large extent to the costs of courses for preventive health care. This includes autogenic training as a recognized relaxation method to prevent disease. Ask your health insurance company. Private health insurance companies cover the entire cost of a course in autogenic training.
Can side effects occur during autogenic training?
Side effects are rarely observed with autogenic training because it is a comparatively gentle form of therapy and prevention. Certain underlying conditions, such as mental illness, may cause undesirable side effects. This then manifests itself in, for example:
– abdominal cramps – palpitations – tremors – sweating – pain – dizziness – malaise – anxiety
If you notice such side effects in yourself, ask the course instructor and your doctor. It is possible that these symptoms are related to an existing underlying condition. If you have any major complaints or illnesses, ask your doctor in advance whether autogenic training is an option for you personally.
Where can I learn autogenic training?
Autogenic training can be learned either in the form of individual lessons or in a group. Thus, adult education centers as well as fitness studios often offer courses. But also many independent health experts from the field of alternative medicine or targeted stress management offer appropriate courses.
Once the basic technique has been learned and understood, you can also turn to an audio CD. Or one works out the method from the outset with the help of a book, which in many cases also directly contains an audio CD for exercises. This is recommended especially for those people who already have experience in other relaxation methods such as yoga or tai chi.
Autogenic training and Bach flowers
When practiced seriously, autogenic training can do much more than just do something good for the body, calm the mind, increase concentration or improve sleep. It is often described as the "Yoga of the West", as body-oriented consciousness work that enables one to move from the small self to the big self. Through the exercises one comes more into the now, trains mindfulness, learns to look at one's fears and worries from a higher perspective, and becomes more receptive to the messages of the soul, which shows the way to self-realization. And that is exactly what working with Bach flowers is all about. Autogenic training and Bach flowers therefore complement each other perfectly. The combination of the two methods can bring about a real quantum leap in personality development.