Cultivating the Relaxation Response
Lesson 2 Chapter 1
5 Minute Relaxation Response for Resilience
A Few Thoughts...
While the goal of mindfulness is neither relaxation nor one-pointed focus, both of these skills can enhance your mindfulness practice. While the Relaxation Response meditation is not rooted in mindfulness, it can be a very helpful tool when you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
One of the most helpful relaxation techniques I have encountered is called the “Relaxation Response.” Coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, cardiologist and founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, this practice has been proven time and again to lower stress levels, reduce blood pressure, and increase well-being. In fact, the Relaxation Response is the antidote to the fight-flight-freeze response we experience when stressed. Dr. Benson’s research has shown that regular practice of the Relaxation Response can even repair cells damaged by stress.
PREPARATION: Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Sit in a comfortable position, or lay down on a mat or blanket, and close your eyes.
- Beginning at your feet, move your awareness up your body inviting each group of muscles to relax, all the way to the crown of your head.
- Notice each inhale and each exhale. Start to follow the pattern of your breath.
- As you exhale, silently repeat a word or short phrase. Repeat this each time you exhale. You can choose a neutral word such as “one,” an encouraging word such as “peace” or “relax.” You can also choose a short prayer or mantra, such as “Shalom,”“Om,” “Let go, let God,” or any other phrase that feels right to you.
- When you get distracted, or forget to repeat your word, simply start again. This is a normal part of the process, and it is important that you do not beat yourself up for getting off track. Simply trying to stay focused is enough.
- Repeat this for 10 to 20 minutes.
CLOSING: When you have finished, you may wish to sit in silence for a few minutes before returning to your daily activities. If you keep a Journal, this will be a good time to record your experience.
TIPS FOR PRACTICE:
- Practice this technique for 20 minutes a day, even if you split it into 2 ten minute sessions.
- It is better to practice five minutes a day every day than 30 minutes once a week.
- If possible do not practice within two hours after a meal.
- You may also practice the Relaxation Response during other activities, such as while you are walking, running, gardening or knitting. Simply pay attention to your breath and body and repeat your word during any repetitive motion.
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