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by Lissa Coffey

Autogenic training is a relaxation technique developed by Johannes Schulz, a German psychiatrist, in 1932. In a series of sessions, we’re taught to relax the limbs, heart and breathing. The idea is to induce a feeling of warmth throughout most of the body, and a feeling of coolness in the forehead. It is a way for us to influence our own autonomic nervous system to combat the effects of stress. This is a physiological response. To practice (in a nutshell!):

  • Practice alone, in quiet, or with soft background music or environmental sounds.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and no shoes.
  • Practice before meals so that the digestive process doesn’t interfere with the relaxation process.
  • Take your time, do not rush.
  • Sit comfortably in a chair, or lie down.
  • Warm -up: Begin slow, deep breathing. Inhale for one beat, exhale for two. With each breath, increase the duration of the inhales and exhales, always doubling the length of time for the exhales. Breath to six counts in, and twelve counts out. Then reverse the process all the way back down to one count in and two counts out.
  • Heavy and Warm – Heaviness and warmth represent muscular relaxation. Visualize and actually feel your limbs becoming heavy. Say to yourself mentally on the inhale: “My arms and legs are” and on the exhale: “heavy and warm.” Repeat.
  • A Calm Heart – Say to yourself on the inhale: “My heartbeat and breathing are” and on the exhale: “calm and steady.” Repeat.
  • A Warm Stomach – this helps you to add a central warmth and peace to your body. Say to ourself on the inhale: “My stomach is” and on the exhale: “soft and warm.” Repeat.
  • A Cool Forehead – This helps you provide a calm, stabilizing coolness to the forehead. Say to yourself on the inhale: “My forehead is” and on the exhale: “cool.” Repeat.
  • Completion. Say to yourself on the inhale: “I feel” and on the exhale: “supremely calm.”

Practice once a day. Some people like to do this before bed because they get so relaxed it helps them sleep.