Stress is an alarming fact of modern life, and is a major factor in many illnesses.
Relaxation is the antidote to what stress does to you, but it is more than that. Deep relaxation, practiced regularly, facilitates deep healing. The practice of regular relaxation has been shown to reduce blood pressure, enhance sleep, reduce stress chemicals in the body, and even change your mental outlook. Deep relaxation, in the form of Guided Imagery, the Relaxation Response (as described and researched by Herbert Benson), Mindfulness Stress Reduction (Jon Kabat-Zinn) and meditation have also been used by people facing major health crises to activate the healing response.
Most of us walk around in a moderate state of “fight or flight”, the name given to the state of hyper-arousal associated with the sympathetic nervous system. This state makes you ready for an emergency, but it also wears you down over time. Your body is not meant to be always ready. Things like cellular repair, digestion, regulatory functions, growing new bones, and all those wonderful body maintenance functions require a body in a reasonable state of ease.
The antidote to constant fight or flight is discharge, in the form of exercise, and relaxation to come back to homeostasis.
Health is a dynamic state of balance.
Homeostatis is the western term for everything working fine. It literally means “staying the same”. Blood pressure, body temperature, immune function, and digestion are some examples of the systems that have to be in balance to maintain homeostasis. In Chinese medicine, health is more than just the absence of disease. It is dynamic. The balance that your body requires is not static, it is a state of constant adjustment to keep everything working optimally.
Pediatric pain patients start to heal when they learn to relax.
My job is to help children recover from pain, and I see a lot of patients with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. What often startles me is how guarded the children have become due to their experience of pain. When I provide massage for these kids, I usually see their condition improve dramatically when they learn to truly relax. Their bodies know what to do when they get their conditioned minds and body memory out of the way. From that point on, they start to get well.
Our bodies have their own innate healing capacity, which can become more active under the right conditions.
A body under stress can’t adjust. Homeostasis is impossible to maintain under constant duress. The more at ease you can help your body to become, the more it can adjust all the levels of functioning so they work. Dynamic rest enables your body to find dynamic balance. A little relaxation is helpful. Deep relaxation will tap into deep reservoirs of healing for body and mind. Your body knows what it needs to heal. It needs deep rest to find that wisdom.
Deep Relaxation helped me beat inflammatory breast cancer.
When I went through treatment for inflammatory breast cancer in 2007, I incorporated guided imagery, acupuncture and massage into my treatment plan. I know that this approach contributed to my what my doctors called a “phenomenal” response to chemotherapy. I was inspired by Ian Gawler, a man who overcame a dire prognosis through the practice of deep meditation.
Your ability to relax deeply improves with practice.
Like any practice, the more you do it, the better it gets. Regular deep relaxation, by whatever method you choose, will enable you to remain more relaxed all the time. You will become less susceptible to the effects of stress, and generally healthier and more resilient. You may not only live longer, but live better.
personal and professional experience
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More from Elizabeth Danu:
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Complementary and Traditional Treatment Together to Beat Cancer
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