An essential component of the mind-body work I do involves activating the body’s “relaxation response.” The term “relaxation response” was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School in the 1970’s to describe the opposite of the stress response or ”fight or flight” system of the body we are all so familiar with these days. At the time, it was a revolutionary scientific discovery to have evidence of how the mind can heal the body. That study demonstrated the mind and body are not separate entities as we often believe.
So what happens when we relax? On a physical level, our parasympathetic nervous system is triggered. This is the ”rest and digest” system, which counteracts stress by regulating digestion and elimination, slowing heart rate, conserving energy and is also key to repairing damaged tissue while bringing the body back into equilibrium. When our lives are too busy, it is a challenge to spend enough time in this state. However, when we are relaxed, we feel calm and safe and that not only feels good, it is good for us!
There are many ways to bring the mind-body complex into this calm place naturally, without any of the unwanted side-effects of chemicals. The parasympathetic nervous system can be activated in many ways including lying down, low lighting, quiet or gentle music, slowing and deepening the breath, warmth such as a heated table or room and moderate pressure touch. These are all elements I integrate into my hands-on sessions and many into the yoga classes I teach. From the moment you walk in the door, the Tuning Tree clinic is specifically designed to support your body’s ability to shift into a restful healing mode.
Out of Dr. Benson’s research emerged the “Benson-Henry Protocol”, which is basically a type of standardized meditation. From this research, scientific evidence of the benefits of mind-body healing to improve many medical conditions was discovered. These include but are not limited to:
high blood pressure
pain – both acute and chronic
Show me How to Relax!
Step 1: Pick a focus word, phrase, image or a short prayer. Or focus only on your breathing for this exercise.
Step 2: Find a quiet place and sit calmly in a comfortable position.
Step 3: Close your eyes.
Step 4: Progressively relax all of your muscles.
Step 5: Breathe slowly and naturally. As you exhale, repeat or picture silently your focus word or phrase, or simply focus on your breathing rhythm.
Step 6: Assume a passive attitude. When other thoughts intrude (and they will), simply think, “oh well,” and return to your focus.
Step 7: Continue with this exercise for an average of 12-15 minutes.
Step 8: Practice this technique at least once daily.
Like video tutorials? Do the Relaxation Response on YouTube now!
** Want this to work for you? You must believe that healing is possible and expect that it is possible! That is key to the effectiveness of this approach. Commit to 7 days or 21 days to start a change in your life.
A good article? Q&A with Dr. Benson on BrainWorld
Want to read more about his research? check out this book
Need help relaxing? Book an appointment with Duree to be guided into sublime relaxation.
Reference: Relaxation Revolution by Herbert Benson, MD and William Proctor, JD (2010) NY, NY.