Autogenic Relaxation Training (ART) is a relaxation strategy that asks you to focus on feelings of warmth and heaviness within your body to create a deep sense of physical and mental relaxation. ART can help to reduce physical symptoms of anxiety and depression such as lowering heart rate, breathing rate, and muscle tension and can be practiced wherever you are, at home or in your therapist’s office.
ART: Getting Ready
To maximize your experience with ART, it is important to take a moment to prepare for the exercise before diving in. Prior to engaging in ART, we want to be sure to do the following:
- Find a quiet environment, free from distractions and noise
- Find a comfortable position to sit or lie down.
- Take a few deep belly breaths in and out.
- Know that your mind may wander during the exercise—this is normal. When this happens, you can gently bring your attention back to the feelings of warmth and heaviness in your body.
ART: The Script
Most people who are just starting to practice ART do so with the help of a live or pre-recorded script (Click here for a good example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_sdaDwa2Ek&t=141s). Below, I have provided a general outline of a script that I use when introducing this skill to clients in order to further clarify what ART can be like.
- In your comfortable position, begin by taking a few deep breaths.
- Now turn your attention to your right hand.
- Feel the palm of your right hand becoming warm and relaxed. Feel the warmth in each finger, and on your palm, spreading to the back of your hand, to your wrist.
- Feel your right arm becoming warm. As the warmth spreads in your right arm, it feels very heavy, very heavy and warm, and very relaxed. Your right arm is warm, heavy, and relaxed.
- [Repeat script for left hand, legs, knees, hips, face, etc.]
- Feel the heaviness in your entire body. Your body is warm, heavy, and relaxed.
- Enjoy this calm, relaxing feeling. Notice your smooth, even breathing, relaxed and deep, drawing you even deeper into relaxation. Your body feels very heavy, warm, and relaxed. Enjoy the relaxation for a few more moments.
- Now slowly begin to bring your attention back to the present. Keeping your eyes closed, notice the room around you. Notice the surface that you are lying or sitting on. Hear the sounds in your environment.
- Gently start to reawaken your body. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Move your arms and legs a little, stretch if you like.
- When you are ready, open your eyes and become fully alert.
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