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263 of 272 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good...but try to find an older edition.
UPDATE: Please ensure you read the update at the bottom of this post after reading the review. I had originally confused this book with The Quieting Reflex by Charles Stroebel. There is no older edition by Benson describing the 15-second technique.

I originally read The Relaxation Response when I was serving in Somalia in 1993. There was a table of free books...
Published on May 16, 2006 by Mark

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168 of 185 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great information, but it is there anything new here?
The message of this book could be summarized as "Relaxation is good for your health. You can relax by 1)Finding a quiet place 2) Sitting in a comfortable position/posture that will keep you alert but won't lead you to sleep 3) choosing a mental device that will let you concentrate 4) maintaining a passive attitude during this period". The rest of this book...
Published on May 14, 2001 by Dennis Muzza


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263 of 272 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good...but try to find an older edition., May 16, 2006
UPDATE: Please ensure you read the update at the bottom of this post after reading the review. I had originally confused this book with The Quieting Reflex by Charles Stroebel. There is no older edition by Benson describing the 15-second technique.

I originally read The Relaxation Response when I was serving in Somalia in 1993. There was a table of free books donated from the states and the title peaked my interest....given the environment.

The original edition outlined an amazing technique to trigger the response (alert mind, relaxed body) several times a day, a technique that only took about 15 seconds and could be repeated over and over. It so attuned me to the effects of stress that I'd catch myself clenching my jaw/tightening my shoulders/etc...throughout the day, and sometimes I'd wake up in the middle of the night and immediately notice I was clenching my teeth, etc...)

You can probably understand the value of a technique such as this for someone who doesn't have the time, place or wherewithal to meditate during the day. This was a practical exercise that could be performed several times a day while going through life. I would do the exercise while on patrol-to keep my mind sharp.

Not so-the new edition! The new edition is about 95% a medical discussion about the effects of stress on the body with only the most general discussion on how to use relaxation techniques. There is no discussion on the 15 second technique which is covered in great detail in the original edition.

I have to give Benson credit though...this is an extremely responsibly written book, with no hidden agendas. (Unlike Bob Cooley who talks about flexibility like it is the ultimate panacea to all of life's ills.) Benson explains, based on the latest medical research, what relaxation/meditation will, and will not, do for you in terms of blood pressure, brain waves, breathing, oxygen intake, etc...

Do you know the difference between sleep, meditation, and hibernation? (if this were possible for humans) Benson explains the difference, and why one CAN NOT be a substitute for another. (Debunking the claims of TM practitioners in the 1970s who stated that 15 minutes of TM (trancendental meditation) was the equivalent of 4 hours of sleep.)

Benson also explains how other practices (yoga for example) have been proven to elicit the same benefits as the relaxation response.

I'd recommend this book to anyone, but try to find an older edition explaining the 15 second technique. Given the brevity of these books, try to get both editions: the new edition with the latest scientific findings, and the older edition for the actual relaxation response exercise.

