Drift Into Bliss with Autogenic Training

Reduce your anxiety with this soothing meditative relaxation technique.

Autogenic training is a technique aimed at triggering the relaxation response by making the practitioner feel warm and heavy through trance-like diaphragmatic breathing and the repetition of verbal cues. This practice can help reduce anxiety and calm you down after a stressful situation. Essentially, all you have to do is relax, be undisturbed, sit in a comfortable position, and concentrate on verbal suggestions about warmth and heaviness in your limbs.

See also A Yoga Sequence to Train Your Brain to Relax

Try This 30-Minute Autogenic Practice

1. Choose a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed.

2. Keep the room temperature at a moderately warm, comfortable level.

3. Keep external stimuli to a minimum.

4. Turn the lights down low.

5. Wear loose clothing.

6. Sit in an armchair in which your head, back, and extremities are supported and you are as comfortable as possible. Or sit on a stool, slightly stooped over, with your arms resting on your thighs, your neck relaxed, and your hands draped between your knees. Or lie down on your back with your head supported and your legs about eight inches apart, your toes pointed slightly outward, and your arms resting comfortably at your sides but not touching your body.

7. Take a second to notice how you’re feeling in your body, beginning at the top of your head and slowly moving down to your toes, to be sure that the position you chose is ten- sion-free. In particular, look for overextension of your limbs such as unsupported arms, head, or legs, tightening of the limbs at the joints, or a crooked spine. If any of these overextensions exist, continue moving and supporting your body until you are well supported and comfortable, with no overextensions.

8. Close your eyes or pick a point in front of you to softly focus on.

9. Take a few slow, deep, and relaxing breaths before you begin to repeat the following statements. 

Say to yourself, My right arm is heavy... My right arm is heavy... My right arm is heavy... My right arm is heavy. This should take you about half a minute. Then you would say to yourself, My left arm is heavy... My left arm is heavy... My left arm is heavy... My left arm is heavy... Then, Both of my arms are heavy... Both of my arms are heavy... Both of my arms are heavy... Both of my arms are heavy... The entire set should take you less than four minutes. If you are recording this, be sure to leave about half a minute between each part for silent repetition.

As you silently repeat each line, concentrate on the part of the body it refers to. When you’re finished with these lines, move to another part of your body and continue the repetition: “My [body part] is/are heavy.” In other words, just notice what happens without harboring any expectations or judgments. Passive concentration does not mean spacing out or going to sleep.

Below is the full sequence of statements for this autogenic practice.

Part 1:

My right arm is heavy. My left arm is heavy.
Both of my arms are heavy. My right leg is heavy.

My left leg is heavy.
Both of my legs are heavy. My arms and legs are heavy.

Part 2:

My right arm is warm.
My left arm is warm.
Both of my arms are warm. My right leg is warm.
Both of my legs are warm. My arms and legs are warm.

Part 3

My right arm is heavy and warm.
Both of my arms are heavy and warm. Both of my legs are heavy and warm. My arms and legs are heavy and warm. It breathes me.
My heartbeat is calm and regular.

Part 4

My right arm is heavy and warm.
My arms and legs are heavy and warm. It breathes me.
My heartbeat is calm and regular.
My solar plexus is warm.

Part 5

My right arm is heavy and warm.
My arms and legs are heavy and warm. It breathes me.
My heartbeat is calm and regular.
My solar plexus is warm.
My arms and legs are warm.
My forehead is cool.

At first, you will not be able to maintain perfect concentration. Your mind will wander. That’s natural. When you find this happening, just return to script as soon as possible. When you are ready to stop the practice, say to yourself, When I open my eyes, I will feel refreshed and alert. Then open your eyes and breathe a few deep breaths as you stretch and flex your arms. 

The Anxiety First Aid Kit by Rick Hanson, PhD et al.

The Anxiety First Aid Kit by Rick Hanson, PhD et al. Reprinted with permission: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Copyright © 2020

See also 11 Practices for Working Through Stress and Anxiety



Source: Yoga Journal

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