Why Activate Your
Relaxation Response?

Research has emphasized the crucial role of the relaxation response in healing the body from the damaging effects of stress. The importance of allowing vital rest and recovery time was once underestimated.

You see… the body’s sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activates the stress response, which demands immediate energy to burn when a crisis or an emergency situation occurs. This revs everything up into high gear.

But there are two components to this system. There’s also the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), which is the one responsible for the relaxation response. It does the exact opposite of slowing heart rate and respiration, conserving and restoring energy.

They work in balance of one another.

Herbert Benson, M.D. - a pioneer in mind/body medicine - first coined the term while studying a group who practiced TM.

Founding President of the Benson-Henry Institute (BHI), Mind/Body Medical Institute Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School – Dr. Benson is credited with more than 180 scientific publications and 11 books, including the national bestseller, “The Relaxation Response.”

It was long believed that the best ways to relieve stress were to minimize the fight or flight stress response. That all you needed to do was basically calm down and avoid stressful situations.

We now know that’s only half of the battle.

Studies have found it to be the imbalance of both, the overactivation of the sympathetic system and underactivation of the parasympathetic system.

It is safe to say that this imbalance may be an underlying factor in development of stress related illness like heart disease, high blood pressure… and a hoard of other symptoms of stress.

In today’s modern world, the SNS can become so over-stimulated that it’s not easily suppressed. And those stress hormones keep you revved up on high alert much longer and way-y-y more often than necessary!

When coping with stress, you need to make a daily effort to turn off the stimuli, clear your mind and give yourself time to balance out and recover.

"Repeated activation of the relaxation response can reverse sustained problems in the body and mend the internal wear and tear brought on by stress."

~Herbert Benson MD

Pure and natural stress relief

The relaxation response is your natural protection mechanism to counter the overreaction of stress.

There are several types of meditation that help you reach this level of deep relaxation.

Dr. Benson, with his Meditation Relaxation Technique, found two steps to be essential:

(1) the repetition of a word, sound, prayer, or phrase, and

(2) the passive attitude of letting go intruding thoughts

You’ve got to get yourself into an altered meditative state of consciousness…

Have you ever found yourself in a trance-like state while passively gazing out a window? If so, you’ve already experienced altered consciousness.

These unique rests are during which time the stress response is not operating. Done purposely during meditation, you rouse a level of heightened awareness that doesn’t usually occur automatically.

You develop a physical state of stillness that changes your physical and emotional responses to stress:

  • Your muscles relax
  • Your heart beats slower
  • Your rate of breathing slows
  • Your blood pressure decreases
  • Your metabolism decreases
  • Your levels of nitric oxide increase

Your breath slows to 11 times per minute, not the usual 16 to 20. Inhaling takes in about 5 percent less oxygen, and each exhale contains less carbon dioxide.

Your heart rate drops by about three beats per minute and blood pressure subsides.

Your skin resistance—the same measurement that’s taken during a lie detector test—significantly rises, signaling deep relaxation with minimum anxiety.

Blood flow to the brain increases by 25 percent - Even the electrical activity of your brain changes. Brain waves that normally flow at random become synchronized and even in range. The alpha waves, which are associated with a feeling of serenity and well-being, increase in frequency.

Many report feeling happier -

  • More assertive
  • Optimistic
  • Self-confident
  • Energetic
  • Productive
  • Less anxiety

Also many find it easier to -

  • Quit smoking
  • Cut down on heavy drinking or drug use
  • Lose weight
  • Diminish insomnia
  • Manage pain

Although it is recommended to elicit the RR twice a day for 15-20 minutes, any time that you can devote will be to your advantage.

A time before breakfast is best. You can set a positive tone and a foundation of awareness for the rest of the day.

If you happen to fall asleep while practicing, continue your session for 5-10 minutes after you wake to receive a full benefit.

It is quite effective in helping people with sleep difficulties to unwind, so you may want to include a practice right before bedtime.

The relaxation response has been scientifically proven to be a sound treatment for a wide range of stress related disorders - To the extent that if any disease is caused or made worse by stress, practicing it can help.

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