The most basic way to describe meditation is that we aim to help you enter into a state of relaxed awareness - not sleep, but if you get so relaxed that you nod off a little, we won't judge you!
THE “RELAXATION RESPONSE” - HOW MEDITATION HELPS US
This phrase was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, professor, author, cardiologist, and founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute. The response is defined as your own ability to encourage your body to release chemicals and brain signals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain.
In his book The Relaxation Response, Dr. Benson describes the scientific benefits of relaxation, explaining that regular practice of the Relaxation Response can be an effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders.
Dr Benson has been given credit for helping to demystify meditation and bring it into the mainstream, as a result of simply referring to the “Relaxation Response”. His medical studies in the 1960’s and 1970’s helped to show that meditation promotes better health, especially in people with hypertension – and that you didn’t need to have any significant meditation experience to gain this benefit. His studies brought into popular awareness the realisation that people who meditate regularly can enjoy lower stress levels, increased wellbeing, and were able to lower their resting heart rate and blood pressure levels, simply through meditation.
The Relaxation Response is the opposite reaction to the “fight or flight” response, so it counters the effects on our bodies of stress. Our bodies go into “fight or flight” when we believe we are under excessive pressure; our sympathetic nervous system creates changes in our bodies, such as increased blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate, and so on – all the things that happen when our body thinks we are trying to fight off or flee from a stressful or apparently “dangerous” situation.
The “fight or flight” response can cause muscle tension, headaches, stomach upsets, a feeling of a racing heartbeat, and shallow, quickened breath. It also makes our bodies release stress hormones, which can be harmful if secreted often, and can contribute to medical conditions such as heart disease, adrenal fatigue, and so on.
The Relaxation Response aims to bring our bodies back to their pre-stress levels, helping us to enter a state of deep relaxation, which triggers our bodies to help us heal. Research has shown that relaxation exercises such as meditation can help any health problem that is made worse by chronic stress, such as fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, high blood pressure (hypertension) anxiety disorders, and so on.
So, come and join us at Modern Meditation for the "Relaxation Response"!