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Book Review: The Relaxation Response

  The Relaxation Response

I've always viewed meditation as something I would like to do, but thus far have struggled to get motivated to do it. It's odd, and difficult to rationalise, but for some reason it doesn't come easy wanting to learn to relax. Perhaps this is a hangup of western culture in general, and the need to always be 'switched on'.

Delving into the world of meditation can be daunting. There's mindfullness, transcendental, vibrational, zen etc and within that further deviations in technique and style. Involvement can range from a quick 4 point 5 minute breathing exercise to lifelong practise and teachings of all aspects of the meditation and culture.
Naturally I didn't want to delve too deep into anything, particularly as my foggy brain would struggle with anything moderately weighty. After browsing amazon for all of 15 minutes, I settled on 'The Relaxation Response'.

The book is slim, akin to myself, at around 150 pages, and is written by Herbert Benson, M.D, associate professor of medicine at Harvard medical school. His credentials and experience are certainly not to be sniffed at.

The book is mainly split into 4 sections

  1. Herbert Bensons personal struggle in validating his research and pursuing a non drug remedy for stress relief and treatment of hypertension.
  2. The science behind hypertension: how it occurs, what bodily processes are involved, current treatments and how relaxation/meditation can help.
  3. A historical look at meditation through the ages, analysing how 'age old wisdom' from different cultures has contributed to the relaxation response. 
  4. Instructions for carrying out the relaxation response.

If you were extremely impatient, you could skip to the later part of the book and find the few pages containing the instructions on how to bring forth the relaxation response, as it really is very simple. However the background research is very interesting and in my opinion more than just filler.


  • It isn't a lengthy read, and bar a few technicals terms not too wordy either.
  • It's a very simple form of meditation, which almost anyone can have a go at.
  • The included research adds genuine proof to the positive impact meditation can have on the body. 
  • The meditation is derived from transcendental meditation, which can be expensive to learn from practioners. 


  • There are a few mild digs at the alternative health industry.
  • The content is mainly centered on hypertension, when all number of illnesses could benefit from meditation.
  • There is no real dietary tie in, and how this combined with meditation could produce even better results.
  • The meditation exercise itself is printed on one page. It's likely you would be able to find the technique with a bit of googling, thus saving you a few quid. 


Despite the equal number of pro's and con's, I would thoroughly recommend it as a good starting book for those interested in meditation.