The Relaxation Response
Learning how to meditate has so many health benefits, such as relaxation, resiliency, clarity, and the ability to recharge yourself. Here is a specific meditation to ellicit the relaxation response. I picked this one by Dr. Herbert Benson because it has been researched by Harvard and proven to be effective over the last 20 years. I want to emphasize how important abdominal breathing is especially when you are first learning to meditate. Allowing your belly to expand on the inhale and contract on the exhale, will help turn on the rest and relax part of your nervous system.
How to Elicit the Relaxation Response
Herbert Benson, M.D.
1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system.
2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
3. Close your eyes.
4. Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
5. Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
6. 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.
7. Continue for 10-20 minutes.
8. 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.
9. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.