©1985 The Anstendig Institute


Before any activity demanding mental receptivity, whether on the conscious or subliminal level, it is desirable to physically relax as much as possible. Muscle tensions and the tense mental states associated with physical tension greatly reduce impressionability and the capacity to be consciously aware.

There are many methods of relaxing, but few have been scientifically studied, tested and documented. One of those few is the original Auto-genic Training of Dr. Johannes Schulz of Berlin. That system, which has been clinically analyzed and tested over many decades, is based on the natural order in which the muscle-tensions of the body relax down in sympathy with each other and also utilizes a system of auto-suggestion that enables the individual to enter into and control the deepest regions of the psyche.

The complete Auto-genic Training should only be taught individually by a qualified psychiatrist, due to many dangers, both physical and psychological, that can be encountered in its deeper, more advanced stages. But the first few stages of the relaxation of muscle tension can be safely practiced without supervision.

There is a general confusion as to the order in which the muscles of the body should be relaxed. The most common theory mistakenly advocates relaxing the body from the feet up. This theory is based on the impression that, when going to sleep, we lose consciousness of the body from the feet up. But, the order in which we lose consciousness of the body when dropping off does not correspond to the order in which the relaxing of one muscle induces a similar, sympathetic reaction in other muscles of the body. Clinical tests have proved that there is such an order and that it begins from the top, starting with the forehead and working down the body in the following order:

facial muscles (eyes, mouth, etc.)

The method used by the Auto-genic Training is to first calmly auto-suggest to oneself “I am completely relaxed and tranquil" a few times. The next step is to individually relax each muscle, while thinking “my forehead is relaxed, I am completely relaxed and tranquil, My eyes are relaxed, I am completely relaxed and tranquil”, and so on through the sympathetic order (the word "my" can be left out, if desired). After the forehead is relaxed, the facial muscles can be individually relaxed or, when the technique has been mastered, relaxed altogether or in groups.

As the muscles relax, the blood circulation is freed and there is usually a resulting feeling of warmth in certain key areas of the body, particularly the elbow and knees. There is also a feeling of heaviness in the arms and legs, particularly if this is practiced lying down. Both of these points are included in the Auto-genic Training by auto-suggesting "Arms lie heavy on the bed", “warmth at the elbows” and "warmth spreads from the elbows and knees throughout the rest of the body”. The important thing is to be aware of, and not startled by, the effect.

The order in which the muscles are relaxed is most important, not necessarily how you go about relaxing them, as long as the auto-suggestion is done in as calm and peaceful a way as possible. A method, which is usually used by the beginner along with the auto-suggestion, is to first locate the desired muscles (each category--eyes, arms, etc.--actually includes a group of muscles) by tensing them slightly and then relaxing the tension. This method can be used by itself, without the auto-suggestion. After a little practice, it becomes possible to simply relax these key muscles almost simultaneously any time, at will.

The other most effective, but also more dangerous, technique for calming the body and elevating consciousness uses the breathing apparatus (the further stages of the Auto-genic Training also incorporate instructions for breathing). Basically. all techniques which demand that the practitioner consciously direct or, in any way, actively control the breathing mechanism should be scrupulously avoided, except under the guidance of an expert. The breathing mechanism is extremely complex. Effective. safe techniques for willfully controlling the breath are complex and delicate. The process of mastering these techniques progresses in round-about ways that are difficult to recognize and follow without expert guidance. Consciously directing the breathing mechanism is a late stage in this process.

The breathing mechanism takes care of itself admirably and should be left to do so by itself. In basic relaxing techniques, the breathing mechanism should in no way be tampered with or consciously directed. But, it is possible to be aware of your breathing without interfering with it. This is accomplished simply by watching the air coming in and out of the nose. Watching the breath at the nose is important, because paying attention to the muscular movements of the breathing apparatus in the torso leads to the temptation to try to control the breathing by interfering with the action of the muscles. By itself, the simple process of watching the breath usually results in a noticeable, natural calming of the breath and, thereby, of the whole body itself. It is important, however. to emphasize that any inclination to try to consciously direct the breathing should be resisted. Simply let it breathe. Just watch it, and nothing more. The Auto-genic Training utilizes the suggestion ‘Es atmet mich; nicht ich atme; es atmet mich.” (literally translated: “it breathes me; not I breathe; it breathes me.”). After a short period of watching the breath, it can be forgotten and full attention paid to the business at hand. With a moderate amount of care and delicacy, the calmness will usually remain.

Posture is a crucial factor in calming the body through relaxation. Besides the well-known medical effects of posture, if the body is not erect. with the rib-cage up and out of the way of the breathing mechanism (diaphragm, etc.), the breath will be lifting the rib cage with every in-breath. Since the rib-cage is the heaviest part of the body, this is a great loss of energy and a highly irrational use of body energy which keeps the body from relaxing adequately. Such a massive movement as that of the rib-cage is also highly distracting. To breathe correctly, only the front of the abdomen, below the rib-cage should move. It is, therefore, important that the body be held erect enough so that the rib-cage is up out of the way of the breathing mechanism.

Naturally, the above directions are for beginners. Anyone who has mastered advanced techniques of relaxation or breathing should, while using great discretion, feel free to utilize his own methods. In fact, certain advanced breathing techniques, in which the breathing mechanism is freed (liberated) from much of its reflexive interaction with other muscular tensions of the body, can allow the achievement of complete calm in any physical posture and under circumstances that are otherwise not conducive to consciousness. Most important is to avoid using techniques that demand continuous concentration on the techniques themselves. Relaxing should be a means of intensifying awareness and impressionability; the technical means should not distract from the purpose.

The techniques described in this paper are the simplest and most effective, without leading the practitioner into any dangerous areas. Anyone interested in pursuing them further should only do so under experienced, professional guidance.



The Anstendig Institute is a non-profit, tax-exempt, research institute that was founded to investigate stress-producing vibrational influences in our lives and to pursue research in the fields of sight and sound; to provide material designed to help the public become aware of and understand stressful vibrational influences; to instruct the public in how to improve the quality of those influences in their lives; and to provide research and explanations for a practical understanding of the psychology of seeing and hearing. The institute maintains an outreach program utilizing and demonstrating the results of its research.