Autogenic Training

office-relaxationAutogenic Training (AT) is one of the most popular relaxation technique. It was developed by the German psychiatrist and psychotherapist Johannes Heinrich Schultz (Göttingen, June 20th 1884 – Berlin, September 19th 1970. The first edition of Das Autogene Training containing the results of his researches was published in 1932.

The author defined AT as a method of self-relaxation using psychic concentration. Basically it is composed of a series of mental exercises that lead to some physical and mental changes. To be more precise, autogenic means self-generated, referring to the fact that the physical and mental changes should be allowed and not forced.

Johannes Heinrich Schultz

Johannes Heinrich Schultz

AT stems from hypnosis. Dr Schulz realized that the patients he hypnotized and suggested relaxation moods, also had some peculiar sensations, especially heaviness and warmth through their bodies. So he tried to make the patients suggest themselves the relaxation moods, discovering that they could feel the same sensations of heaviness and warmth. This observation was the base of the new method that made the patient independent from the therapist, with regard to the relaxation mood. In fact, in hypnosis there is always the need of an hypnotist, whilst with AT, once the technique has been learned, it can be used independently.

AT is composed of lower and higher exercises, forming a complete psychotherapy. But usually when talking about AT, they refer to the lower exercises only. The lower exercises constitute an efficient relaxation technique and are propaedeutic to the higher ones.

It usually takes three months to learn the lower exercises. These exercises are divided in basic and additional, as follows:

basic exercises

  • (quiet pre-exercise)
  • heaviness exercise – its aim is to let the sensation of heaviness of the body to emerge. This sensation is due to hypotonia.
  • warmth exercise – the aim of this exercise is to let the sensation of warmth to emerge. This warmth is due to vasodilatation in the areas involved in the exercise.


  • heart exercise
  • breath exercise
  • solar plexus exercise
  • fresh forehead exercise

These exercises can be executed sitting down (on a chair, armchair, or a stool) or lying supine. Once the technique has been mastered, AT can be executed also standing up.

Higher exercises are useful to let the unconscious emerge. Usually for these exercises the help of a skilled psychologist is necessary to interpret the content from the unconscious. Here is the list of the higher exercises:

  • personal color
  • solar spectrum or prism
  • visualization of objects on a blank space
  • visualization of abstract concepts, like “peace”, “happiness”, ect.
  • emerging of moods, experience, events
  • emerging of moods, experience, events, related to a personal relationships
  • answers from the unconscious to questions made by the user or the therapist.

According to some authors, the lower exercises (the relaxation technique) can be learned by oneself. The higher exercises require the help of a qualified person who is able to understand and interpret images and messages from the unconscious.


  • Better stress and anxiety management. It revitalizes the whole body. Moreover autogenic training is useful to cure insomnia, migraine, asthma, hypertension, panic attacks, and other diseases where the psychosomatic component have a strong impact.
  • Recovery of one’s strength. 20 minutes of autogenic training can be very useful in case of drowsiness during the day.
  • AT is very used in the sport sphere because it improves concentration, facilitates a faster recovery, and can have an important role in achieving performances (through the visualization of the performance in an perfect or exaggerated way).
  • Moreover it is used to give oneself a sort of hypnotic suggestions. In fact, after having achieved the state of relaxation, giving oneself these suggestions can lead to changes in the behavior. Such suggestions consist in short statement repeated during the relaxation phase. For example, in case of problems to fall asleep the statement “quiet, relaxed and deep sleep” can be useful against insomnia. In the same way the statement “smoking completely indifferent” can help to quit smoking.
  • Another benefit the increase of awareness of one’s own body.

Contraindications – serious mental disorders, such as depression, other kind of psychosis. Heart diseases (in this case it is better to avoid the heart exercise). Before starting an AT course it is advisable to undergo a psychological test or ask the doctor’s advice.

To sum up, autogenic training is an excellent relaxation technique, which has been studied and tested by physiologists. It can be learned in a short time, usually when the person is healthy, and can be used both when the person is healthy and when the level of anxiety has become too high. Created in the West, it does not need any cultural or life changes, sometimes required for example with Yoga, regarding nutrition. Moreover it has no side effect. Once you have learned how to use it, you can stop practicing it even for a long period without running the risk to forget how to obtain the relaxation mood.

Enjoy your relaxation.  relax

(July 2013)