To practise dropping into the Relaxation Response, try this step-by-step guided exercise from Dr. Benson’s book, The Relaxation Response, pp 172-173.
1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Deeply relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep them relaxed.
4. Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out, say the word, “ONE”, silently to yourself. For example, breathe in … out, “ONE”,- in .. out, “ONE”, etc. Breathe easily and naturally.
5. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.* When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened. Do not stand up for a few minutes.
6. Do not worry about whether you are successful in 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.”
With practice, the response should come with little effort. Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes seem to interfere with the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.
* I find using a meditation app with a bell or chime timer works really well, as it eases me back without the glaring sound of an alarm. There are many of these; I personally enjoy using "Insight Timer."
** Instead of ignoring thoughts, which can be distracting if they won't go away, simply notice that you're thinking with the thought, "THINKING," and return to your silent counting.
If you’d like to experience this deeply healing practice, check out the new Restorative yoga class on Wednesdays from 6:30-7:30 pm. There are also spaces left at the Healing Heart Restorative Retreat at Tamarack in August (5 spots left!) where we’ll be pracising yoga nidra as well as other deeply restorative practices. Contact me to learn more and to register.
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