Practice the Relaxation Response

The relaxation response was first described by Herbert Benson, MD in his book The Relaxation Response. Below are instructions to elicit the relaxation response, as described in Dr. Benson's book:

  1. Sit or lay quietly in a comfortable position.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. As much as you are able, deeply relax your muscles. Begin with your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep your muscles as relaxed as possible.
  4. Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out, say the word, "One", silently to yourself. Breathe in and out: inhale "one", exhale "one." Breathe easily and naturally. (You may repeat any soothing word or sound, preferably with no meaning or association, to avoid stimulation of unnecessary thoughts.)
  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 preferably not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes seem to interfere with the elicitation of the relaxation response.

Information provided by Karen K. Ross, PhD, a clinical psychologist and family therapist in Los Angeles.

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