Relaxation Response


The Relaxation Response

In 1968 at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Herbert Benson took up the offer of a group of ardent meditation students to study their claim that they could control their blood pressure through deep relaxation.

Dr. Benson’s test results showed that this deep relaxation technique produced the exact opposite effect of the body’s physiologic reaction to stress that is triggered by the over-activity of our body’s sympathetic nervous system; a mechanism that increases blood pressure, the rate of respiration, and bumps up blood lactate levels, all good and sensible things when you are getting ready to fight for your life or run like hell!

 To Dr. Benson’s astonishment, his group of 18 mediators uniformly showed lowered blood pressure, decreased rates in respiration that mimicked oxygen levels of people asleep for four to five hours, and lowered blood lactate levels; a condition consistent with decreased activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Benson referred to his findings as “the relaxation response” and as a cardiologist, realized immediately its applicability to fighting off hypertension and heart disease.


The four basic components of the relaxation response are these:

  1. A quiet environment
  2. A mental device to prevent the mind from wandering
  3. A passive attitude.
  4. A comfortable position.relax life changing relaxation technique


  1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet, progressing up to your face.
  4. Breathe through your nose and become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out say the word “one” silently to yourself. Breathe easily and naturally.
  5. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. You may use your eyes to check the time. Do not use an alarm. When you finish sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed, then open them. Do not stand up right away.
  6. Don’t worry about achieving a deep level of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. When distracting thoughts occur, try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them and return to repeating “one.”
  7. Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal as the digestive process seems to interfere with the elicitation of the relaxation response.