What is Autogenic Training: Meditation Explained

by | 10 Apr, 2024

A serene landscape with a meditation mat and headphones nearby

Autogenic training is a relaxation technique that was developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz in the early 20th century. The term ‘autogenic’ is derived from the Greek words ‘autos’ (self) and ‘genes’ (originating), thus implying a technique that comes from within oneself. It is a form of self-hypnosis that involves repeating specific phrases to induce a state of relaxation and peace.

Autogenic training is often compared to meditation due to its focus on relaxation and mindfulness. However, it differs from traditional meditation practices in its method and approach.

This article will delve into the intricacies of autogenic training, exploring its origins, techniques, benefits, and its relationship with meditation.

Origins of Autogenic Training

The origins of autogenic training can be traced back to the early 20th century when Johannes Heinrich Schultz, a German psychiatrist, developed this technique. Schultz was influenced by the hypnosis practices of his time and aimed to create a method that individuals could use independently to manage stress and anxiety.

He observed that certain verbal suggestions could induce a state of relaxation and hypothesized that individuals could learn to self-induce these states. This led to the development of autogenic training, a technique that involves the repetition of specific phrases to promote relaxation and peace.

The Influence of Hypnosis

Schultz’s work was heavily influenced by the hypnosis practices of his time. He was particularly interested in the power of suggestion and how it could be used to induce different states of consciousness. This interest led him to develop a technique that utilized the power of suggestion for self-relaxation.

Autogenic training, therefore, can be seen as a form of self-hypnosis. The individual repeats specific phrases, known as ‘autogenic suggestions’, to themselves in a calm and relaxed manner. These suggestions are designed to promote feelings of warmth and heaviness in the body, leading to a state of deep relaxation.

Techniques of Autogenic Training

Autogenic Training

Autogenic training involves six standard exercises that are designed to induce a state of deep relaxation. These exercises focus on different parts of the body and involve the repetition of specific phrases.

For example, one exercise may involve repeating the phrase ‘my arms and legs are heavy and warm’ to promote a feeling of heaviness and warmth in the limbs. Another exercise may involve repeating the phrase ‘my heartbeat is calm and regular’ to promote a sense of calm and regularity in the heartbeat.

Standard Exercises

The six standard exercises of autogenic training are designed to promote feelings of warmth and heaviness in different parts of the body. These exercises are typically performed in a specific order, starting with the limbs and moving towards the heart.

Each exercise involves the repetition of a specific phrase. The individual is encouraged to repeat this phrase to themselves in a calm and relaxed manner, focusing on the sensation that the phrase is intended to evoke. For example, the phrase ‘my arms and legs are heavy and warm’ is designed to promote a feeling of heaviness and warmth in the limbs.

Individual Adaptations

While the standard exercises of autogenic training are designed to be performed in a specific order, individuals are encouraged to adapt the technique to suit their needs. This may involve changing the order of the exercises, altering the phrases used, or incorporating other relaxation techniques.

For example, an individual may choose to focus on the sensation of warmth in their limbs before moving on to the sensation of heaviness. Alternatively, they may choose to incorporate deep breathing exercises into their practice to further promote relaxation.

Benefits of Autogenic Training

Autogenic training has been associated with a range of physical and psychological benefits. These include reduced stress and anxiety, improved sleep quality, and increased feelings of calm and well-being.

Research has also suggested that autogenic training may be beneficial for individuals with certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, chronic pain, and digestive disorders. However, further research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of this technique.

Reduced Stress and Anxiety

One of the primary benefits of autogenic training is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. By promoting a state of deep relaxation, this technique can help to calm the mind and reduce feelings of tension and worry.

Research has shown that autogenic training can be an effective tool for managing stress and anxiety. For example, a study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that individuals who practiced autogenic training reported significant reductions in stress and anxiety levels compared to a control group.

Improved Sleep Quality

Autogenic training can also improve sleep quality. The deep relaxation induced by this technique can help to promote a state of calm and tranquility, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that individuals who practiced autogenic training reported improved sleep quality and reduced insomnia symptoms compared to a control group. These findings suggest that autogenic training may be a beneficial tool for individuals struggling with sleep issues.

Autogenic Training and Meditation

Autogenic training is often compared to meditation due to its focus on relaxation and mindfulness. However, it differs from traditional meditation practices in its method and approach.

While both techniques aim to promote relaxation and mindfulness, autogenic training involves the repetition of specific phrases to induce these states. In contrast, meditation typically involves focusing the mind on a specific object, thought, or activity to train attention and awareness.

Similarities with Meditation

There are several similarities between autogenic training and meditation. Both techniques aim to promote relaxation and mindfulness, and both involve focusing the mind in a specific way.

Both techniques also encourage a state of self-awareness and introspection. By focusing on the sensations in the body or the rhythm of the breath, individuals can develop a greater awareness of their physical and mental states.

Differences from Meditation

Despite these similarities, there are key differences between autogenic training and meditation. The primary difference lies in the method used to achieve relaxation and mindfulness.

Autogenic training involves the repetition of specific phrases to induce a state of relaxation. These phrases are designed to promote feelings of warmth and heaviness in the body, leading to a state of deep relaxation. In contrast, meditation typically involves focusing the mind on a specific object, thought, or activity to train attention and awareness.

Conclusion

Autogenic training is a powerful relaxation technique that can help to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and promote a sense of calm and well-being. While it shares similarities with meditation, it differs in its method and approach.

By understanding the origins, techniques, and benefits of autogenic training, individuals can make informed decisions about whether this technique is right for them. As with any relaxation technique, it is important to practice regularly and be patient with the process. With time and practice, autogenic training can become a valuable tool for promoting relaxation and well-being.