The Relaxation Response

‘The Relaxation Response’ is a term coined by Dr Herbert Benson of Harvard University in 1968. He had good success with reducing stress and controlling the fight-or-flight response.

Direct effects of Dr. Benson’s relaxation techniques includes deep relaxation, slowed heartbeat and breathing, reduced oxygen consumption and increased skin resistance.

The Relaxation Response Technique is as follows:

1. Sit comfortably and quietly

2. Close your eyes

3. Start by relaxing the muscles of your feet and then work up your body relaxing each of your body muscles

4. Focus/Breathe purposefully/Deeply/Calmly

5. Breathe in deeply and then let your breath out. Count your breaths, and say the number of the breaths as you let each one out

Do this for ten to twenty minutes.

Alternatively, follow the above steps, using relaxation imagery instead of counting breaths in step 5.

Benson writes in his book, “We claim no innovation but simply a scientific validation of age-old wisdom”.

People from the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement, who felt they could reduce blood pressure using TM, visited Harvard Medical School in 1968, asking to be studied. The school, which at the time was studying the relationship of monkeys’ behavior and blood pressure, told them “No, thank you.”

But when they persisted, Benson told them he would study them. He met with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi first to find out if he could agree in advance to any outcome, which Mahesh did.

According to Benson more than 60 percent of all visits to healthcare providers are related to stress. It causes the “fight or flight” hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine, to secrete into the bloodstream. This incites or exacerbates a number of conditions.

They include hypertension, headaches, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic low back pain, as well as heart disease, stroke and cancer.