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The Relaxation Response*

  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 using diaphragmatic breathing. 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, 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, Benson, H., William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York, 1975


Download MP3 audio files you can use to practice relaxation:

To download one of these MP3 files, right-click on the link and select "Save target as...". Browse to a spot on your hard drive where you keep your MP3 files, and save the file. Once downloaded, you can listen to the audio and practice the skills.

Relaxation (21 MB; 22 min)
In this one, former UVic psychologist Mary Jane McLachlan leads you through a relaxation exercise that uses breathing and imagery.

Progressive Relaxation (46 MB; 46 min)       -  this may not work properly - if you wish a CD of this, please contact Counselling Services.

In this one, former UVic psychologist Joel Newman leads you through a relaxation exercise that focuses on muscle tension.

As with any skill, you will become better with practice.

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