The renowned Herbert Benson in his book, The Relaxation Response, established that by learning to use your awareness and your mind you can begin to control your physical reaction to stress. This program introduces you to techniques that give you the chance to relax and reduce physiological symptoms that are made worse by tension and anxiety. His most recent book is called “
Regular practice of a relaxation response changes the physiological interaction of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems which leads to equilibrium and effective functioning. We offer you a variety of techniques so that you can choose the ones that you like the most and find the easiest to incorporate in your regular routine.
“The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress… and the opposite of the fight or flight response.” (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.
In the 1970′s, Herbert Benson was intrigued by Transcendental Meditation (TM), a technique that uses meditation with a mantra, and conducted research to see if TM really produced any measurable effects on the body. With his fellow researcher, physiologist Robert Keith Wallace, he found “…that the repeated mantra replaced the arousing thoughts that otherwise keep us tense during most waking hours. Result: lower metabolic rate, slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and slower breathing.”
He promptly theorized that the changes in the body produced by the repetition of the mantra were not dependent upon the specific mantra given to the meditators by the TM organization. He measured the responses of meditators using various other words as mantras and found that, indeed, the positive effects on the body were still produced. “He then turned to Christians and Jews who practiced the standard Western form of meditation–prayer. He had Roman Catholic subjects use ‘Hail Mary, full of grace’…Jews…settled mainly for the peace greeting ‘Shalom’…Protestants often used the first line of the Lord’s Prayer…They all worked.”
At this point, Benson wrote up his research in his book, The Relaxation Response, which became a bestseller when it was published in 1975. Relaxation Response is the label he devised to describe the positive physiological changes that meditation and prayer produce in the body. His research is interesting in that he found that subjects were much more likely to stick with a program of meditation when they were using a prayer for a mantra than when they were chanting a meaningless word.
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See Herbert Benson on Youtube talking about his new Book, The Relaxation Revolution
“….her expertise in relaxation practice felt like a magnet that kept me coming back each week. D.H.”