Schultz's Autogenic Training: What Is It?

Schultz's autogenic training is a relaxation technique that's been used for 100 years. It can be done alone or in the company of a specialist and is useful for relieving anxiety and stress.
Schultz's Autogenic Training: What Is It?

Last update: 17 September, 2021

Schultz’s autogenic training is a technique developed during the first third of the 20th century. Its creator, Johannes Heinrich Schultz, devised it as a method to achieve the state of relaxation achieved with hypnosis. Since then, it’s been used to counteract feelings of tension and anxiety.

It’s based on a series of self-affirmations that are applied throughout six exercises. Its goal is to achieve a natural guided response to lower heart rate, slow down your breathing, and increase emotional well-being. Today, we’ll talk about its fundamentals and some of the basic exercises that are part of this training.

What is Schultz’s autogenic training?

The first thing you should know is that Schultz’s autogenic training is part of what are known as relaxation therapies. These were devised to counteract the symptoms of anxiety and have been shown to be very effective in some patients.

Specifically, evidence suggests that this method can generate up to 78% relaxation in comparison to the initial state. This is why many therapists use it in patients with social or generalized anxiety disorder.

Studies have shown its effectiveness in research. Some variables, such as improved mood, cognitive performance, and overall quality of life continue to support its use today.

Despite this, it should always be applied with the endorsement of a specialist and not be taken as a substitute for your current pharmacological or psychological therapy. In this sense, Schultz’s training is more of a complementary approach.

Schultz Autogenic Training Exercises

Autogenic training is based on self-affirmations. Therefore, no external equipment is needed.

It may take a few weeks to fully learn the steps, which conditions the results you get. Before teaching you the process, we first suggest you keep the following in mind:

  • Develop the exercises in a quiet place that’s free of distractions.
  • If you wish, you can use background music. Songs that are used in meditation sessions are helpful.
  • Wear loose clothing and avoid objects that generate any kind of pressure on your body, such as watches, belts, glasses, necklaces, and others.
  • Do them lying on the floor, on a yoga mat, on the bed, or the couch. You can also do them on a chair, but make sure it’s comfortable.

Along with these considerations, you should also free your mind from the worries you have at that moment, turn off your cell phone, and remove any influence of technology. Make sure that the light in the room is natural. As soon as you have ensured this, proceed with the following exercises.

What is Autogenic Training?
You need a quiet place to perform the exercises. It should be a space with no outside noise or distractions.

1. Weight

The first exercise of Schultz’s autogenic training focuses on weight. Many specialist-led therapies base the method only on this first step. It focuses on the limbs, with sentences that you repeat inwardly and then quietly.

Start by concentrating on your arms. Close your eyes and without haste and while visualizing these extremities in your imagination, repeat the following sentence: “My arms are very heavy.”Repeat it 6 times in a time span of 3 minutes. That is, try to do it every 30 seconds. Then, finish in a subdued voice: “I am very calm”.

Apply the process again, but this time focusing on your legs. Remember to do it with your eyes closed and without moving. When you finish, do small flexions of these extremities to get out of the state of relaxation.

2. Heat

This is performed after the previous exercise, although without leaving the semi-hypnotic state, in case you wish to do the complete session. This time you will concentrate on the heat of the extremities.

The sentence will be the following: “My arms are very warm”. Repeat it 6 times in your mind for 3 minutes. Finish quietly with the sentence: “I am very calm”.

Apply the process with your extremities, following the same indications. If time permits, you can do it for each one, pointing it out as you repeat the first sentence. Try to breathe slowly, keep your eyes closed, and avoid thoughts that are unrelated to the activity.

3. Heart regulation in autogenic training

The therapy continues with the decrease of the heart rate; something that contributes to control blood pressure levels and thus obtain greater relaxation. The objective is to feel your heartbeat so that you can connect with it for 3 minutes. If you use music, make sure it’s at a low volume.

