Without numbers, stories are just anecdotes, but without stories, numbers are just dry statistics.
- Tara Lamont
Here are handouts and Autogenic relaxation exercises from the first "lesson" of an eight session Autogenic Training (AT) class. This first "class" concentrates on relaxation of the voluntary muscles of the arms & legs. It is probably sensible to stay with this focus for at least a week or two before moving on to the next exercise in the sequence. Subsequent lessons teach relaxation of several further body systems. Please read the introductory post on Autogenics before starting any of these exercises. If you're hoping to learn AT to help with physical or psychological symptoms, it may be sensible to talk to a health professional first to check on diagnosis and other treatment options. While you're learning these skills, don't practise them if you're driving or operating other dangerous machinery.
When teaching these skills to groups, I routinely insist on having an initial one-to-one session with would-be participants to check whether learning Autogenic Training is likely to be appropriate for them. If it is, I typically encourage them to assess where they're starting by completing some questionnaires that can then be repeated at the end of the course to see what progress they have made. I ask what target symptoms or difficulties they most want help with and I encourage them to write a brief description on an initial target symptoms assessment sheet and estimate roughly how troublesome these symptoms/difficulties are for them. Depending on how they are, I will probably also ask them to complete measures of depression, anxiety and possibly wellbeing. There are many good standard questionnaires that can be used - see for example this website's pages on "Depression assessment", various forms of "Anxiety assessment", and options for assessing "Wellbeing and mindfulness".
Initially I encourage participants to focus on learning to induce a relaxation response, although I also mention some recent findings on the importance of Positive Emotional States (see below). I say to them that the reduction in metabolic rate (how fast their "internal engine" is going) can be measured by their oxygen use. As you can see from the relaxation response diagram, you should quite quickly be able to slip into a peaceful state where your metabolic rate is less than the state you'd achieve in a full good night's sleep! This is one reason why I emphasise that practising Autogenics is not at all like "having a snooze". It can be so much more helpful than that.
I teach the basic training positions (see "Basic remarks" sheet below) and highlight that the whole training is a skills-learning challenge & opportunity (see "What progress can you expect" below). I take the trainees through the very first exercise (download and play the 11 minute Arm Heaviness MP3) and ask them to practise twice daily for a few days before moving onto the second exercise (download and play the 13 minute Arm & Leg Heaviness MP3).
I explain that most people experience a relaxation response as involving increasing looseness and heaviness in the big voluntary muscles of their arms and legs. Some people however may experience the relaxation as lightness or tingling or some other sensation. I say that the particular subjective experience isn't important - simply treat my remarks about "heaviness" as a code word for whatever you personally experience as you allow a deepening relaxation response. I ask people to keep a record of their practice (see sheet below) and to practise occasionally without using my recorded voice. This learning to practise without my voice isn't crucial (some research studies have relied entirely on relaxation practice just listening to recordings), but it does make it easier to develop applied practice during everyday activities further into the course.
Unsurpisingly, you'll get out of this practice just about what you put into it. By this I mean that learning a new whole-body skill is much more than simply developing intellectual understanding. Knowing rationally how to play a piano and actually being able to play it are very different things. While you're learning, try to practise at least twice daily - the first time before you get started with your day's work, and the second time at some stage during the late afternoon or evening. Interestingly, you should to be wide awake to practise. AT sessions in bed don't count towards your daily couple of training exercises - this is because it will be too easy to lose focus. So by all means practise to help you get to sleep, but at this learning stage try as well to get in two formal practices during the day.
This takes determination - a reason why it may be easier if you're learning with a teacher or in a group. Consider though - time is one of the most democratic things there is. We all get exactly the same number of hours and minutes in our day. "Not having time to practice" isn't a valid explanation - what is true is that we may not have put learning AT high enough on our list of priorities. Think about this. Do you really want to explore this kind of practice? Do you think it could help you in worthwhile ways? If so, please work at it - at least for several weeks. You'll then have a much better idea of whether or not to make it part of your long term everyday routine.
At this early learning stage, it may be better to practise at times when you are already feeling pretty relaxed. See the "What progress can you expect" sheet. When we learn to drive, we start in a quiet side street. Later of course we drive in busy rush hours - and, when we're skilled, we'll use Autogenics to help in times of high stress. Step by step. Be determined. Enjoy it!
Autogenics slides 1-6 - first 6 Powerpoint slides as 6-slides-to-a-page 'miniatures' handout. During classes, I typically project these and subsequent slides onto the wall to illustrate points I'm making during the two hour training session.
Autogenics slides 7-14 - Powerpoint slides 7 to 14.
Target symptoms initial severity sheet - I often ask people starting the Autogenic Training what they most hope learning these methods will help them with. I encourage them to keep to one or two key target symptoms/difficulties, describe them briefly on this sheet, and make a rough assessment of how typically troublesome they are. At the end of the course it is good to repeat this questionnaire.
Autogenics, basic remarks - gives details of body practice positions and other simple initial advice.
Autogenics, what progress can you expect? - this orientation leaflet emphasises a skills-learning view of the Autogenic Training course and draws parallels with other skills-learning activities like learning to drive or to type.
Autogenics, the relaxation response - at this first Autogenics class I introduce people to the way we can slow right down, reducing our metabolic rate in a few minutes by a greater percentage than we're likely to achieve in a whole night's sleep.
Autogenics 1a: Heaviness, Arms, 11 minutes - 3.8Mb MP3 file. Clicking on this (and subsequent) Autogenic Training exercises opens a browser window linking you to the chosen recording.
Autogenics 1b: Heaviness, Arms & Legs, 13 minutes - 4.4Mb MP3 file.
Positive emotions 1 - the first couple of four slides on positive emotions presented as a two-slides-to-a-page handout.
Positive emotions 2 - and the second pair of slides on positive emotions.
Practice record, first week - it's likely to be helpful if you keep a record of your practice.