Autogenic training provides a drug free approach to a whole host of stress related conditions, both physical and emotional. The technique teaches individuals simple relaxation techniques which increase body awareness and reverse automatic stress response. Once the ‘fight or flight’ response to stress has been shut down, the body’s relaxation response can cut in.
The relaxation response is a state of extreme rest that encourages the body to repair and recuperate. This ‘self healing process’ will naturally boost the immune system, help to restore emotional balance and forms the basis of what is known as Autogenic training.
Autogenic training is often referred to as the western world’s form of meditation, appealing to those who are less interested in the religious and cultural aspects of traditional meditation but still wish to obtain the benefits.
Research has demonstrated that Autogenic training is an effective treatment for a wide range of stress related disorders and it has been available on the NHS for a period of over 20 years. Autogenic training is usually taught as a course and involves a series of six standard exercises which form the basis of the treatment. Each week or session, a different formula is learnt and is intended to be repeated and practiced whilst focusing attention on different parts of the body and the sensations associated with a relaxed state. It is important that the exercises are practiced with ‘passive concentration’, which is a meditative state of mind enabling the body to restore harmony and function.
German neurologist and psychiatrist Dr Johannes Schultz developed Autogenic training back in the 1920’s. Whilst Dr Schultz was researching the physiology of deeply relaxed states he found that teaching his patients to make auto suggestions that they were experiencing physical sensations of deep relaxation, would enable their nervous system to switch from stress to relaxation mode. In 1907 Schultz went to study medicine in Lausanne, Switzerland. This is where he began his specialisation in psychiatry and became deeply influenced by the work of Professor Oscar Vogt. Vogt had spent most of his life studying psychosomatic medicine and during his research he found that patients who practiced verbal exercises to induce a hypnotic state reported a better sense of well-being. The patients also reported reduced symptoms of headaches, fatigue, anxiety and other ailments.
After making this discovery the next goal for Schultz was to find a way of achieving a similar state to hypnosis, without actually hypnotising the patient. After trialling a number of methods, he found the most effective way was to direct attention to sensations of heaviness and warmth in the limbs which can be achieved using passive concentration and a verbal formula. Schultz published these findings in his 1912 research paper Autogenic Organ Exercises. After additional years of research and training, Schultz published the first edition of Autogenic Therapy in 1932. It explained the clinical application of the six standard autogenic formula which are still widely used throughout the world today.