Dr Herbert Benson’s ‘Relaxation Response’

Dr Herbert Benson Dr Herbert Benson is a Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and has been looking at the effects of meditation on the human body. Founder of the Benson Henry Institute, Dr Benson is a frontrunner in the field of mind and body medicine.


‘The Relaxation Response’

His ‘Relaxation Response’ concept is widely published and lays claim that the ‘Relaxation’ Response’ is the opposite of stress and the ‘fight or flight’ response. Although we have the ability to get stressed, we also have the ability to overcome the stress and decrease the risk of harmful effects on the body that stress creates. Dr Benson states that any condition caused by stress such as depression, anxiety and high blood pressure can be treated by the regular practice of meditation.

The research conducted looked at how the mind can alter the functioning of the body. His subjects are Buddhists Monks from a Tibetan Monastery who practice meditation as a way of life.Tests showed a maximum decrease of 64% in the metabolic rate when simple meditation was used.The Buddhist monks could increase their skin temperature in an environment of between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. When placed in a colder environment of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the monks were wrapped in cold wet sheets and their skin temperature increased to a point where the sheets began to steam and eventually dried. The monks explained it was a case of simply focusing and breathing. During meditation they would visualise air as fire being breathed in and out of their bodies.

Dr Benson concluded that anybody that practiced meditation, even simple meditation could significantly improve their health and general well-being.

Herbert Benson’s lifetime work has triggered lots of other studies in the field of meditation. When the research began 40 years ago the concept of meditation and the fact that the mind can affect the body was ‘swept under the carpet’. Through his work, commitment and belief, Dr Benson has bridged the gap between medical science and the concept of healing the body through the mind.

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