Autogenic Therapy works by helping you to achieve a meditative state in which you can learn to control your body’s response to suggestion. From there, you can begin to take control of your life back from the ravages of stress.
In a nutshell, the technique works to reverse the stress response in the body. When we are stressed, the body reacts as if it is sensing danger. This is termed the “fight or flight” response. It is normally exhibited when we feel that we are being threatened or in danger of bodily harm.
It results in a heightened awareness. Pupils dilate to take in more light. The heart rate increases. Adrenalin is secreted into the system, preparing your muscles for a fight or to have to run for your life.
Well, imagine being in this state of high alert all the time. Whenever we are stressed, that is in essence what the body is doing. It can wreak havoc on our systems and lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety, tension, irritability, pain and headaches.
AT uses the body itself to reduce the stress as by using a series of mental exercises, the body can be lulled into a more relaxed state just by suggestion.
The autonomic nervous system which regulates the fight or flight response is affected.
AT helps to create a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system and switch from a sympathetic-dominated state to a parasympathetic-dominated one.
AT has been shown to have positive effects on those suffering from stress, seasonal affective disorder and other conditions in the body.
By practicing simple relaxation and body awareness exercises you learn to switch off your body’s “fight or flight” stress response, switch on its “relaxation response” and achieve a state of balance and equilibrium (homeostasis).
In essence AT is about simply letting go of striving for results and becoming the Passive Observer of the inner self.
In this state, the inherent self-regulatory mechanisms of the brain function naturally to allow re-balancing of the activities of the right and left-brain hemispheres.
This, in turn, supports the workings of the immune system, promotes healing processes and can bring about greater emotional balance and release of creativity.
The practice of these core exercises leads to a state of altered consciousness, the Autogenic State (which is not identical to hypnosis, self-hypnosis or sleep).
This deep relaxation accesses information from deeper levels to allow all kinds of brain-directed, self-regulatory processes of a normalising nature to spontaneously take place – promoting and supporting healthier mental and physical balance.
AT is based upon three basic principles:
1. Establishing mental contact with your body
2. Developing a non-striving attitude of Passive Awareness and Acceptance
3. Repeating a sequence of six mental exercises whilst sitting or lying down in a comfortable, neutral, balanced and symmetrical position
The AT Exercises focus upon the following examples of relaxation:
• Heaviness and warmth in the limbs
• Calm and regular heartbeat
• Self-regulation of breathing
• Soothing abdominal warmth
• Inducing a state of mental calm and a cool head
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