The phrase that you’ll repeat in your mind is “my heart’s beating calmly and normally.” Do this for the same number and time as the previous exercises, always trying to feel the beats during the intervals in which you remain silent. At the end of the last cycle, you say “I am very calm”.

4. Breathing regulation

Although all of Schultz’s autogenic training is done with controlled breathing, in this exercise, it’ll be given a leading role. In your mind, say the following 6 times: “My breathing is calm and regular” Try to repeat it every 30 seconds, but only approximately. At all times, avoid doing internal counting.

When you mention it for the last time say softly: “I am very calm.” You should inhale and exhale deeply during this cycle. Avoid doing it through your mouth and take the time to feel the air moving in and out of your lungs.

5. Abdominal regulation in autogenic training

During this exercise, you’ll concentrate on the whole abdominal area, with as much intensity as you’ve done during the first ones. The sentence that you’ll repeat 6 times internally is the following: “My abdomen is warm.” Finish by saying in a low voice: “I am very calm.”

It’s not enough to inertially repeat this and the other sentences. You have to direct all your attention to the corresponding areas. You may find it difficult during the first session but, with time, you’ll be able to perfect the technique.

6. Cooling the forehead

The last exercise of the Schultz autogenic training focuses on your forehead. During the process, you’ll repeat the sentence: “My forehead is pleasantly cool.” Do this 6 times slowly, clearly, and at 30-second intervals, on average.

As this is the last stage of the session, you’ll finish by saying softly: “Arms steady, deep breathing, and eyes open”. Immediately afterward, you’ll open your eyes and come out of the small trance by moving your limbs and standing up slowly.

What is Schultz autogenic training used for?

Whether you choose to do it fully or partially, Schultz autogenic training has been applied for nearly 100 years for a variety of purposes. Those that have been supported by science include the following.

Stress management

Research published in 2019 suggests that autogenic training produces positive effects on stress management. The method can be used as a preventative system to decrease levels of nervousness in the medium to long term.

As we pointed out at the beginning, it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for any drug prescribed by a specialist. The training should always be seen as complementary.

Control of headaches

Evidence suggests that the development of this long-term training may be helpful for those who have to deal with headaches. It’s most useful for tension headaches, although it can also be used for migraines.

Patients should be cautious about what results to expect. Still, it can be used as an alternative in case other treatments prove ineffective.

Regulation of sleep patterns

Research published by Primary Health Care Research & Development indicates that the Schultz autogenic method can help control sleep patterns. This would be helpful, for example, for those suffering from insomnia.

The positive effects on an emotional level produced by the therapy are believed to help counteract sleep disorders. Stress is one of the main causes. By controlling it through training, it can be reduced and thus improve the quality of life.

As an adjunct treatment for irritable bowel syndrome

A study published in Applied Psychology and Biofeedback suggests that sessions can help counteract the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Together with pharmacological treatment and lifestyle changes to mitigate the condition, Schultz’s training may be the answer for those experiencing chronic IBS.

As a palliative cancer therapy

The method has also been used as a self-help therapy during the early stages of cancer. Research published in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing showed that positive emotional results can be obtained after such a program.

The study focused on patients with breast cancer, although it also suggests that it can be developed in other types of cancer. It’s useful for helping patients achieve self-acceptance of the disease and connection with their own bodies. It also aims to help them experience states of relaxation after chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

A woman sitting at her laptop with a scarf around her head, rubbing her temples.
Stress reduction techniques help cancer patients cope with associated anxiety.

Helpful Tips for Schultz’s Autogenic Training

Although ideally you should do the entire training through all six phases, you can also choose just one of them if your schedule prevents you from doing them all. You can do the training at any time of the day.

The sessions are done alone, in a group, or with the mediation of a therapist. Choose the one that makes you feel more comfortable and where you think you can get more relaxation. Remember that, although some of its benefits have been scientifically supported, they vary in practice.

Consult with your specialist in case you suffer from any condition you wish to treat with training and don’t abandon medication or the main therapy. Results are more tangible when long-term sessions are included.

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