Relaxation helps us to feel balanced, hopeful, and able to handle life’s challenges. It improves our cardiovascular health, as well as our mental health, giving us a feeling of calm, clarity and awareness about our lives.

The Relaxation Response is a bodily response that is opposite of fight or flight. Our “fight or flight” response, that rush of hormones that raises our heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism, can be triggered by all kinds of things.

Relaxation can be elicited in a seated or lying down position, or during any repetitive activity, including: walking, running, swimming, yoga, or knitting. There are two basic steps to the Relaxation Response.

  • The repetition of a word, sound, prayer, thought, phrase or muscular activity (to break the train of everyday thought).
  • The passive return to the repetition when other thoughts intrude.

Regularly practicing meditation just twice a week has been shown to decrease blood pressure, raise our bodies’ oxygen consumption, and decrease our metabolism, increasing our general well-being.

Practice Relaxation

To practice the relaxation response, place your body in a comfortable position, one that can be sustained without shifting for the entire time that you’re meditating. Depending on what makes you feel comfortable, you may choose to practice with your eyes open or shut, dwelling on an object (if your eyes are open) or a sound. Pay attention to the in and out of your breath, breathing easily and naturally. Thoughts will arise; allow them but do not hold on to them. As your thoughts ebb and flow, return to following your breath. While you’re meditating, don’t let yourself worry about whether you’re achieving relaxation. Relaxation will occur at its own pace, and with regular practice, the response will begin to come easily.

Meditation and Religion

Most religions share some form of meditation through prayer and rituals.

It is Important to find your optimal strategy for relaxation: meditation, prayer, mindfulness meditation, yoga, martial arts and walking meditation. One size does not fit all. Depending on a person’s cognitive and emotional style will help to determine their optimal strategy.

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