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What is Autogenic Training?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 April 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Autogenic training is a technique which is used to manage stress and other psychological conditions. The goal of the training is to promote deep calm and relaxation by repeating a series of exercises on a daily basis. People can learn autogenic training techniques from instructors or they can opt to pursue training on their own, especially if they have experience with guided imagery and other relaxation and meditation techniques.

In autogenic training, the practitioner runs through a series of visualizations which involve the body getting warm, heavy, and totally relaxed. He or she progressively moves from the extremities to the trunk of the body with these visualizations, while practicing slow, deep breathing. After a state of relaxation has been reached, the practitioner gently reverses the effects, and then resumes normal activities. These exercises are repeated several times a day on a daily basis.

Studies on people who have used autogenic training seem to suggest that the practice can in fact alter the activities of the autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system which is responsible for keeping the body in a state of homeostasis or balance. Regular practice can lower blood pressure, regulate heart rate, and reduce overall sensations of stress. Stress-related psychological conditions can benefit from autogenic training, as can some medical issues, when the practitioner is carefully supervised.

The term “autogenic” literally means “self generating,” referring to the idea that autogenic training is supposed to help the practitioner regulate his or her own body through regular practice. This concept was developed by Johannes Schultz in the 1930s, an era when some people began to be interested in meditation and other alternative techniques to promote health, core strength, and mental balance. It has since been utilized all over the world by practitioners in a variety of contexts ranging from yogis to patients in psychiatric hospitals.

Because the autogenic relaxation technique can have physiological effects when it is practiced correctly and on a regular basis, it is recommended that practitioners talk to a doctor before starting autogenic training. The doctor can discuss whether or not the training is appropriate for the patient, and the types of positions that the patient should use while running through visualizations. While most people start out in a prone position, gradually experimenting with sitting and other poses, there may be a pose which is particularly suitable to an individual patient, and there may be other concerns about the effects of autogenic training which a doctor may want to address with a patient before he or she begins practicing.

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