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AUTOGENIC TRAINING

Direct Approach

The direct approach of autogenic training is a more visual interpretation of the general instructions. It is a slight variation of the original technique, but offers added instructions for those who need more guidance and understanding of how these physiological changes occur. In the direct approach, mechanisms involved with the changes of warmth and heaviness are specifically focused on to initiate a stronger sense of relaxation. With this approach, you start out with diaphragmatic breathing to induce a state of relaxation. When the mind and body become relaxed through this technique, the mind becomes more receptive to additional thoughts (warmth and heaviness) and thus the selected awareness process is enhanced. Overall, the length of time for this technique will vary with use. To begin, you may want to only work on one body region (i.e., the arms and hands). With proficiency, you may want to add to the duration of each session. The following instructions can be used as a guide to this imagery. They can be read prior to the practice of this technique and adapted during the selected awareness process or they can also be read to you by a friend or companion while you are performing this technique.

  • Concentrate on your breathing. Feel the air come in through your nose or mouth, down into your lungs and feel your stomach rise and then fall as you exhale the air out through your mouth.
  • Take a comfortably slow deep breath and feel the air enter the lower chambers of your lungs. Feel your stomach rise slowly with the intake of air, and then slowly descend as the air leaves your lungs. Repeat this again, making the breath even slower and deeper. With each exhalation, feel how relaxed your body has become.
  • Focus on the pulse of your heart. Listen to your pulse and feel your heart beating in your chest. As you concentrate on the pulse of your heart, allow for a longer pause between each heartbeat. You can make your heart relax just by allowing the thought of your heart relaxing. Think to allow a longer pause between each beat. Now, to help relax the heart muscle, take one more slow deep breath, and feel how relaxed your heart has become as you exhale. Again, consciously choose to place a longer pause between each heart beat.
  • Take a moment to realize that in a resting state which you are now in, your body’s core houses the greatest percentage (80%) of your blood. Most of this is located in your gastrointestinal track. While the body’s core has a great supply of blood, the periphery (the arms and legs) receive only a maintenance supply.
  • Become aware that when your muscles are saturated with blood, they become very relaxed and pliable, like a wet sponge, not stiff like a dry sponge. Now think to yourself that you would like to recreate that feeling of relaxation in the muscles of your arms and hands.
  • Allow the blood from your stomach area to move from the body’s core up to your shoulders and down toward your arms and hands. As you think and desire this, you will begin to constrict the blood vessels of your stomach area while at the same time dilating the blood vessels of your arms and hands. This constriction process of your body’s core will begin to shunt blood to your arms and hands where the dilating vessels will be able to receive more blood.
  • With each breath you take and with each beat of your heart, allow the flow of blood to move from your stomach area to your arms and hands.
  • You will begin to notice that as you allow for this movement of blood flow from your body’s core to your arms and hands, both your arms and hands will begin to feel slightly heavy. They feel heavy because in this state, they are not quite used to this sensation of additional blood flow to this region. You will also notice that your arms and your hands feel warm, especially your palms and fingers as they have the greatest number of temperature receptors.
  • With each breath and each beat of your heart, allow the blood to continue to move from your stomach area toward your arms and hands. Feel how comfortable your arms and hands have become. They feel warm, heavy, and very relaxed. As the muscles become saturated in blood, stiffness dissipates and relaxation ensues.
  • Soon you will notice that your arms feel increasingly heavy. So much so that should you want to move them you couldn’t because they feel immobilized. You can actually feel as if they have made an indentation in the floor surface.
  • With each breath and each beat of your heart continue to send the flow of blood to your arms and hands. Feel the warmth spread from your arms all the way down to your palms and fingers.
  • Take a long slow deep breath and feel how relaxed your whole body feels as you exhale. Sense how relaxed your arms and hands feel.
  • Now take one more slow deep breath and as you exhale, allow the flow of blood to return back to your stomach area. Reverse the flow of blood from your arms and hands back to your body’s core. By thinking this, you now allow the blood vessels of the arms and hands to constrict, shunting the blood back to the gastrointestinal track. At the same time you allow the blood vessels of the stomach area to dilate and receive the flow of blood you have sent to it.
  • As the blood returns, you may notice that your arms begin to feel a little lighter, but the sensations of warmth still linger.
  • With each breath you take, with each beat of your heart, allow the flow of blood to return back to where it came from.
  • Again, concentrate on your breathing. Feel the air come in through your nose or mouth, down into your lungs and feel your stomach rise and then descend as you exhale the air out through your mouth.
