If you are lucky enough to find teacher that employs deep relaxation instruction during your yoga class you will likely feel “blissed out” after class. What is this phenomenon? Is it just an illusion? At the chemical level in your body, have changes occurred? These are the type of questions I have had for years.
Since I am in the occupation of teaching people how to reconnect with their bodies and find deep relaxation I have done a lot of research into why and how this “blissing out” happens. I by no means have all the answers, but I am finding out thru study and experience that this phenomenon is real and not an illusion. And I have discovered some techniques that you can employ at home to bring more bliss into your life!
In my quest for knowledge and understanding I have come upon research led by a pioneer in mind/body medicine, Herbert Benson, MD. at the Harvard Medical School. Since the mid-sixties this cardiologist has been studying the connection between mind and body. And more specifically the connection stress has to disease and how to counter the effects of stress with what he has coined the “Relaxation Response”. In Benson’s research the mind and body are one system, in which meditation can play a significant role in reducing the stress response and in turn decrease the opportunity for disease.
The Relaxation Response is the coined term for the bodymind relaxation response that is directly opposite of the bodymind’s “fight or flight response”. The research is so fascinating and I recommend anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of how meditative techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing, repetitive prayer, chi gong, tai chi, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, jogging, even knitting can elicit the relaxation response and decrease the opportunity for stress and disease, read Benson’s books “Relaxation Response” http://www.amazon.com/Relaxation-Response-Herbert-Benson/dp/0380006766 and “The Relaxation Revolution” http://www.amazon.com/Relaxation-Revolution-Enhancing-Personal-Genetics/dp/1439148651/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1282175985&sr=1-1.
While you are at home waiting for your copies of the book to arrive in the mail here is a simple practice that once learned will take you 10 to 20 minutes a day. After studying the practice I was pleasantly surprised to find that I already employ many of the techniques during my yoga classes! No wonder my students have been looking blissed out!
Set aside 10 or 20 minutes today and try it. The following is the technique taken verbatim from Benson’s book:
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- Deeply relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep them relaxed.
- 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.
- 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.. .
- 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.
– The Relaxation Response, Herbert Benson, M.D.
Enjoy the above home practice and then come check out one of my yoga classes where we will together work on relaxation techniques to increase our body-mind connection! Also, I offer private and group meditation sessions, if you are interested in scheduling a session, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further your relaxation response knowledge:
Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine http://massgeneral.org/bhi/
From my open heart to yours,