The relaxation response is a
physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional
responses to stress (e.g., decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and
muscle tension). If practiced regularly, it can have lasting effects when
encountering stress throughout the day and can improve health. Regular
elicitation of the relaxation response has been scientifically proven to be
an effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders. In
fact, to the extent that any disease is caused or made worse by stress, the
relaxation response can help.
Elicitation of the relaxation response is not difficult.
There are two essential steps to eliciting the RR:
- Repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or
- Passive disregard of everyday thoughts that inevitably
come to mind and the return to your repetition
The following is the generic technique taught at the
Mind/Body Medical Institute:
- Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is
firmly rooted in your belief system, such as "one", "peace", "The Lord is
my shepherd", "Hail Mary full of grace" or "shalom".
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your
calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
- Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your
focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
- Assume a passive attitude. Don't worry about how well
you're doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself,
"Oh well", and gently return to your repetition.
- Continue for ten to 20 minutes.
- Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for
a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and
sit for another minute before rising.
- Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times
to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.
The relaxation response can be brought forth through many
techniques in addition to the method above, such as imagery, progressive
muscle relaxation, repetitive prayer, meditation, repetitive physical
exercises, and breath focus. Each person should choose a technique that
conforms to his or her belief system.