The experience of relaxation is vital to offset the harmful effects of recurring stress on the body. Through the regular practice of relaxation techniques, one can begin to reverse this cumulative, hurtful process, and engage the body’s remarkable possibility for self-healing.
Psychotherapist in calgary , Herbert Benson, M.D., Harvard Professor and stress reduction expert, first coined the phrase “Relaxation Response” in the early 1970s to explain the physiological and mental changes that take place when one intentionally relaxes. In The Wellness Book he indicates that the relaxation response is “a physiological state characterized by a slower heart rate, metabolism, rate of breathing, lower blood pressure, and slower brain wave patterns.”
Here are some of the positive changes that take place when your body is in the Relaxation Response:
- Heartbeat and respiration are slowed.
- Oxygen consumption is clearly reduced.
- The expiration of carbon dioxide falls.
- Blood pressure stabilizes.
- Blood lactate levels (which many researchers believe are linked to panic attacks) decline sharply.
There are various tested techniques which promote this state of profound rest and release. This piece of writing concentrates on rhythmic, deep, diaphragmatic breathing.
This valuable stress relief tool is “right beneath your nose” and as near as your breath! When you drop into slow, deep breathing, the inhalation fills your lungs and causes your lower belly to expand as the diaphragm descends downward into the flexibility of your soft, relaxed belly.
Try it right now:
Relax your body and let go of any signs of tension. Allow your tongue and jaws to relax. Relax your shoulders away from your neck. Let your abdomen relax and soften, freeing yourself of all tightness in that part of your body.
Become aware of your breathing just as it is. Then take a deep, full breath, allowing the breath to travel all the way down into the lower belly.
It is helpful to imagine that you have a small balloon in the belly. As you breathe in, let that balloon quietly fill with air. As you exhale, feel how the balloon easily collapses.
Take in several of these slow, soothing, deep breaths.
Then start to become aware of a slight pause that spontaneously takes place at the end of each out-breath. Give yourself permission to remain here without rushing to inhale. Let the next inhalation surface when your body is ready to welcome it.
Take pleasure in the soothing tranquility of the pause. Float peacefully in the stillness of this pause between exhalation and inhalation, letting the breath come about of its own accord. Let the breath breathe you!
If you are just learning diaphragmatic breathing, it can be useful to begin by lying on your back with your knees bent. In this posture, you can more easily feel “soft-belly”, diaphragmatic breathing. Notice how the belly rises with inhalation and falls with exhalation. Let the breath create that movement. You can also put your hands on your abdomen and let yourself breathe into their warmth. Feel how the weight of the hands rises with inhalation and falls with exhalation. A heavy book placed upon the abdomen will create the same sensation.
Another excellent technique to find deep belly breath is to lie on your belly. In this position, the only way you can breathe is diaphragmatically!
Finally, it can sometimes be helpful to let yourself sigh out loud with the out-breath. Sounding is a wonderful way to release stress and tension.
Deep, diaphragmatic, soft-belly breathing has a profound effect on the body. Just three minutes of soft-belly breathing can move your body out of Stress Response mode into the Relaxation Response! And if you can remain in that Relaxation Response for just 20 minutes each day, you will go a long way toward counteracting the harmful effects of recurring stress on your body.