Special Topics

Relaxation for Recovery of Body-mind Balance

Distress deforms the cells in our body

Although an appropriate amount of stress and pressure may help enhance our life functions and improve our work efficiency, long-term nervous tension can lead to an unbalanced body and mind, resulting in illness. With a set of methods to relax our body and mind, we can keep ourselves from anxious, stressed emotions and enter a relaxed state of being, reducing the likelihood of becoming ill while improving our work efficiency. Therefore, more and more people are seeking to learn how to relax their body and mind by means of meditation, yoga, sports, and diet, as well as through clinical psychiatric or physiotherapy treatments.

Regular exposure to stress, coupled with an inability to properly relax, can affect our health in ways that are far more serious than being impacted by a random drastic change. According to statistics in the West, around 90% of illness is attributed to stress and anxiety. Dr. Li Feng (李豐), a pathologist who has spent decades engaged in the observation of cells, pointed out that cells can sense the burden of their host if the latter is chronically stressed. As can be observed through a microscope, the cells whose host is experiencing stress and pressure tend to deform, become fatigued, and shrink in size. When the burden is so overwhelming that cells can no longer cope, the originally normal cells will gradually degenerate into cancer cells. 

However, learning how to relax properly can solve more than half of our possible health conditions. Back in the 1970s, Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School published his theory of "the Relaxation Response," when he proposed the idea on how the mental affects the physical. His research showed that the relaxation response, which mimics the innate self-healing capacities of the human body, could prevent and repair cardiac and tissue damages caused by frequent nervous responses.

Based on Dr. Benson's experimental results, any form of "temporary concentration" can give rise to the Relaxation Response, including: focusing our attention on one single word, one single sentence, and one single object or thing, as when we are reciting a sutra, a dharani, or a mantra, or when counting numbers. In addition, we can engage in an activity without differentiating good and bad. When finding ourselves being distracted by scattered thoughts, we can immediately cast away all thoughts and draw ourselves back to the same object of our focused attention. This is essentially the fundamental way to relax. 

Extended Reading:

Relaxation and Ease of Mind

Q&A about Relaxing the Body and Mind - Question 1: How do we know that the body is tight and needs to be relaxed?

Q&A about Relaxing the Body and Mind - Question 2: Why is it easy to become drowsy when relaxing?

Q&A about Relaxing the Body and Mind - Question 3: Does relaxation mean thinking and doing nothing?

Q&A about Relaxing the Body and Mind - Question 4: I know I want to relax, but I just can't make it. What should I do?

Q&A about Relaxing the Body and Mind - Question 5: How is relaxation different from letting go and spacing out?

Relaxation for Recovery of Body-mind Balance

Physical and mental relaxation strategies

Resource: Issue 353 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Issue 353 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Translation: Pin-an Chen (陳品安) 
Editing: Keith Brown, Chia-cheng Chang (張家誠)