  • Now, take a comfortably slow deep breath and feel the air enter the lower chambers of your lungs. Feel your stomach rise slowly with the intake of air and slowly descend as the air leaves your lungs. Repeat this again, making the breath even slower and deeper. With each exhalation, become more aware of how relaxed your body has become.
  • Next, focus again on the pulse of your heart. Listen to your pulse and feel your heart beating in your chest. As you concentrate on the pulse of your heart, allow for a longer pause between each heartbeat. You can make your heart relax just by allowing the thought of your heart relaxing. Think to allow a longer pause between each beat. To help relax the heart muscle, take one more slow deep breath, and feel how relaxed your heart has become as you exhale. Again think to place a longer pause between each heart beat.
  • Again, take a moment to realize that in this resting state which you are now in, your body’s core contains the greatest percentage of your blood supply, roughly 80%.
  • Think to yourself that when you muscles are saturated with blood, they become very relaxed and pliable, like a wet sponge, not stiff like a dry sponge. Now become consciously aware that you desire to recreate that feeling of relaxation in the muscles of your legs and feet.
  • Allow the blood from your stomach area to move from the body’s core down toward your legs and feet. As you think and desire this, the blood vessels of your stomach area will begin to constrict while at the same time the blood vessels of your legs and feet will begin to dilate. This constriction process within your body’s core will begin to shunt blood to your thighs, hamstrings, calves and feet, where the dilating vessels will be able to receive more blood.
  • With each breath you take, with each beat of your heart, allow the flow of blood to move from your stomach area down toward your legs and feet.
  • You will begin to notice that as you allow for this movement of blood flow from your body’s core to your legs and feet, both your legs and feet begin to feel slightly heavy. This heaviness increases with each breath and each heart beat. They feel very heavy because in this relaxed state, muscles in this region are not quite used to this sensation of additional blood flow. You will also notice that your legs and particularly your feet feel warm, especially the heels of your feet and toes, as they have the greatest number of temperature receptors.
  • With each breath and each beat of your heart allow the blood to continue to move from your stomach area to your legs and feet. Feel how comfortable your thighs and your entire legs are. They feel warm, comfortably heavy, and very relaxed. As the muscles become saturated in blood, stiffness dissipates and relaxation ensues.
  • Become aware that your legs now feel increasingly heavy. So much so, you want to move them, but they feel immobilized. You can actually feel as if each leg has sunk with its increased weight into the floor surface.
  • With each breath and each beat of your heart continue to send the flow of blood to legs and feet. Feel the warmth spread from your arms all the way down to your toes.
  • Take a long slow deep breath and feel how relaxed your whole body feels as you exhale. Feel how relaxed your legs and feet feel.
  • Now take one more slow deep breath and as you exhale, allow the flow of blood to return back to your stomach area. Reverse the flow of blood from your arms and hands back to your body’s core. By thinking this, you now allow the blood vessels of the legs and feet to constrict, shunting the blood back to the gastrointestinal track. At the same time you allow the blood vessels of the stomach area to dilate and receive the flow of blood you send to it.
  • As the blood returns, you notice that your legs being to feel a little lighter, but the sensations of warmth linger, especially in your feet and toes.
  • With each breath you take and with each beat of your heart, allow the flow of blood to return back to where it came from.
  • As your body returns to a full resting state, feel the sensation of relaxation throughout your entire body. Although you feel relaxed, you don’t feel tired or sleepy. You feel alert and energized.
  • When you feel ready, you can open your eyes, stretch the muscles of your arms, shoulders, and legs.

Mental Imagery with Autogenic Training

In the words of Aristotle, "The soul never thinks without a picture." When imagery is combined with autogenic training it can produce profound physiological effects on the body. Imagery seems to affect the body’s functions in ways that words alone cannot. A host of stories shared in the medical community lend credence to this concept. Hypertensive patients who use mental imagery have shown significant decreases in blood pressure. For example, one client used the image of a bottleneck highway traffic jam. By working to clear the jam in his mind and then only having his car on the road he was able to transfer this image to reduce his resting blood pressure to a point where he was taken off medication by his physician. A rationale for this phenomena can be explained through the understanding of specific cognitive functions of the right and left cerebral hemispheres. The left hemisphere, which controls verbal skills, communicates is thought to communicate to the body in this manner. Conversely, the right hemisphere, which is quite poor with verbal skills but extremely proficient with symbolic images, appears to communicate to the body in a more artistic sense. The combination of words and pictures seems to have a more profound effect on the body’s physiology than just words alone.

A valuable lesson was learned from the yogi masters who taught us that indeed, we can control our body’s physiological responses. It is this control which helps the body readjust to a state of homeostasis in the face of perceived stress.

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