What Is Autogenic Training?

What is autogenic training? Does it work? Can it work for you?

There are many different systems of physical training available today - progressive resistance, isometrics, aerobics, plyometrics. But have you ever heard of autogenic training? What, in fact, is autogenic training and can it do anything for you?

The word autogenic literally means "˜self origin', so autogenic training is training originating from oneself. The first stage of the autogenic process is composed of a series of six "˜exercises' to be progressively learned and carried out three or four times each week. Each exercise begins with a brief phase in which the person concentrates intensely on a specific phrase, such as "˜the right arm is very heavy.' The person is advised to not think in words but, rather, to simply look inward, turning to the pictures of the inner self that correspond with the phrase. So, when thinking "˜the right arm is very heavy', the arm should, in reality, feel heavy. As each procedure is learned and followed through, additional ones are added. The last four exercises are directed toward gaining control over the heartbeat, the breathing apparatus, the inner organs and the mind. During the entire training session a person is always to concentrate on the thought: "˜I am completely relaxed.'

The basic idea of the training program, devised by Johannes Shultz in the 1930s, is that the body should follow the dictates of the mind. Autogenic training should also allow a person to become totally relaxed at any time. It is believed by its proponents that autogenic training does far more than this, however. According to Dr. Gisela Eberlein, who studied the technique under the guidance of the founder Shultz, " One learns to influence the organs and the organic system, that is to say, to quiet the palpitating heart and the nervous stomach. The circulatory system, for example, can be influenced to prevent blushing."

So does autogenic training actually work? Well, yes, it does appear to have beneficial effects for many people. Why is this? Firstly, it is widely known that relaxation and release of tension can have beneficial physical effects. Then there is the placebo effect. People who strongly believe in certain types of remedy tend to get better. The power of positive suggestion is also an influence.

There are, however, certain cautions to consider. It is strongly advised that training only take place under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Why? If not properly handled the techniques could be dangerous. Emotional problems could result from improper execution of the techniques. There is also the danger that a person may see autogenic training as a cure-all and neglect needed medical attention. Autogenic training, in fact, has its roots in hypnotism. It has been described as a form of self-hypnotism.

So, what can we conclude about autogenic training? While it has proved beneficial for some, it would appear that autogenic training is fraught with dangers for the novice. The best advice is to know exactly what you are becoming involved in and, if you do decide to proceed, do so under expert guidance.

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