Autogenic training (AT)
is a technique that teaches your body to respond to your verbal commands. These
commands "tell" your body to relax and control breathing,
blood pressure, heartbeat, and body temperature. The
goal of AT is to achieve deep relaxation and reduce
stress. After you learn the technique, you can use it
whenever you need or want relief from symptoms of stress, or you can practice
it regularly to enjoy the benefits of deep relaxation and prevent the effects
of chronic stress.
Autogenic training consists of six standard
exercises that make the body feel warm, heavy, and relaxed. For each exercise,
you get into a simple posture (sitting in a comfortable chair or reclining),
concentrate without any goal, and then use visual imagination and verbal cues
to relax your body in some specific way.
When she needs relief from the grind of delivering major proposals, Dana Marlowe, 33, of Washington, D.C., makes some noise. "I cruise right into my toddler’s playroom, and I just jam out with his toys -- the xylophone, the baby piano. I almost have 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' down," says Marlowe, a technology accessibility consultant.
This kind of casual music-making can short-circuit the stress response, research shows, and keep it from becoming chronic. Stress starts in the brain and then...
You learn each exercise
by reading about it or watching a teacher, then practicing it for a few minutes
several times a day. Learning the exercises, either from an instructor or on
your own, usually moves at a slow, steady pace, taking 4 to 6 months to master
all six exercises.
Without regular practice, autogenic training
is not likely to have an effect. For this reason, only those people who are
motivated and committed to learning it are likely to get any benefit from AT.
But for those who master the technique, it works, and it can be an effective
treatment for chronic stress.
The way AT works is not fully
understood, but its effects on the body are measurable. Experts believe that AT
works in ways that are similar to hypnosis and
biofeedback. The exercises allow communication between
the mind and the body, allowing you to influence body reactions that cannot
normally be controlled, such as blood pressure, heartbeat, and body
What is autogenic training used for?
Most people use
autogenic training (AT) to relieve the symptoms of stress. It can also be
helpful with problems such as generalized anxiety, fatigue, and irritability.
Some people use it to manage pain, reduce sleeping disorders such as
insomnia, and increase their resistance to
Also, AT has been shown to help treat:
Hyperventilation (breathing that is deeper and more
rapid than normal).
(inflammation in the tubes that carry air to the lungs, resulting in periodic
episodes of difficulty breathing as well as wheezing, chest tightness, and
problems, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).
Is autogenic training safe?
Autogenic training (AT)
is safe for most people. Before beginning a program to learn AT, see your
doctor for a physical exam and discuss what physiological effects AT might have
on you. If you have a serious disease such as
diabetes or a heart condition, learn and use AT only
under the supervision of your doctor.
Some people have a sharp
increase or decrease in their blood pressure when they do AT exercises. If you
have high or low blood pressure, have your doctor or nurse check to see whether
AT is bringing your blood pressure closer to normal.
If you use AT
to help control any disease, including all heart and circulatory problems, do
not use it to replace any conventional treatments, such as medicines.
AT is not recommended for:
Children younger than age 5.
with severe mental or emotional disorders.
If you feel very anxious or restless during or after doing
the exercises, stop AT or continue only under the supervision of a professional
Always tell your doctor if you are using an
alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative
therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo
your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative
Primary Medical Reviewer
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
June 29, 2011
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
June 29, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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