Restores the balance between the activity of the sympathetic (flight or fight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest) branches of the autonomic nervous system. This has important health benefits, as the parasympathetic activity promotes digestion and bowel movements, lowers the blood pressure, slows the heart rate, and promotes the functions of the immune system. Autogenic, which means “self-regulation or -generation,” refers to the way in which your mind can influence your body to balance the self-regulative systems that control circulation, breathing, heart rate, and so on.
Autogenic training allows you to control stress by training your autonomic nervous system to become relaxed. It is suggested that you learn progressive relaxation first. Autogenic training will then teach you to respond, in a passive manner, to verbal and visual cues that reduce tension. By focusing on relaxing phrases and images, the training conditions positive, relaxing responses, such as rhythmic breathing and heart rate and a warm, relaxed, heavy feeling throughout the body. Autogenic training is based on the notion of passive concentration: that is, you try to achieve your goal of relaxation by not working actively to do so (as in progressive relaxation).
Practice autogenic training twice each day in order to maximize the benefits. Choose times and places that are feasible for an uninterrupted session. Wear comfortable clothes. Sit or be in a position that allows total support for your entire body. When you begin autogenic training, first work on reducing your heart rate and calming your breathing; then you can move on to trying to evoke warm, heavy, relaxed sensations in your limbs and body. As you practice, try to combine phrases with images in order to keep your mind occupied. If thoughts do intrude into your session, just observe them and let them go.
While autogenic training is effective in reducing stress, tension, and anxiety, it is not recommended for people with severe mental disorders. A complete physical examination before beginning to practice autogenic training, and people with diabetes, hypoglycemia, heart conditions, and high or low blood pressure should practice only under the supervision of their physician.
Self taught training available. See Autogenic Training websites.