Autogenic training refers to using the mind to help a person relax their body. It is a type of relaxation technique that may help people improve their well-being and overall quality of life.

In 1932, Dr. Johannes Heinrich Schultz published an evidence-supported book about autogenic training.

The relaxation technique uses autosuggestion to help a person perceive heaviness and warmth in a part of their body while releasing a slow breath. “Autosuggestion” refers to the use of words, statements, or cues to help guide one’s own thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.

The adopted perception creates a psychophysiological relaxation response. This helps a person feel more relaxed as they move their focus around to different areas of their body in a guided order. A person can learn how to do it through individual or group sessions.

The technique activates a part of the brain that may help promote and regulate self-healing mechanics in the body. In doing so, it may help the body self-heal from several different conditions, such as stress, trauma, or anxiety.

This article reviews the potential benefits and limitations of autogenic training, how to perform it, and other relaxation tips.

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Autogenic training focuses on the body’s potential ability to self-regulate and promote healing. Evidence suggests that it may help a variety of different conditions and issues that can affect a person, including:

In a 2023 review of studies, researchers wanted to see how autogenic training could help with various mental health conditions. They found strong evidence that it may help reduce anxiety and at least provide some relief in mild to moderate depression.

They found several types of disorders unexplored, including bipolar disorder, acute stress disorders, and psychotic disorders. The authors express their hope that future research will investigate how autogenic training may help with these conditions as well as other possible benefits.

A 2021 survey during the COVID-19 quarantines in Spain investigated how autogenic training can affect the subjective perception of physical and emotional health.

The researchers found sufficient evidence to suggest that autogenic training may help people living with:

  • fear of illness
  • moments of high anxiety
  • feelings that they need to improve their quality of relationships with others

In a 2020 study, researchers looked at how autogenic training may help with physical health issues. They found that autogenic training is a promising approach for these concerns, but additional research is necessary to fully understand its potential benefits.

In general, experts consider autogenic training safe, with minimal or no side effects.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs warns that it may not be safe for people with certain psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. Researchers are hopeful that future studies may show that it is effective and safe for use in people living with a psychotic disorder.

In order to effectively use the technique, a person should consider working with someone who knows how to do it. Instructors can teach in individual or group settings and can generally pass the knowledge along to the person.

An individual should not use autogenic training as a replacement for other mental health therapies. Instead, they should think of it as a complementary therapy to help achieve treatment goals. Only limited evidence exists for its use in specific health conditions.

A person should work with a therapist familiar with the technique to learn how to do autogenic training properly. An individual can participate in one-on-one or group sessions with a therapist. However, once a person learns how to do it from an instructor, they may be able to successfully do the technique on their own.

Each session typically lasts about 15–20 minutes, though they can last a longer period of time.

During the session, a person or group will find comfortable sitting or lying positions, close their eyes, and repeating various calming phrases from the instructor. The phrases help stimulate a calming sensation and relaxation in different areas of the body.

There are generally six areas of focus, including:

  • heaviness in muscles
  • warmth in the legs, arms, and other areas of the body
  • relaxed, slower heartbeat
  • relaxed, slower breathing
  • abdomen relaxation
  • cool sensation in the forehead

Several methods can help a person relax their body and mind.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people going out on deployment try the following to help them relax and fall asleep. The same techniques can work for most people. They include:

  • Imagery: picturing calm, relaxing places and imagining being there
  • Relaxing breathing: focusing on taking long, relaxed breaths
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: the use of prerecorded instructions to tense and relax muscles throughout the body
  • Meditation: focusing on images, breathing, or sounds to help promote relaxation

They recommend practicing different techniques in order to get better at it.

Some general tips for relaxation can include:

  • wearing loose, comfortable clothing
  • finding a safe location to practice relaxation
  • avoiding smoking before a session
  • practicing for about 20–30 minutes twice per week for about 4–6 weeks to become better able to relax in stressful situations

A person should talk with a doctor if they feel overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious frequently. These can be signs of underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.

A person undergoing treatments for mental or physical health should discuss concerns with a doctor as they occur. They may be able to recommend additional therapies or help to address concerns about stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

People interested in learning how to do autogenic training may want to find a therapist who can help teach them how to do it. This can help a person get the most out of their relaxation sessions.

Autogenic training may help a person relax and may promote improved quality of life and overall well-being in people living with different mental and physical health conditions.

Research into its effectiveness is still ongoing and may continue to show promise in its use in both the general population and specific groups living with different conditions.