We’re always up for simple tools, tips, and techniques that naturally reduce symptoms and help balance hormones. That’s one reason we love a little something called autogenic training. Here’s what it is and what it does. (And why it belongs in your life.)
About autogenic training
Autogenic training’s history dates back about 100 years ago. In 1932, German neurologist Dr. Heinrich Sultz, published the first notes on this relaxation method.
In autogenic training, a set of six mindfulness exercises turn off your fight-or-flight response and activate your natural relaxation center. Each exercise focuses on one part of the body at a time, asking you to focus on heaviness and warmth in each one. Like other relaxation methods, autogenic training helps the body reduce and cope with stress. As a result, it positively affects hormone balance, too.
Effects on cortisol
Cortisol is absolutely essential to our health. Even though it’s often called a stress hormone, it does much more than that in the body. It plays a part in inflammation, your sleep-wake cycle, blood glucose, blood pressure, sex hormone levels, how you use nutrients, and more.
Thanks to our modern lifestyles and chronic stress, cortisol levels can become higher than what’s healthy. Too much cortisol hurts your health goals. And, eventually, it can cause problems with other hormones and create imbalances.
Lowering high levels of cortisol is important. But it often means changing your routine and mindset, so you can manage stress and/or anxiety disorders. (Both are closely tied to elevated cortisol.) Many forms of meditation or relaxation, including autogenic training, help reduce high cortisol.
Coping with stress isn’t just important for lowering cortisol. Unchecked stress is also a major headache and migraine trigger.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache—with nearly every adult having experienced at least one. But migraines are a big issue for many people, especially women. Autogenic training helps with both because it activates relaxation response and reduces feelings of anxiety and stress.
In 2005, a study showed the benefits on headaches. The study divided participants into two sets. Both sets took medication. But one group also practiced relaxation techniques. This group reported 96% relief from their headache symptoms. Plus, their cortisol levels lowered too. Those who didn’t try relaxation methods only got about 25% relief from their symptoms.
Some women in perimenopause and menopause struggle with new or worsening depression. Science shows autogenic training helps. A small study looked at 60 menopausal women with depression. As part of the study, each woman’s depression was rated and recorded. One group of women didn’t receive any meds or lifestyle changes. The other tried autogenic training for a short time (one month).
After four weeks, researchers re-evaluated and noted differences between the women. The relaxation group experienced a 25% decrease in depression since the start of the study.
Whether it’s from PMS, endometriosis, or another cause, pain (and chronic pain) can be life-disruptive and hard manage. Because pain from these conditions affects women both mentally and physically, mind-body techniques like autogenic training may be useful.
Mind-body therapies may not necessarily fix physical issues. But they can help with how a person responds to or even interprets pain. Studies evaluating the effects of these modalities show a variety of results when it comes to efficacy. However, mind-body therapies are rarely associated with negative outcomes or contraindications and can provide complementary or alternative support to traditional methods.
Stress, hormones, depression, and hot flashes all contribute to an inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. But autogenic training benefits those struggling with shut-eye. More than 150 individuals signed up for an 8-week autogenic training course through The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. The training didn’t emphasize sleep. But it still helped with insomnia. People not only fell asleep faster but also enjoyed better sleep quality and more energy in the morning.
What you need to start autogenic training
Want to try autogenic training? Many guided recordings and apps walk you through what to do. One of our favorite people to be guided by? Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA. You can find her Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Autogenic Training available for purchase through Amazon. (Or free in the Amazon Music app.) Aside from that, just you need to grab your headphones and find a quiet space where you can lay down.