A simple relaxation technique

Perhaps the simplest example of a method of relaxation is the one advocated by Dr Herbert Benson and operated at the Beth Israel Hospital, Boston. It is a particularly useful technique for those who are disabled or ill.

1. Sit quietly and comfortably and close your eyes.

2. Consciously relax all your muscles starting at the feet and working up your body to your face. Concentrate on keeping them relaxed.

3. Breathe through your nose and be aware of the breathing process. After you breathe out say the word ‘ONE’ to yourself. Continue in the rhythm of breathe in, breathe out and say ‘ONE. Breathe in, breathe out, say ‘ONE.

4. Practise this breathing for 15 to 20 minutes. You may open your eyes to see the time, but do not use an alarm of any sort. When your relaxation programme is over sit quietly for several minutes. (Some people drop off to sleep for a few minutes after they have finished their breathing exercises.)

It is as well to remember that during such a short cut to the relaxation response it will be difficult to feel much benefit to start with. A deep level of relaxation will not occur at the beginning but this does not matter provided a totally passive attitude is maintained. Gradually the desired relaxation creeps in. To start with distracting thoughts will intrude. Do not try to chase them away or dwell on them or follow them up in any way-just dismiss them as best you can. The breathe in, breathe out, say ‘ONE’ recipe will help in this way.

It is advisable not to try to elicit the relaxation response within two hours of a meal as the desired degree of relaxation does not come easily to a full stomach (sleep is more likely to be induced). As with all methods of relaxation, a twice-a-day routine must be part of your new way of life.

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