Do you often feel stressed, exhausted, distracted? Relaxing with autogenic training boosts your resources. This simple relaxation method helps with stress, anxiety and trouble falling asleep. A guide.
Autogenic training is a proven relaxation method. It is a kind of self-hypnosis: you repeat certain phrases that you have chosen, such as “my right arm is heavy”. The auto-suggestion works on the vegetative nervous system – a system that is not deliberately suggestible and which regulates your blood pressure and breathing, for example. The technique is easy to learn. It is a popular relaxation method that is also suitable for children from around eight years of age.
The current situation is playing on our minds. Isolation and negative emotions such as fear and anxiety increase mental strain. This can have a negative effect on your well-being. Autogenic training combats this. It combats stress, anxiety and trouble getting to sleep. This helps you restore your inner calm.
The individual exercises induce a state of deep relaxation – the foundation for physical and mental health. The body has a detectable reaction to the mere imagination of warmth or weight: the skin heats up, the muscles relax, the pulse slows down. You become calmer, more mindful and more resilient. Chronic stress, on the other hand, undermines key bodily functions such as the immune system. Ready for the first exercise?
Find a quiet place. Sit or lie down, close your eyes, breathe deeply into your belly. Say the phrases internally or out loud. Repeat each phrase three to six times. Let’s go!
“I am calm. I am completely calm.”
Concentrate on a feeling of heaviness in each part of your body:
“My right arm is heavy.”
“My left arm is heavy.”
“My arms are heavy.”
“My right leg is heavy.”
“My left leg is heavy.”
“My legs are heavy.”
Now focus on a feeling of warmth.
“My right arm is warm.”
“My left arm is warm.”
“My arms are warm.”
“My right leg is warm.”
“My left leg is warm.”
“My legs are warm.”
"My breathing is calm and even.”
"My heartbeat is completely calm and even.”
“Warmth is flowing through my abdomen.”
“My forehead is cool and smooth.”
If you are not using autogenic training to fall asleep, you must finish by saying the return phrase:
While you say this, bend your arms a few times and stretch. Welcome back.
How do you feel after doing the exercises? It is completely normal if you do not have the desired sensation at first. In the short term, it is even possible to feel the opposite effect during the exercise, such as a rapid heartbeat during the heart exercise. Don’t give up. Practise regularly, at least three times a week. The desired effects will set in after a short period of time.
Relaxation through self-hypnosis prevents the occurrence of emotional and physical complaints, supports the healing process in the event of disturbances and promotes general alertness and fitness. Autogenic training has been proven to help with:
Berlin psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz developed autogenic training in the 1930s on the basis of hypnosis research. Since the launch of his concentrative self-relaxation method, as Schultz called it, numerous studies have confirmed the medical effects of the relaxation technique on health – provided you practise it on a regular basis. As you perform the exercises, you eventually automate the desired reactions and sensations. This is referred to as conditioning. In time, an image will suffice and your body will react by relaxing.
Autogenic training is easy to learn and practise at home. If need be, a professional introduction and coaching is worthwhile for beginners. You can find recognised courses and providers here.
Would you like an audio guide? Helsana Coach will introduce you to autogenic training in short daily sessions. It will show you how you can harness the power of your thoughts to relax.
Want to learn more?
Heinz Jurenia (HFP-certified health insurance expert) has worked for Helsana for over 40 years and is a specialist in health promotion measures. He is an expert in the fitness industry and is involved in several quality assurance organisations in the Swiss health sector. Heinz Jurenia provided the editorial team with advice and editorial support for this article.
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