As we learned in my last article, Understanding Stress: The Good and The Bad, although stress can be a useful reaction in times of danger or distress, today it often poses a health risk for many Americans.
Because stress can pose a threat to our health, it is very important to develop tools to deal with the stressors in life. Meditation, deep breathing, and other techniques can help us with this.
Earlier this week, I discussed the fight or flight response, which triggers stress.
The opposite of the fight or flight response is the relaxation response. During the relaxation response, your heart beats slower, muscles relax, blood pressure decreases and breathing becomes slower, among other changes.
There are many ways to elicit this response simply by breaking your train of stressful thoughts and feelings. This can include various forms of meditation, yoga, etc. One technique that I’ve had personal success with, and that many people don’t yet know about, is called Autogenic Training.
Autogenic Training is a mind-body technique that aids in relaxation by using verbal commands. With a little bit of practice, you can learn to control your body, stress and anxiety using these verbal commands. Learning this technique is one way that you can achieve deep relaxation and get relief from stress and the harmful health effects that go along with it.
Autogenic Training has proven to help with anxiety, hyperventilation, asthma, diarrhea, constipation, ulcers, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, cold hands and feet, headaches and a variety of other health systems.
To learn Autogenic Training, I took a class at school and learned through our practice there and at home, as well as through a book called Autogenic Training: A Mind-Body Approach to the Treatment of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Syndrome by Micah R. Sadigh Ph.D. and Roberto Patarca Montero.
You can look into finding an Autogenic trainer in your area, or explore it on your own. However, there are some heath conditions you should consult a doctor before beginning your practice, including heart conditions, diabetes, and blood pressure.
During an Autogenic Training session, the goal is to passively try to relax by repeating phrases about your body feeling heavy, warm and at peace.
A usual session would begin this way:
My left arm is heavy (repeat). My right arm is heavy (repeat). Both arms are heavy. I am at peace.
My arms are heavy and warm.
After going through the whole script and eventually mastering the control of your physical body through your thoughts, there are more advanced steps to further your practice.
Autogenic Training is a powerful and intricate method for deep relaxation. For an intro type of practice, there are some videos on YouTube that can guide you, such as this video.
Best of luck in your quest for relaxation, and remember to breathe!
Autogenic Training. (n.d.). Autogenic Training. Retrieved October 8, 2011, from http://www.autogenictraining.org
British Autogenic Society. (n.d.). British Autogenic Society. Retrieved October 8, 2011, from
Gardner, T. (2009, June 30). Autogenic Training-Topic Overview. WebMD - Better information. Better health.. Retrieved October 8, 2011, from http://www.webmd.com/balance/tc/autogenic-training-topic-overview
The Relaxation Response - Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. (n.d.). Massachusetts General Hospital Home. Retrieved October 8, 2011, from http://www.massgeneral.org/bhi/basics/rr.aspx
Reviewed October 12, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith