Autogenic Training for Reducing Anxiety

Autogenic Training

Autogenic Training for Reducing Anxiety

Autogenic training, also known as autogenic therapy, utilizes the body's natural relaxation response to counteract unwanted mental and physical symptoms. Through the use of breathing techniques, specific verbal stimuli, and mindful meditation, autogenic training can help people seeking treatment to reduce stress and achieve relaxation of the body and mind.

Autogenic training is often utilized in sport psychology, in particular, but can offer benefit to people experiencing a wide range of concerns. 

History and Development

Autogenic training was developed in Germany by Johannes Schultz in the 1920s. A psychologist who studied under neurologist Oscar Vogt for several years, Schultz was influenced by many of his ideas.

The two researched sleep and hypnosis together, finding that people experienced sensations of heaviness, warmth, and other signs of deep relaxation while hypnotized.

  these findings, Schultz began formulating a systematic way for people to induce this relaxation response in order to improve their health, eventually creating autogenic training.  

In 1926, Schultz presented his initial findings on autogenic training to the Medical Society in Berlin. He and his protege, Wolfgang Luthe, conducted further research on the impact of autogenic training on various physical and mental health issues.

In 1932, Schultz published Autogenic Training, the first of seven volumes on autogenic therapy.

These volumes, which are still used today, were later modified by Luthe in order to extend the duration of the training period and increase the level of safety for those practicing this self-administered relaxation technique.  

Dr Herbert Benson, the founder of the Mind-Body Medical Institute in Massachusetts, included autogenic training on the Institute's list of treatments used for relaxation for the first time in the 1970s. The British Autogenic Society was established in the 1980s, and in 1984 the British Journal of Medical Psychology recognized autogenic training as a cost-effective treatment for stress and anxiety.

Find a Therapist

Today, autogenic training centers can be found in concentrated parts of the world, and this method is prevalent in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany.

According to the British Autogenic Society, the Autogenic Training Department at the Royal London Hospital for Integrative Medicine has been providing autogenic training in a group setting for over 20 years.

This treatment has not yet made its way into mainstream psychotherapy treatment. 

How Does Autogenic Training Work?

First developed as a method of relaxation, autogenic training has been compared to yoga, hypnosis, and meditation in that it influences the body’s autonomic nervous system.

Autogenic means “self-generating,» and the primary goal for this form of therapy is to train people to use the body's relaxation response on their own, as needed.

Participants are taught to use this method to manage their emotional responses to stress and control physical symptoms such as blood pressure, heart rate, and rapid breathing.

Practitioners who are certified in this approach use six basic techniques, which are taught to people in treatment at a slow and steady pace that can span many months. These techniques are designed to stimulate a sense of heaviness in the musculo-skeletal system and a feeling of warmth in the circulatory system.

Therapists also direct the attention of the person in treatment to things heartbeat, breath, and other bodily sensations. Sessions usually last about 15 to 20 minutes, but participants, sometimes referred to as “trainees,” are strongly encouraged to practice at home daily, utilizing the techniques as needed.


A Typical Autogenic Training Session

A session of autogenic training might take the following format:

First, the trainee is encouraged to settle into a comfortable position—sitting upright, reclined, or lying down. What is most important is that the chosen posture promotes calm relaxation.

The therapist begins by using verbal cues to guide the trainee's breathing and direct attention to certain parts of the trainee's body.

The verbal cues can encourage sensations of heaviness and warmth, which can then lead to deep relaxation.

The therapist might lead the cues, have the trainee repeat them, or have the trainee say them silently, depending on the level of training the individual has received.

Some of the verbal cues that may be learned include: 

  • I am completely calm (say once).
  • My right arm is heavy (say six times).
  • I am completely calm (say once).
  • My right arm is warm (say six times).
  • I am completely calm (say once).
  • My heart beats calmly and regularly (six times).
  • I am completely calm (say once).
  • My breathing is calm and regular … It breathes me (six times).
  • I am completely calm (say once).

Once the lesson is finished, the therapist will help the trainee “cancel” the relaxation session. One phrase that is commonly used is “Arms firm—Breathe deeply—Open eyes.

” The session concludes, and the trainee is encouraged to practice what has been learned at home, outside of the session.

Each session expands on the last lesson until the trainee and therapist feel confident that the process can be conducted independently. 

Each lesson focuses on a different sensation in the body, and there are six established lessons (techniques) included in autogenic training:

  1. Inducing heaviness. Verbal cues suggest heaviness in the body.
  2. Inducing warmth. Verbal cues induce feelings of warmth.
  3. The heart practice. Verbal cues call attention to the heartbeat.
  4. Breathing practice. Verbal cues focus on breath.
  5. Abdominal practice. Verbal cues focus on abdominal sensations. 
  6. Head practice. Verbal cues focus on the coolness of the forehead.

The goal of each session is for the trainee to feel a sense of calm at its conclusion and to have gained better control over unwanted emotional, physiological, and physical responses to stimuli.

Those who practice autogenic training and utilize it regularly may find it an effective treatment for a wide range of physical and mental health issues.

 This approach may help individuals develop a greater sense of empowerment and control over their lives, and some may find that practicing autogenic training helps them experience greater self-confidence and increased self-esteem.

How Can Autogenic Training Help?

While widely known to be an effective treatment for stress, autogenic training can have many other beneficial effects.

 According to a meta-analysis of over 70 outcome studies published in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, autogenic training appeared to be an effective treatment for many different issues, including migraines, hypertension, asthma, somatization, anxiety, depression and dysthymia, and insomnia or other sleep issues.

Further, many of those who learn and practice autogenic training report its effectiveness in the treatment of other mental and physical health issues, such as panic attacks, phobias, chronic pain, stomach issues, and heart palpitations. 

Regularly practicing autogenic training, rather than only resorting to it when already stressed, may help individuals develop the ability to deal with stress more effectively when it surfaces and handle higher levels of stress. People have also reported that autogenic training helped them feel more positive about life in general. 

The approach may also help individuals develop a greater sense of empowerment and control over their lives, and some may find that practicing autogenic training helps them experience greater self-confidence and increased self-esteem. 

Who Offers Autogenic Training?

Autogenic training is offered in various parts of the world but is especially popular in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany. The approach might be taught in individual sessions, group settings, to companies and organizations, or in universities and hospitals.

The International Certification Board of Clinical Hypnotherapy (ICBCH) sets the standards for the practice of hypnotherapy and other similar forms of therapy, such as autogenic training. The ICBCH offers certification programs in autogenic training as well as continuing education credits.

 One example of an established certification programs for autogenic training is the Medical Meditation and Stress Management Certification, a 30-hour certification program that includes courses in mindfulness-based stress reduction, dialectical behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy as well as autogenic training. 

Concerns and Limitations

In the decades since autogenic training was pioneered, dozens of studies have suggested its effectiveness. 

Autogenic training can be practiced individually, but the best way to achieve successful results from autogenic training is to first learn the technique from a certified professional.

There is some degree of risk associated with attempting autogenic training without any support from a therapist. If used incorrectly, it could lead to an increased severity of emotional concerns.

Qualified practitioners can ensure that the techniques are taught efficiently and administered properly so as to decrease the risk of harm.

Additionally, experienced therapists are typically able to discern whether autogenic training is appropriate for the presenting concerns. Autogenic training professionals indicate several physical and mental health issues that should not be treated with this approach: severe heart problems, diabetes, symptoms of psychosis, delusional behavior, paranoia, and dissociation. 


  1. A Brief History of Autogenics. (2011). Retrieved from 
  2. Kosa, T. (n.d.). Courses. Retrieved from
  3. Kosa, T. (n.d.). How will autogenic training benefit me? Retrieved from
  4. History of Autogenic Training. (n.d.). Retrieved from 
  5. Mills, H., Reiss, N., & Dombeck, M. (1991). Hypnosis and autogenic training for stress reduction. (1991). Retrieved from 
  6. Luthe, W. (2000). About the methods of autogenic therapy. Retrieved from 
  7. Professional training. (2013). Retrieved from
  8. Stetter F., & Kupper, S. (2002). Autogenic training: A meta-analysis of clinical outcome studies. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 27(1). 45-98
  9. What is autogenic training? (2012, May 16). Retrieved from

Last Update:09-23-2016


Autogenic Training: A Surprisingly Effective Relaxation Technique

Autogenic Training for Reducing Anxiety

Autogenic training is a little-known relaxation technique that’s effective for a variety of stress-related conditions. Learn how it works and how you can do it.

Chronic stress is a serious health problem.

It puts you at risk for physical health conditions  heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

And it’s quite detrimental to the brain and your mental health, contributing to everything from brain fog and ADHD to anxiety and dementia.

Stress interferes with judgment, causing bad decisions when pressure feels overwhelming.

By inhibiting the formation of new brain cells, chronic stress actually causes the brain to shrink!

While you can’t live life stress-free, you can learn to change your response to stress.

Autogenic training is a simple but powerful stress management technique that can help reduce or eliminate the serious effects of chronic stress.

What Is Autogenic Training?

Autogenic training, also called autogenics or simply AT, is a mind-body healing technique that’s been around for 80 years.

Autogenic means “self-generated” or “self-regulated.”

Autogenic training teaches your body to respond to your commands.

This allows you to gain control over bodily functions that you normally have no control over, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, body temperature, and breathing.

It’s not completely understood how autogenic training works, but it’s considered a form of self-hypnosis

All forms of hypnosis work by inducing a trance- state during which you become more open to suggestion than usual.

Electroencephalography (EEG) can be used to measure brainwave state changes that occur during self-hypnosis. 

During autogenic training, brainwaves drop to the lower-frequency theta state — the same state you experience just as you fall asleep, or during deep meditation.


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How Autogenic Training Calms Your Nervous System

One thing that makes autogenics unique is that, un many other relaxation techniques, it works directly on your parasympathetic nervous system.

Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls involuntary bodily functions, such as heart rate, digestion, and breathing.

The ANS is divided into two main branches, the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.

Normally the parasympathetic nervous system is in control.

It’s your rest-and-digest system.

But when you’re under stress, the sympathetic nervous system takes over.

This induces the flight-or-fight state that you probably know all too well.

A regular practice of autogenic training brings the activity of the two branches into a better balance by calming down your overactive stress response.

Comparison of the actions of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. (Image courtesy of Traumatology Institute)

Benefits and Uses of Autogenic Training

Autogenic training is so simple that you might think that it can’t be that effective, but that would be selling it short.

Autogenics is very effective for stress reduction, and it can do much more than that.


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Dozens of studies have confirmed that relaxation therapies are particularly useful for treating anxiety disorders of all kinds, and when compared to other techniques, autogenic training is rated among the best. 

» Autogenic training is a secret “unfair advantage” used by peak performance seekers such as Olympic and professional athletes, military personnel, pilots, and NASA astronauts.

By helping you control your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and breathing, autogenic training can help many kinds of physical and mental health conditions.

When researchers analyzed the results of 60 studies on autogenic training, they deemed it beneficial for these conditions: 

  • asthma
  • depression
  • heart disease
  • hypertension
  • irregular heartbeat
  • migraines
  • pain disorders
  • racing heart
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • sleep disorders
  • tension headaches lists over 100 studies that have examined the potential benefits of autogenic training for a wide array of conditions including cancer, depression, vertigo, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, panic disorder, diabetes, scleroderma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and Parkinson’s disease. 

Considering how easy and effective autogenic training is, it’s surprising that it’s not more popular with the general public.

But it is a secret “unfair advantage” used by peak performance seekers such as Olympians, professional athletes, military personnel, pilots, and astronauts. 

NASA developed and patented a hybrid process that combines the use of both autogenic training and biofeedback and called it Autogenic-Feedback Training Exercise (AFTE). 

AFTE is used to maximize pilot and crew performance and minimize the extreme environmental and psychological stress experienced in space.

It excels at alleviating the motion sickness that affects a surprising number of pilots and astronauts, and works even better than a popular prescription motion sickness drug. 

Autogenics During Pregnancy

Many natural remedies for anxiety caution users that they should not be used by pregnant women.

But autogenic training has specifically been proven safe and effective for pregnant women. 

It can help relieve anxiety and depression during pregnancy, delivery, and during the postpartum period after birth.

How to Do Autogenic Training

Autogenic training is easy and can be done anywhere, anytime.

It doesn’t require special equipment and a session can be done in less than 10 minutes.

First, sit or lie down in a comfortable position someplace where you won’t be disturbed.

Uncross your legs and relax your arms at your sides.

Take a few slow, deep breaths then slowly say to yourself the following statements.

Repeat each one 3 to 6 times.

Visualize experiencing each sensation as you proceed.

Follow this sample autogenic training script:

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

2. My legs are heavy. My left leg is heavy. My right leg is heavy. Both of my legs are heavy.

3. My arms are warm. My left arm is warm. My right arm is warm. Both of my arms are warm.

4. My legs are warm. My left leg is warm. My right leg is warm. Both of my legs are warm.

5. My heartbeat is calm and regular.

6. My breathing is calm and regular.

7. My abdomen is warm.

8. My forehead is cool.

When you are done, take a few deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.


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On the surface, autogenic training appears similar to meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and neurofeedback.

But there are subtle differences between each of these practices.

During meditation, you typically focus on your breath, while during autogenic training, you focus on various areas of the body.

During progressive muscle relaxation, the focus is on relaxing your muscles, not on bodily functions heart rate and blood pressure.

Both autogenic training and neurofeedback train the conscious mind to change functions normally controlled by the autonomic nervous system.

But autogenic training doesn’t require the use of biofeedback devices to tell you when you’ve achieved the desired effect.

Where to Find Free Guided Autogenic Training Lessons

I highly recommend listening to a guided autogenic training lesson to get started.

This will help you feel confident that you are doing it right. 

Again, autogenic training does not take much time.

All of these sessions are between 5 and 15 minutes long and can be downloaded for later use.

Tips for Getting the Most from Autogenics

While AT is very simple, use these tips to get the most it:

  • For best results, do your autogenic training exercises 3 times per day regularly.
  • While you may feel more relaxed after just one session, expect it will take a few months of regular practice to experience the full benefits.
  • Autogenics works better for some people when they listen to the sound of their own voice. You can record your own guided session using the script provided above.

Safety and Cautions

Autogenic training is an extremely safe technique that can be used by almost anyone, with these few exceptions.

It is not recommended for children under 5 years old.

If you are using autogenic training to address a medical problem, talk to your doctor before getting started since it can affect your need for medication.

It’s so good at lowering high blood pressure, for example, that it may reduce your need for medication.

People with severe mental or emotional disorders should not attempt autogenic training on their own as it can lead to an increase in anxiety or restlessness.

They should use it under the supervision of a professional instructor.

Finding a Qualified Autogenic Training Therapist

If you aren’t getting the results you’re looking, you may benefit from working with a qualified autogenic training therapist.

But finding one is not that easy.

There’s no worldwide autogenic therapist directory.

In the US, you can do a search for an autogenic training therapist in your area at

First, enter your zip code or city.

Next, look at “Type of Therapy” under “Filters.”

There you’ll find many types of therapy to choose from, including autogenic training.

If you are in the United Kingdom, you can look for a therapist at the British Autogenic Society.

In Australia, you can contact the Autogenic Training Institute.

Autogenic training is a little-known relaxation technique that works by helping you gain control of your autonomic nervous system.

With regular practice, you can learn to alter involuntary bodily functions heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and breathing.

It helps you balance your rest-and-digest (parasympathetic) and your flight-or-fight (sympathetic) nervous systems.

It’s one of the simplest and safest ways to combat chronic stress.

It has many proven mental and physical health benefits that go beyond stress reduction, including achieving peak performance.


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