UPDATE: It's important to note that I confused this book with The Quieting Reflex by Charles F. Stroebel M.D., out of print, but can still be found online, which details the 15-second technique. Read through the comment thread below for more information.
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100 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My blood pressure is much lower after reading this book., October 21, 2003
By 
I found this book to be extremely helpful. I've suffered from an anxiety disorder and its related symptoms, such as hypertension, for almost ten years now. Ever since I became aware of what anxiety was and started reading up on it, about five years ago, I had heard about Dr. Benson's classic book on the subject, but I never got around to reading it until now. I'm glad I finally did.
I had always heard that incorporating some form of meditation into one's daily routine would do wonders for calming the various symptoms of anxiety. For the last five years, I've tried over and over again, unsuccessfully, to sit quietly and do nothing. But it's extremely hard to make any mind sit still for long, and maybe especially an anxious one.
THE RELAXATION RESPONSE is written in such a clear and no-nonsense way, and it's so easy to follow, that it's got me to do what I had come to believe was the impossible: to sit quietly for ten minutes every morning with a relatively empty mind.
Herbert Benson is a Harvard cardiologist who pioneered the research into stress-related causes for diseased such as hypertension. Always weary of having his research seen as nothing more than new age fluffery, Dr. Benson made sure to prove his results by rigidly adhering to the scientific method.
Dr. Benson's results show that there is a capacity inherent in all human beings to invoke a "relaxation response" that can counter the effects of the "flight or flight response" which is at the root of many modern stress-related illnesses.
By learning to invoke the "relaxation response" once or twice a day for just ten minutes at a sitting, one can effectively lower high blood pressure, and gain more tranquility in their emotional life.
This book is easy to read, and it really works. I read it over the summer, and was able to start meditating successfully almost instantly. My main problem I found out was that I tended to meditate while lying down and so I would just fall asleep. I always found the idea of sitting stiffly so counter to relaxation, that I was never able to attempt to meditate that way. But Dr. Benson's book helped me to see that one doesn't need to meditate for long periods of time, so I found it easy enough to sit cross-legged with my eyes closed and my hands on my knees for five minutes at a stretch. (I then slowly worked it up a minute at a time to ten minutes, which is the recommended length).
I simply count my breaths up to four and start over again. That way if thoughts intrude on my stillness, I know it, because I lose track of my counting, so I just start counting again.
Meditation is still not the easiest practice, but this book has helped me make it part of my daily activities, and for that I'm extremely grateful. I had a doctor's appointment about a month after starting my new mediatation habitat, and for the first time in almost a decade, my blood pressure was normal.
I highly recommend this book to anyone suffering from any effects of anxiety, or anyone who would like to make meditation a part of their daily routine. It's an excellent book. Thank you, Dr. Benson.
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275 of 295 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A life saver for a stressed, secular Westerner, August 25, 1998
Reading and using The Relaxation Response may have saved my life in 1989. It may also have destroyed my life, for it turned out to be the first paving stone on a spiritual path which lead away from much of what was accepted and familiar. The path brought me to most of what I treasure today.
I was a thoroughly Western, rational, mechanist, Ayn-Rand-Objectivist, John-Wayne-style "I'll do it myself" individualist whose life was thoroughly unsatisfying. Each day I came home from a thankless, stressful job to a cold and chaotic home. I would sit on the couch a feel as though worries and disappointments were rushing about in my mind like a bunch of cats and dogs, chasing and screaming with no pause to even start on a resolution.
I remembered having heard about a book called The Relaxation Response. All I knew was the title and that it was written by a "legitimate scientist." For a couple bucks, it seemed like a safe bet. Since it was written by a Harvard doctor, I could read it without admitting there was anything wrong with my modern, secular worldview.
The detailed description of his experimental methods, the charts, graphs and citations gave me comfort as I read about techniques brought to the West by gurus and swamis. Dr. Benson verified the physiological changes brought about by meditation and Christian prayer, then cut away the mythology, dogma, and ritual. The process which remained is simple enough to fit on two pages of the book.
I followed the instructions. I felt some peace. I repeated the process. The peace expanded. I added headphones playing the sounds of waves on a beach. Calm and clarity began to enter my daily life. I was able to be transported by music. I enjoyed a walk in the woods.
I still lost my job. My wife still left me. I still got sad.
I added yoga and spirituality to my life. I opened myself to a wider spectrum of experience. My courage increased.
I kept on with my life. I made changes. I remarried and had children. I succeeded in a new career. I expanded and deepened my social contacts. Everything I lost seems only to have cleared the way for a better life.
I highly recommend The Relaxation Response for anyone looking for a Western, scientific bridge to eastern wisdom. I do note, that in the years since learning The Relaxation Response and teaching it to others, I have noticed that I am unusual in having learned it from a book. Most people need a teacher and a group to get the effect. The scientific detail in the book may nevertheless be what it takes to make you feel safe about taking a meditation class.
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168 of 185 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great information, but it is there anything new here?, May 14, 2001
By 
Dennis Muzza (Monterrey, Mexico) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Relaxation Response (Paperback)
The message of this book could be summarized as "Relaxation is good for your health. You can relax by 1)Finding a quiet place 2) Sitting in a comfortable position/posture that will keep you alert but won't lead you to sleep 3) choosing a mental device that will let you concentrate 4) maintaining a passive attitude during this period". The rest of this book goes into the health dangers of stress (as understood in 1975),the health benefits of relaxation and how it differs from sleep, different ways to evoke the relaxation response, and how the relaxation response has been evoked throughout history in the context of various cultures and religions. I think this book is of great historical interest because it was one of the first attempts to expose the dangers of stress in a clear way (I found his discussion on how high blood pressure leads to heart disease particularly illustrating) and gave scientific validity to age-old ways of treating it without involving the methods traditionally sanctioned by Western medicine such as surgery and high-priced pills. His findings are based on research he performed with Transcendental Meditation followers, so he spends much effort on qualifying his conclusions, adding disclaimers, and otherwise protecting himself from possible attacks because of his work with such a fringe group. I think this limits the practical usefulness of the book and makes it somewhat dated, particularly since no one today questions that stress is bad and relaxation good. I think a more appropriate revision of this book should include not just a new introduction by the author, but also references to current research on which meditation techniques or approaches bring the most tangible health benefits and how they differ from placebos. A new assesment on the advantages of modern medicine vs. alternative therapies for preventing heart disease would also be in place. By being properly updated, a book of this nature would be very influential in setting a balance between the new age crowd that has little regard for science in medicine, and the medical establishment that has a vested interest in the status quo and thus rejects alternative medicine as a whole.
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Woo Hoo!, December 26, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Relaxation Response (Paperback)
This is worth the money to own -- it's so, so worth it... I did another review once for a somewhat similar book -- "The Quiet Mind," by White Eagle. That is a more explicitly "spiritual" book than this one, full of little aphoristic sayings that often refer to God, or "the light"... I still like that book, but I wanted to speak up in favor of this approach to having a quiet mind, also. "The Relaxation Response" is really quite short and to-the-point, and has a fundamentally Western, rational, scientific feel to it. The end goal is very similar to White Eagle's book, however. Herbert Benson helps us to know the value of taking just ten or fifteen minutes each day to breathe, to say your private mantra over and over, and to simply Be... I think a lot of people out there have some pretty flaky mental associations with the word "mantra." People immediately think of the Beatles saying "heavy, man" and binging in a huge way on LSD-laced mandarin oranges, or some similar image. Benson shows that meditation need not be like this. A mantra could be basically any simple, calming phrase -- anything that doesn't provoke fitful spasms of hysterical laughter is probably fine.
One example of a poor choice of a mantra would be "get... get... get... out... out... out..." like hockey mask-wearing Jason in the "Friday the Thirteenth" movies. A better one might be something calming, such as "decaf for me, please... decaf for me, please... decaf for me, please..." or, better still, the name of a beloved childhood pet. That's what I use, the name of the dog we owned when I was a kid, and it works for me. You can use a pleasant-sounding nonsense word if you want, also. Furthermore, it isn't necessary to be given a mantra in a personalized, ritualistic fashion by a personal guru, like many TM practioners used to advocate in the 70s. It's okay to pick your own, whatever works for you, a lot of those gurus were just a bunch of frauds.
This book is worth owning, for the further calming effect of being able to view the author's helpfully compiled graphs, and his discussions of the experimental sessions that led to his understanding of the essence of meditation. What he is basically going to tell you to do, however, is simply to take a few minutes a day to sit comfortably, breathe in and out, chant quietly, and try to let your mind empty itself out. Emptying the mind of extraneous thoughts is not meant to feel like wringing water out of a wet washcloth, either -- it should feel like leaving the washcloth hanging loosely over a clothesline, and letting the water, the thoughts, drip to the ground below of their own, unhurried accord, for just fifteen tranquil minutes a day. I wish I had discovered this book years ago. Two mellow thumbs up -- check this one out.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stress Relief and Indigo Dreams, February 22, 2006
This is an excellent book for anyone that wants to understand how stress works and how it hurts the body. Based on fact and research it is presented in an easy to read format. You can turn to any page and get something out of it that will make sense to you. I particularly liked the way Dr. Benson takes the mysticism out of meditation and shows scientifically how breathing, visualizing, muscular relaxation and positive statements will help your nervous system, circulatory system, respiratory system and immune system. This book has been around for 30 years and it's information is still powerful.

