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The First Methods of Relaxation

Johann Heinrich Schultz (1884-1970) was a German psychiatrist who studied hypnosis and psychoanalysis. He developed a method of relaxation, the Autogenic training (Schultz, 1932), after having been a physician in yoga poses the German army during World War I. He is part of the immense network of therapists who were trained by the disastrous psychological ravages brought about by that war. His method is based primarily on autohypnosis and yoga. He was a Nazi sympathizer during the World War II, which probably explains why his therapeutic thought finds limited expression, mostly in yoga poses schools that were influenced by him, like Sophrology.1

The Link between Thoughts and Body Are Nonconscious but Manageable

Like the hypnotists, Schultz uses a parallelistic model that presumes a nonconscious power of spirit over matter. An individual cannot, through introspection, know how his thoughts influence the body; but he can learn techniques that increase the control of thoughts on the body. He proposes some simple techniques of autohypnotic relaxation that allow an individual to place himself in yoga poses a state that reinforces the organism’s systems of auto-reparation. Schultz’s system also incorporated the medical knowledge of his time, for example when he uses the following principles:

1. The heavier the object that a hand holds, the more the extensor muscles of the arm have a tendency to elongate. Shultz therefore supposes that when a person experiences the sensation of heaviness in yoga poses a part of the body, the extensor muscles of that part of the body have elongated while relaxing.2

2. The link between blood and warmth is more direct because a greater flow of blood necessarily brings warmth.

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