"The ideal is to develop a routine, a time to bring forth the relaxation response that becomes as much a part of the day as brushing your teeth." BHI Staff, The Wellness Book, 1992
Elicitation of the relaxation response is actually quite easy. There are two essential steps:
- Repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity.
- 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 Benson-Henry 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.
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.
Other techniques for evoking the relaxation response are:
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Repetitive prayer
- Mindfulness meditation
- Repetitive physical exercises
- Breath focus
You may want to try more than one technique to find the one that suits you best. Our relaxation CDs and tapes and exercises in managing stress can assist you. We also offer classes for Individual Instruction on Relaxation Techniques.