I also implemented Indigo Dreams:Adult Relaxation into my stress management routine. The Relaxation Response offered me the facts I needed to get me started and Indigo Dreams taught me how to do all four of the techniques Dr. Benson recommends. Both are highly recommended if you are looking for relaxation.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lowered Blood pressure, No more acid reflux, March 3, 2008
By 
J. A. Ball (Central New York) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Relaxation Response (Paperback)
Let me just start by stating that I'm a very sceptical person, and have had high blood pressure for 20 years. I also had endoscopy that showed some acid reflux. I saw the original print hardcover book and decided to read it. I couldn't put it down! I immediately began to apply the techniques from the book. My blood pressure went from 145ish/95ish to 108/65, consistently. I felt no "burning" from acid reflux. Prior to reading this book, I had began a diet and exercise program. I lost 25lbs and approx. 2 inches off my waist, but my blood pressure was still high. I liked the way the book was written. Straight forward, no frills, just pertinent, well explained information. This book helped me save my life.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read This Classic , Learn to Meditate, Alter Your Life, March 23, 2007
By 
Jack Morris (Amityville, New York USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Relaxation Response (Paperback)
This is an absolutely priceless treatise on certain forms of meditation and their benefits. Dr. Benson demystifies meditation as an occult religious ritual and highlights all the scientifically researched practical benefits of starting and maintaining this wonderful practice. You will never purchase and read a more valuable introduction and tutorial on the subject! If you are reading this review you were meant to purchase and use this book. Just do it!
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Repeat after me, August 31, 2003
By 
Vivien Dostine "Viv" (Auckland New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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Not exactly what I was expecting when I purchased the book but interesting nonetheless. If you are looking for the 'how do I do this', its basically encapsulated on a couple of pages.
The rest of the book is devoted to the process that the author went through to discover and validate that there is a physiological 'relaxation response' and the ways that it affects people.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for laypersons and practitioners alike, June 16, 2005
Whether you are a mental or physical health practitioner or simply a person looking to explore relaxation techniques, this is an excellent book. Background information is provided, as well as an in depth look at how this works, why it works, and what effect it has on the body.

For practitioners, this book is a must read and I highly recommend that you request of your patients the reading of this book. Top quality work.
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The Relaxation Response
The Relaxation Response by Miriam Z. Klipper (Paperback - February 8, 2000)
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