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Definition, Benefits, and How to Practice for Powerful Stress Relief |


According to a 2022 survey by the American Psychological Association, over 75% of U.S. adults are so stressed, it has negatively affected their health. This is troubling, because in addition to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and trouble sleeping, chronic stress can contribute to potentially deadly conditions like heart disease.

Multiple Sources of Stress and Associated Symptoms Overwhelm Americans!

But what if a simple mind-body technique could help? Let’s explore a modality called autogenic relaxation (or autogenic training), how it works, and who can benefit from it.

Autogenic relaxation definition

The word, “autogenic” means “originating within oneself.” This means autogenic training is aptly named, as it’s a meditation-like practice rooted in self-initiated change.

The essence of the technique is learning to command your body to relax, leveraging the power of the mind to influence physical states. It incorporates visualization and verbal cues to systematically relax various parts of the body, culminating in a recovery phase that includes stretching and deep breathing.

Fully mastering autogenic training takes regular repetition, sometimes spanning four to six months. But simply practicing it can be transformative, relieving stress in a matter of minutes.

For best results, experts recommend learning autogenic training under the guidance of a qualified instructor, such as a therapist. But you can ultimately practice the technique independently.

How does autogenic training work?

Researchers are still exploring the mechanisms behind autogenic relaxation. But studies suggest it activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS)–the part of the autonomic nervous system responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” mode.

The PNS plays a crucial role in managing vital bodily functions like heart rate and blood pressure, while promoting relaxation, recovery, and digestion following periods of stress.

Experts believe autogenic training works similarly to hypnosis and biofeedback, two other mind body techniques that utilize the connection between mind and body. This connection allows you to consciously influence physiological responses that are typically automatic, such as:

  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Body temperature

What is autogenic training used for?

Autogenic relaxation is primarily used for stress relief. But research shows its benefits extend to a wide range of health conditions, including:

  • Generalized anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic, unexplained pain
  • Tension headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

What are the risks of autogenic training?

Autogenic relaxation is generally considered safe for most people. But you may want to consult your healthcare provider before beginning to understand its potential effects. This is especially important if you have a serious health condition like diabetes or heart disease.

The technique also might not be suitable for children under the age of 5, or those with severe mental health disorders like schizophrenia. If you experience extreme anxiety or restlessness during or after autogenic training, stop the exercises and consult your doctor or a qualified autogenic training instructor.

Experts also recommend seeking oversight from a healthcare professional if you experience fluctuations in blood pressure during or after the exercises. While autogenic relaxation can offer excellent support alongside other treatments for a number of health conditions, it’s important not to replace other medical treatments without consulting your healthcare provider.

How to do autogenic training for stress relief

Again, learning autogenic training from a professional will garner the best results. But here’s a sneak peak at the exercises if you want to try them on your own.

For extra relaxation, consider following a voice recording that guides you through these steps, so you can be fully immersed in the experience without distraction.

  1. Choose a quiet, comfortable spot for your sessions. These exercises can be done either sitting or lying down. Wear loose-fitting clothing so you’ll be comfortable throughout your practice.
  2. Start by focusing on your breath. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily in a comfortable rhythm. Then mentally repeat the phrase, “I am completely calm.” This affirmation can help put you into a relaxed state.
  3. Concentrate on areas of your body, starting with your right arm. While maintaining slow, even breaths, repeat, “My right arm is heavy; I am completely calm.” Continue this process with your left arm and legs, always returning to the mantra.
  4. Next, concentrate on your heartbeat, followed by other areas of your body. While breathing deeply, tell yourself, “My heartbeat is calm and regular,” six times, followed by, “I am completely calm.” Then do the same for other areas of your body, including your abdomen, chest, and forehead.

If, like most Americans, you’re chronically stressedautogenic training is a powerful tool that can guide you to relaxation and a state of well-being.

To get started, look for a qualified instructor to teach you the fundamentals and ensure you have a solid understanding of the techniques. As you get more comfortable with the process, you can continue the practice on your own–and unlock a calmer, more centered you.

References:

Stress in America 2022: Concerned for the future, beset by inflation

Autogenic Training – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Autosuggestion – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Relaxation Techniques: What You Need To Know | NCCIH

Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-years systematic review with meta-analysis – PMC

Effectiveness of autogenic training on psychological well-being and quality of life in adults living with chronic physical health problems: a protocol for a systematic review of RCT

Autogenic training: a meta-analysis of clinical outcome studies

Autogenic Training Improves the Subjective Perception of Physical and Psychological Health and of Interpersonal Relational Abilities: An Electronic Field Survey During the COVID-19 Crisis in Spain

Autogenic Training in Mental Disorders: What Can We Expect?

Effect of autogenic training on cardiac autonomic nervous activity in high-risk fire service workers for posttraumatic stress disorder.

Autogenic Training Improves the Subjective Perception of Physical and Psychological Health and of Interpersonal Relational Abilities: An Electronic Field Survey During the COVID-19 Crisis in Spain – PMC

Autogenic training in the treatment and secondary prevention of essential hypertension: five-year follow-up

Effect of autogenic training on cardiac autonomic nervous activity in high-risk fire service workers for posttraumatic stress disorder – ScienceDirect

A pilot randomized trial assessing the effects of autogenic training in early stage cancer patients in relation to psychological status and immune system responses – ScienceDirect

[Effect of Autogenic Training for Stress Response: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis]

Autogenic Training for Reducing Chronic Pain: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials – PMC

Autogenic Training as a behavioural approach to insomnia: a prospective cohort study

Regular Practice of Autogenic Training Reduces Migraine Frequency and Is Associated With Brain Activity Changes in Response to Fearful Visual Stimuli – PMC

[The results of autogenic training in patients with ischemic heart disease after an aortocoronary bypass operation]

Chronobiometric assessment of autogenic training effects upon blood pressure and heart rate.

Relaxation therapies for asthma: a systematic review – PMC

Effect of autogenic training on general improvement in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized controlled trial

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