Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Autogenics: The brain skill that can save your life.

 Autogenics is great for any stress-related issue. Just some of these include: insomnia, incontinence, hives, high-blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, eczema, and heart issues.  If you or someone you know may be struggling with a stress-related issue, this entry is for you. 

 Lucky me.  I was born with a electrical heart disorder called WPW. Occasionally my heart would seemingly lose its rhythm and take off as though I was in a race...for my life.  At one point my ticker went as fast as 200 beats per minute.  Not good. So why would I consider such a "defect" to be good fortune?  Well, I probably wouldn't have ever discovered autogenic training without the issue.  I know it sounds like a lemonade out of lemons story, but bear with me.

I didn't know I had a heart disorder until I was an adult.  I knew my bio-pumper would occasionally flutter, but I thought everybody's heart did that.  It never ceases to amaze me about life when you're little.  You assume if "X" happens to you, "X" happens to everyone. Or if you can do something, everyone can do it. But I digress.
I had some surgeries to fix my heart issue, and took beta-blockers prescribed to me to assist with the occasional palpitation thereafter. However, I later discovered that beta-blockers are not ideal for those with a higher risk of diabetes, like (gulp) African-Americans, so I just stopped taking mine. Arguably not my smartest moment, but I think being forthcoming is a worthwhile policy, even when it's unflattering.

Now most people can probably guess what happened next: I had a serious tachycardic episode one night.  This was about two and a half years ago, and I remember being terrified that I  was going to die. I've certainly had a few close calls in everyday life, just like everyone who has lived long enough, but this one felt ominously different.   I probably hadn't been in a church in at least four years before that night, but let me tell you, I prayed like a mantis not to die! To my surprise, my heart did regulate itself.  When I left the hospital that night and my heart would go erratic again, I would do a quick prayer as a remedy for each episode. 

You would imagine that I would have become a religious zealot from then on, but instead I wondered if I really had to resort to orisons in order to preclude an episode.  So the next time a palpitation happened, I just said "Stop" instead of appealing to the divine.  My heart "behaved itself" in response.   I no longer had  to call upon divine intervention for the heart issue any more than I needed to to scratch my nose.  This event made me even more curious, as it seemed to me that what I began doing was a healthy version of psychosomatics, the mind influencing the body in a good way.  After a bit of research, I discovered the name for it, a type of psychophysiological self-regulation called autogenic training. Lucky me.   

I had to admit, I was a bit disappointed to discover that what I could now do--speed up or slow down my heart through my emotions--could not be branded as a superpower, but in fact quite ordinary!  Medicine has known about this ability for a loooong time.  Yoga, biofeedback, progressive relaxation techniques, and autogenics are all disciplines that can lead to the ability to control involuntary aspects of your physiology, like your brain-waves, blood pressure, and heart rate. And I did indeed later learn how to control all of these things about myself.   I hesitate to use absolutes, like "always" and "everyone" but autogenics evidently is something that practically anyone can do.

I wondered why aren't people prescribed autogenic training rather than surgery  and/or drugs for certain health issues.  It's cheaper (my old beta-blockers cost about $40/month. My surgery bill soared into the thousands. On the other hand, autogenics--once you learn it--is free to use.) and always at your beck and call to utilize. And you can't forget to bring it with you, like you may with a bottle of pills. But the question of why autogenics and its variants are not more commonly prescribed is a question for another day.  I hope that one of the physicians I contacted will answer this question. If and when one does, I'll post the Q&A here.     

Of course in the meantime, you may want to try autogenics yourself. It's one of those things that you can go to a trainer to learn, or try to learn on your own.  I personally did a mixture of both.  Because of my circumstances, I learned heart control--which is considered one of the more advanced feats-- on my own before I learned the supposedly simpler ones like mentally erasing a tension headache via formal training.  Formal training helped me "fill in the blanks."

You can click here for a very thorough six step-plan for learning autogenics.  It typically takes 90 days to master, but people's learning curves vary, and you can expect some results in about 3 weeks, if you do the exercises daily.

--Nathan (Nth)

"As with all entries in Mentathlete, this entry is not to be taken as medical advice.  Always consult your physician before pursuing any activity involving your health."


  1. Thanks, Nathan. First week of operation and I am already seeing benefits and possibilities. This is long overdue.


  2. looks very interesting - i will for sure look into this.

    had my own heart scare about 15 years ago. was feeling sick and took a bunch of medicines, also i had stopped taking caffeine a few years earlier - so got a abit of jump from the meds. then went to a football game with friends. and! i love brownies. just love them. so at the tailgate i ate about 5 brownies. and someone saw me eating the last one. "hey, dont eat more than one of those... we put some really special stuff in there, harhaharhar"

    60 minutes later i was in the hospital with 4 people deep around me. they had the jump kit ready as my heart was about to call it a day. also i was passing out over and over. they had wires and tubes and crap all over. lots of yelling about this and that. machines that went ping. everything. then at one point i had my eyes closed, they thought i was out again. and one guy said "give him a shot of blabbity blab 5" "if we give him a shot of that, it will kill him." "the guys going to die anyway, give him the shot."

    must have worked!