Autogenic Training (AT)

I started to do Autogenic training way back in 1988. Then it was a little known system devised in the 1930’s by psychiatrist and neurologist Dr. Johannes Schultz. It was mainly used by athletes and sports people to help them relax and steady their nerves so they could compete in disciplines that required concentration and steadiness.

Today it has found its way into the mainstream health system (it’s available on the UK National Health Service) and is one many techniques you can use to induce a kind of self relaxation through auto-suggestion, helping to relieve stress and boost the immune system and vital functions, as relaxation generally does.

In essence, it required the practitioner to use their mind to tell different parts of their body to relax by imagining their limbs to be warm and heavy, their heart rate to be slow and steady, and their forehead to be cool etc – all in all, it leads to a relaxed state by suggesting to the body all the feelings that are elicited by being relaxed, so it’s quite a clever system. First of all, you listen to your AT trainer, and then learn what they say and repeat it to yourself  whilst alone, either sitting (preferably) or lying down.

I had to find a quiet place and the right time to do it, every day. I did it twice a day, at first, morning and night. Day by day I managed to relax more and more and then I was able to put in my own auto-suggestions too, that were a kind of self hypnosis to try and help me change my life for the better. So, I put in suggestions like “I am always healthy”, and “I am very successful”.

I have to say that it helped, I felt physically and emotionally better, but in the end, I couldn’t use it in my everyday life, because it was too inflexible… it was often hard to find quiet time at home. I also found other techniques to be more effective in the long run, because I could use them anywhere and everywhere, but at the time it was an invaluable tool to helping me along the way to a more relaxed life.

So, it can definitely take you into a deeper stage of relaxation; there have been studies that show it works to help deal with stress and help you re-programme your mind to a certain extent. Furthermore, there have been several controlled trials conducted which show the positive effects of AT, for example,

“A controlled trial with 50 nursing students found that the number of certified days off sick was reduced … and a second trial with only 18 students reported greater improvement in Trait Anxiety”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16553681?ordinalpos=3&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum .

However, it is also limited in its knowledgebase and the teachers don’t have a deeper grasp of sickness and how it develops, but just pass on the techniques to you and you ‘run’ with it, so to speak. My teacher developed arthritis after many years of practicing it, and didn’t seem to think that AT could help her, so I think that’s says quite a lot! Never-the-less, for those who need to relax and can find the time and a quiet place to do it, it can help them calm down and find some peace and also help make them stronger.

The British Autogenic Society has a great site: http://www.autogenic-therapy.org.uk/index.htm