Derived from the Greek words for "self" and "origin"—together meaning "self-generating" or "coming from within"—autogenic training is widely considered a form of self-hypnosis. By repeating mantras to themselves, people who practice autogenic training (or "trainees") call attention to different parts of their body. Depending on the mantra, a person can create a heaviness or warmth in the limbs, a calmness in the heart or lungs, or other relaxing sensations in the stomach or head.
In truth, autogenic training is different from hypnosis. Dr. Wolfgang Linden, professor emeritus of clinical psychology at the University of British Columbia, calls it "an autonomic self-regulation therapy." Rather than commanding the body to feel a certain way, as some sources suggest, trainees passively concentrate on bodily sensations. They do not force a sensation, and in fact, they can let their mind wander. All that matters is that you remain aware of yourself—and that includes watching your thoughts.
The person credited with developing and spreading the use of autogenic training is German neurologist Johannes Heinrich Schultz. Fascinated with hypnosis, Schultz broke away from the standard practices of medicine in the early 20th century to form his own clinic. One of his pupils, Wolfgang Luthe, brought the practice to North America when he immigrated to Canada in 1945. Before then, it was—and continues to be—more popular in Europe and Asia.
Because autogenic training is designed to put therapy in your own hands, you do not have to run out and buy a CD, join a group, or find a professional. But these methods may be helpful if you are having trouble getting started.
Some colleges teach stress management courses that use autogenic training in their curriculum. Here are some institutions who have published autogenic training MP3s online: