Autogenic Training

A Scientifically proven, doctor-developed method to trigger a profound state of physical relaxation, bodily health, and mental peace. 

In a moment I’m going to talk to you about Autogenic Training, and share with you the secret of how to deepen your sleep, melt away stress and enter a state of total relaxation. 

Stress kills. That’s a fact. Living with stress substantially increases your risk of physical health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, infertility, and cancer. But stress is particularly damaging to your brain and your mental health, contributing to everything from brain fog and ADHD to anxiety and dementia and more. 

Stress-filled troubled thoughts become troubled sleep, which becomes insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Poor sleep can reduce sperm health parameters by as much as 39% in men. It also reduces libido substantially. Outside of that, it has a severe real-world impact, with poor sleep leading to increased risk of Heart disease, Heart attack, Heart failure, Irregular heartbeat, High blood pressure, Stroke, Diabetes, Depression and more. 

And it’s not just sleep. Stress can screw your brain up at the worst possible moment. 

We’ve all experienced “choking” or had a psychological “brain freeze” during an exam, job interview or when giving a speech, right? 

Good judgement is compromised, making us say and do things in the heat of the moment and make bad decisions when the pressure is on and stress is high. 

Stress prevents the formation of new brain cells, actually causing your brain to shrink!

Here’s the rub, stress is a part of life. It is unavoidable. It’s going to happen. You can’t change that.  But what you can change is how you react to stress. You can learn to control your body’s normally automatic response to stress, and learn to manage your stress on the deepest chemical level of your body. 

This is a simple, but remarkably powerful, stress management technique that can help you improve your physical health, mental well-being, and overall quality of life. It is so effective, it is considered the secret weapon of CEO's, world-class athletes, NASA astronauts and others seeking peak performance. Yet, surprisingly few people outside of this rare circle of elites have heard of it.

If you've ever suffered with: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Chronic Illness
  • Trauma
  • Pain
  • Insomnia and many other conditions

Then this is for you. More importantly, if you want to take charge, put yourself in the driver’s seat of your own healing, then this could be one of the most important articles you’ll read because I am going to share something truly remarkable with you. What’s more, I am going to show you how to get the rest and recovery benefits of 3-4 hours worth of sleep in as little as 15 minutes.

Close your eyes right now and imagine if you woke excited and enthusiastic to take on the day, having had the deepest and most rejuvenating night’s sleep of your life. Imagine smiling going to and leaving work, knowing you’ve made everyone’s day a little easier and a little brighter. Imagine having a strong immune system to keep you feeling great and at your best. Imagine having all the energy you need, of feeling your body relaxed and supple, of knowing there was no tension, just strength, no trauma, just peace. Imagine how that would feel.

Pretty great right? 

I’d like to tell you how you can do that.

There is a little known, but scientifically proven technique developed in 1932  that produces a “profound state of physical relaxation, bodily health, and mental peace” (2). It’s called, 


What is Autogenic Training?

What is Autogenic Training? Developed by Dr J.H. Schultz, a German neurologist. The technique consists of a series of six mental and physical relaxation exercises used to generate specific bodily sensations. This has the effect of producing the physiological changes of the relaxation response. 

The techniques are taught over a series of 8-9 sessions, as you are guided through the process by a qualified therapist and the great thing is, this is a self empowering skill! You are being put in the driver's seat of your own health, of your own peace of mind and your own relaxation. There is no need for continued therapy. Once you’ve been taught the techniques you can use them any time you wish to evoke a “profound state of physical relaxation, bodily health, and mental peace” (3)

Simply put, Autogenic Training teaches your body to respond to your commands. With this you can gain control over body functions that you normally have no control over, like your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, body temperature, and breathing.

How Does Autogenic Training Work? 

Hi, I’m Orla O’Brien, a qualified Autogenic Therapist and former member of the British Autogenic Society. I discovered the incredible power of Autogenic Training after a life changing injury left me with horrific chronic pain. AT literally saved my life and I knew I had to share this powerful technique with others. 

I am uniquely placed to guide you through this process. Having gotten Multiple Sclerosis at a very young age and overcome its hurdles using all natural methods, I understand the strains of chronic illness, and I also know how best to thrive despite its challenges.  I have a deep understanding for the struggle and pressures of life, I worked as a solicitor specialising in Family Law. I’ve had high levels of stress from both a personal and professional perspective. I also have a keen understanding of the human mind and heart having studied psychology for 3 years as part of a 1st class honours degree in DCU. All this is to say, I know first-hand, what stress is like, what sleepless nights are like, what chronic illness and pain are like and I’ve experienced and witnessed first-hand what an incredible transformative practice Autogenic Training can be. What a remarkable lifeline it can offer and the tremendous benefits it produces. It is why I am so passionate to share it with you.

Autogenic Training is a series of 6 mental exercises, I’ll teach you over 9-10 weeks, in progressive body awareness, involving the limbs, the heart and circulatory system, the breathing and nervous system…teaching the mind-body to quickly turn away from the fight-fright-stress system and switch to the rest, rejuvenate response..


  • No difficult postures
  • No special clothing
  • No apps
  • You don’t have to be alone or in a private place.

Learning AT begins with learning about you. You fill out a detailed pre-course questionnaire covering any accidents, traumas, operations, big events, etc.,

Your AT therapist (that's me :-D) will go through your answers with you in that first appointment.

Then it’s into the 9 week course, progressively learning a series of exercises that teach you how to enter deep relaxation at will. 

You’ll practice that week’s exercise 3-4 times per day every day until the next class. It doesn’t take long, but this home practice lets you enjoy the benefits of AT a little more everyday. :-D

You’ll learn a range of routines, some as short as 2-3 minutes, the longest for about 15 minutes.

In 9 weeks, you’ll have learned all you need. You have acquired the AT skill for life and are free to practice it any time you wish. 

About 6-8 weeks after the end of the course, I will check in to see how you’re getting on. I’m pleased to say, most people at this stage have incorporated AT as a daily habit. 

The Benefits of Autogenic Training

The type of clients I often see for Autogenic Training;

  • feel stressed out with an overloaded nervous system
  • are paralysed by indecision, frustration, feeling trapped and not knowing where to turn for a safe non-judgemental space to talk it through
  • need support in coping with a difficult time in their life…maybe facing or in the middle of a loss or big change
  • need help in both creating and then maintaining new health and lifestyle habits
  • are having difficulty coping with the physical and emotional changes of menopause
  • need support after an operation or accident
  • are pregnant or have just had a baby and are finding it difficult to come to terms with what’s going on for them physically and/or emotionally (this is a huge thing - new mothers are often short of sleep and coping with huge physical and emotional changes - AT is an ideal practice during breastfeeding and to recover that lost sleep!)
  • are trying to make sense or find some meaning to their lives

This easy to learn method, Autogenic Training, is so successful, it is the preferred mode of stress regulation in many European countries (4). And while it is an incredible tool for dealing with chronic stress and all its complications, the benefits of AT are far ranging. 

Autogenic Training is ranked  as one of the very best of treating anxiety disorders of all kinds in dozens of academic studies (5). It does this through regulating your autonomic nervous system, allowing you to control your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and breathing. As a result, autogenic training can help many kinds of physical and mental health conditions.

In fact, the amount of conditions AT is applicable to is nearly overwhelming in its own right! :-D 

There have been 100s of studies on the application and benefits of autogenic training and it has been concluded that it substantially aids those suffering from (6): 

  • asthma
  • depression
  • heart disease
  • hypertension
  • irregular heartbeat
  • migraines
  • pain disorders
  • racing heart
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • sleep disorders
  • tension headaches

Science.gov lists over 100 studies that have examined the potential benefits of autogenic training for a wide array of conditions including (7):

  • cancer, 
  • depression, 
  • vertigo, 
  • constipation, 
  • irritable bowel syndrome, 
  • panic disorder, 
  • diabetes, 
  • scleroderma, 
  • post-traumatic stress disorder and 
  • Parkinson’s disease.

Autogenics for Peak Performance

Of course, not everyone uses it to treat illness such as cancer or anxiety disorders. Top athletes  use this easy to learn technique as a secret “unfair advantage”. Olympic and professional athletes, military personnel, pilots, and NASA astronauts all use AT to achieve optimum and peak performance (8)(9) . 

Autogenic Training is a tried and tested technique used in sports psychology, where athletes engaged in highly emotional stress and arousal need to learn to reduce stress almost on demand. Autogenic Training succeeds where so many other methods fail because other therapeutic methodologies are just too long and drawn out for athletes who need to perform at peak level on a regular basis.

As Eric W. Krenz Ph.D. of the University of Utah, U.S.A writes in “Improving Competitive Performance with Hypnotic Suggestions and Modified Autogenic Training: Case Reports”,

“Although traditionally trainers of athletes have emphasized physiological refinements for the optimal performance of complex motor skills, research has revealed that heightened levels of stress and anxiety may adversely affect performance. As a result, many athletic training programs, taking into consideration the complex interrelationship of the mind and the body, include “mental training” in an attempt to reduce the negative effects of excess stress. These programs have incorporated various psychological interventions such as posthypnotic suggestions, sensory conditioning, and mental imagery and rehearsal.

Modified Autogenic Training, a teaching model based on Standard Autogenic Training, synthesizes the strengths of hypnotic techniques to achieve optimal athletic performance. Athletes trained in these concepts can manage unexpected incidences during competition.” (10)

Of course, Dr. Krenz is not alone. Several studies including: 

  • Hashim HA, Hanafi Ahmad Yusof H. The effects of progressive muscle relaxation and autogenic relaxation on young soccer players’ mood states. Asian J. Sports Med. 2011;2:99–105. doi: 10.5812/asjsm.34786;
  • Mikicin M, Kowalczyk M. Audio-Visual and Autogenic Relaxation Alter Amplitude of Alpha EEG Band, causing improvements in mental work performance in athletes. Appl Psychophysiological Biofeedback. 2015;40(3):219–227. doi: 10.1007/s10484-015-9290-0; and 
  • Keilani, M., Hasenöhrl, T., Gartner, I., Krall, C., Fürnhammer, J., Cenik, F., & Crevenna, R. (2016). Use of mental techniques for competition and recovery in professional athletes. Wiener klinische Wochenschrift, 128(9-10), 315-9.

Autogenic Training was an added technique that much of the Summer 2000 Japanese Olympic Judo (the Japanese martial art of wrestling) Team credits their success with (11), taking Gold in the Men’s Extra Lightweight, Half Middleweight, and Half Heavyweight with a Silver in the Heavyweight division. Meanwhile they also took the gold in the women’s Extra Lightweight, Silver in the Half Lightweight and Bronze in the Lightweight and Heavyweight Divisions. This made them the most dominant team in the Summer 2000 Olympics for Judo with a total of 8 medals. (12)

And it isn’t just Elite Olympic athletes winning with this technique. Those lucky enough to be taught AT by a qualified AT therapist like me are winning at life:

It’s Not Meditation, Mindfulness or Hypnosis

Every day in the clinic people say to me they have tried meditation and it just doesn’t work for them. Million dollar industries like “Headspace” spend thousands a day trying to convince people to silence their mind and that chattering monkey in the brain. But that isn’t an approach that works for a lot of people. It’s the same with mindfulness and even hypnosis. It’s too random, too unproven, too unstructured. 

So you’re sitting down meditating. Trying to quiet the mind. But the mind isn’t quieting. You keep telling yourself, stop thinking - and then get annoyed because that;s thinking! Agh! It is so frustrating. Do you repeat a word, keep counting for ages? Well that isn’t relaxing at all. It’s stressful. 

Mindfulness, great as that idea is, is a bit wishy-washy...is colouring, is it a walk in park, how long do i do sit for, when do I have the time and is it really going to do anything? 

As for hypnosis...well...that’s a whole other topic…but in hypnosis you’re going to be reliant on the hypnotist.

Autogenic Training on the other hand is a structured technique. You know exactly what to say to yourself, you know exactly what to do physically, you know exactly how long you are meant to do it for. It is a scientific, repeatable and verifiable practice, developed by doctors of neurology and psychiatry. 

The key difference between Autogenic Training and these other systems is that, unlike many other relaxation techniques, AT works directly on your parasympathetic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls involuntary body functions, such as your heart rate, digestion and breathing. Your ANS is divided into two main branches, the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Now, normally the parasympathetic nervous system is in control. It’s your rest-and-digest system. However, in times of pressure and stress, the sympathetic nervous system takes dominance.

This induces a state many of us know all too well - the flight-or-fight state. 

Through the practice of Autogenic Training on a regular basis, you can bring the activity of the two branches of your nervous systems into an optimal balance by calming down your overactive stress response.

"From the moment that I went into Orla's Autogenic Therapy I was put straight at ease. She had a very gentle manner and a lovely warming personality, very easy to get along with and lots of jokes and good humour along the way too! this helped greatly ease my way into my first experiences with autogenic training. Right from the start I was given the theory and the know-how to understand autogenic training and it's real life applications. Soon after this I learnt my first steps at AT. It was very easy to learn by her teaching methods. The effects of AT for my daily life have led to a drastic reduction in stress levels/anxiety and an overall increase in general well-being. The many different "offloading" exercises were really helpful in supplementing the Basic AT sessions too! Overall my time with Orla was a very positive and enjoyable experience. I would highly recommend! :)"

- J. 

Autogenic Training Works

  • “Over 3,000 clinical studies have shown Autogenics to be effective in treating a range of physical health disorders, reducing anxiety, fears and phobias, assisting memory and focus, improving the quality of sleep and inducing a feeling of well-being … and much, much more.  The recuperative effects of Autogenics are remarkable. A 15 minute session of Autogenics has the rest and recovery benefits of 3-4 hours sleep. Now that in itself makes Autogenics well worth learning!”Tyler C. Bradstreet, M.S. Doctoral Student, Counseling Psychology, Department of Psychology, Texas Tech University
  • AT improves sleep latency, duration, efficiency, and reduces medication, daytime dysfunction, anxiety and depression (Nicassio and Bootzin, 1974; Coursey et al., 1980; Stam and Bultz, 1986; Wright et al., 2002; Hidderley and Holt, 2004). 
  • A randomised study found that AT significantly improved sleep latency compared with placebo (Nicassio and Bootzin, 1974). 
  • Two other studies compared AT with biofeedback and client-centred therapy(Engel-Sittenfeld et al., 1980) and with biofeedback and electrosleep (Coursey et al., 1980) and found significant improvements in insomnia. 
  • Most recently, an NHS study “suggests that AT can improve sleep patterns in participants with a wide range of health conditions and may reduce depression and anxiety, which can both result from and cause insomnia”.

I know you’re thinking it sounds too simple, it’s too easy a fix. You can’t simply wish yourself to be calm and in control. And you’re right. You can’t just wish it. But just like you learn the basics of anything, you can learn a structured and progressive science, a method and technique to develop your mental and emotional health.

This is no different. It seems too good to be true. But then you’re guided and taught the method. Step by step, block by block, until you have a deep and powerful understanding of your body’s autonomic nervous system, which you can now deliberately affect, to induce a profound state of calm. 

Autogenic Training is proven in the labs and it’s proven on the mat (it’s hard to argue with 8 Olympic medals after all) and it has changed countless people's lives. 

Your Next Best Steps

If you’d like to learn more about Autogenic Training and how it can improve your health and performance, call me today on 087 948 5110 or click here to contact me and set up your first AT appointment. 

I look forward to helping you win that mental game and becoming the best you can be. 



(1) http://www.athleticinsight.com/Vol1Iss2/Cognitive_Behavioral_Anxiety.htm retrieved 15/2/19

(2) http://www.guidetopsychology.com/autogen.htm#t1

(3) http://www.guidetopsychology.com/autogen.htm#t1

(4) Gould D1, Udry E.Psychological skills for enhancing performance: arousal regulation strategies. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1994 Apr;26(4):478-85

(5)  Manzoni GM, Pagnini F, Castelnuovo G, Molinari E. Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-years systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry. 2008;8:41. Published 2008 Jun 2. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-41

(6)  Stetter, F. & Kupper, S. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback (2002) 27: 45. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014576505223

(7)  https://www.science.gov/topicpages/a/autogenic+feedback+training.html

(8)  Keilani M, Hasenöhrl T, Gartner I, et al. Use of mental techniques for competition and recovery in professional athletes. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2016;128(9-10):315–319. doi:10.1007/s00508-016-0969-x

(9) Cowings, Patricia S. [Inventor], “Autogenic-Feedback Training Exercise (AFTE) Method and System” (NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA United States). https://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=19980032583

(10) Eric W. Krenz Ph.D. (1984) Improving Competitive Performance with Hypnotic Suggestions and Modified Autogenic Training: Case Reports, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 27:1, 58-63, DOI: 10.1080/00029157.1984.10402590 retrieved 15/2/19

(11)  Schinke R, Hanrahan SJ. “Cultural Sport Psychology”. Human Kinetics, 2009. 

(12) "Judo at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games". https://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/summer/2000/JUD/ Sports Reference. Retrieved 15 Feb 2019. 

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