Overview

There are different protocols or practices that we can follow to bring about the Relaxation Response. The Traditions section covers many practices that have been used throughout different periods in human history. These traditional practices are often associated with a given religion or culture.

There are also more recent protocols that we cover in detail on this website. These include the Simple Protocol and the Benson-Henry Protocol. We call these open protocols in the sense that the protocols are open to being modified and refined according to scientific investigation. Purely traditional practices might have prohibitions against modifying the practices for cultural or religious reasons. On the other hand, these open protocols have been created in a relatively transparent manner and covered in research papers and reviewed by scientists.

A major goal of this website is to help more people understand how and why the Relaxation Response can help us find better health. Since we emphasize the Relaxation Response with respect to health concerns, then we cover only the free and open protocols in detail. The reasons for emphasizing only open protocols are given in greater detail below.

Out of Respect for Traditions

The Traditions section of this website gives a brief overview from history of some older practices that evoke the Relaxation Response. Sometimes the direct purpose of the traditional practice may not have been to evoke the Relaxation Response. The older practice may instead be linked to a certain belief system. We support giving respect to these belief systems. And some of these traditions may hold a belief that their practices reveal truths that are beyond science. Both out of respect for these traditions and because our focus is mainly on science, we cover in detail only protocols that are not directly linked to traditions .

Also, if people have a tradition they like that evokes the Relaxation Response, there are usually many documents already for that tradition. If people practice their tradition, then the Relaxation Response should be built-in. People will then get the health benefits of the Relaxation Response while they practice their tradition.

To Fully Use Science and the Scientific Method

When a protocol is free and open, it makes it easier for any scientist or scientifically minded person to freely explore that protocol. Open protocols can be changed and refined separate from any rules from the traditions. Deeper truths may then be found about the Relaxation Response. These deeper truths may then lead to better protocols. Better protocols may then lead to more testing and more deep truths about the Relaxation Response. This virtuous cycle is a benefit of fully using science.

Open protocols are also more useful because the knowledge about the Relaxation Response is fairly recent. This means that it is likely that more truths can be found as more scientists test things out. There is so much potential for good that could come from deeper truths of the Relaxation Response. This is a major reason to use the methods of science to find deeper truths.

To Bring the Benefits of the Relaxation Response to More People

We hope that a purely scientific approach will give more reasons for people to start using an open protocol, as shown below.

  1. Open protocols should not conflict with someones own tradition or belief system (unless that belief system includes a distrust of the findings of science)
  2. Open protocols may lead to increased health benefits
  3. It is easier to publicly review open protocols

As Dr. Benson points out in chapter 10 of his book The Relaxation Revolution, a wider use of the Relaxation Response has the potential for much less sickness in our world and a lowering of health care costs. These are goals that most people would support.

To Utilize the Power of the Web

Although some health benefits can often be seen after only a few weeks of regularly eliciting the Relaxation Response, many of the benefits are not apparent until many years after regular practice. This makes it more costly to fund scientific studies. However, the feasibility of world-wide social networks on the web that focus primarily on the Relaxation Response make it easier to have open discussions about the practical benefits and limitations of regularly eliciting the Relaxation Response.

This is important since even though many health benefits have been verified scientifically, the Relaxation Response still seems to be relatively unknown by most people. It is also interesting to note that this lack of widespread knowledge about the benefits from the Relaxation Response was predicted by Dr. Benson in his book The Relaxation Revolution. He saw this lack of widespread knowledge and use of the Relaxation Response as a consequence of the protocols being free to use and more difficult to monetize when compared to drug or many other medical treatments. The advent of the web, however, allows many new ways to spread this knowledge and advocate for its use.

Comparisons to Fasting

Our approach can be seen to have a parallel with other practices in long standing traditions - for example the practice of fasting. Although fasting has a long tradition in many cultures and religious practices, the physiological and psychological aspects of fasting may be interesting from a scientific perspective independent of the reasons that a given tradition may employ fasting. The scientific investigations of fasting can inform someone who practices fasting purely for health benefits as well as those who practice fasting according to their tradition. In a similar way, scientific investigations of the Relaxation Response can inform someone who practices Relaxation Response protocols purely for health benefits as well as those who use the established practices in their tradition that elicit the Relaxation Response.

There are also some differences in investigating the protocols used for the Relaxation Response compared to a scientific investigation of fasting, however. For example, the Relaxation Response protocols can be practiced on a daily basis with no problem whereas full fasting by necessity can only be done on an intermittent basis.

Another difference is that it is not difficult to define or practice fasting, and the health benefits have been known for millennia for fasting independently of any tradition. However, a basic understanding of the Relaxation Response and its health benefits independent of ancient traditions has only started within the last 50 years. As such, there is much less accumulated experience or understanding of the Relaxation Response as an effect independent of traditional practices. This is another aspect of the reason given above about utilizing the full potential of science and the advantage of focusing primarily on transparent and open protocols.