Relaxation and Guided Imagery: How It Differs from other Techniques

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The Relaxation and Guided Imagery techniques that I teach start off with a particular kind of relaxation, sometimes referred to as autogenic training (autogenic means “self-generating”).  It is a procedure you do to yourself that has immediate psychological and physiological effects. 

Rather than utilizing an older method that some may know of called Progressive Relaxation (which involves contracting and then releasing 70 different muscle areas throughout the body, which is tedious), autogenic training consists of having people undergo diaphragmatic breathing and then guide them to relax different areas of their bodies.  This technique can produce a sensation of warmth (increased blood flow) and heaviness in the limbs and torso. Vasodilation and muscle relaxation are components of the relaxation response and autogenic training can be employed to teach people to develop a passive meditative or self-hypnotic state as trying to relax gets in the way of relaxing. 

With autogenic exercises followed by sensory imaging, heart rate, respiratory rate, muscle tension and serum cholesterol levels all decrease. Alpha brain waves and blood flow to the arms and legs increases. The increased peripheral blood flow has led to success in treating Raynaud’s disease and migraine headache sufferers and insomniacs have benefited from autogenic training as have those with high blood pressure.  Diabetics engaged in autogenic training have been known o regain islet of Langerhans functioning, meaning they need less insulin.