Eli Bay is the founder of the Relaxation Response Institute. He has been helping people for over 30 years to reduce their chronic anxiety, depression and health problems through deep relaxation. In this interview, he shares his expertise on the subject of relaxation and how it might not only help you feel less stressed, but also be healthier and happier in life.
Deep Relaxation for Stress Management
LoveToKnow (LTK): How does relaxation help individuals under a great deal of stress?
Eli Bay (EB): My relaxation techniques target the stress mechanism in the body. When people are able to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, they are able to shut down the stress mechanism. When people are in a state of deep relaxation, they experience a restful state, which can be equal to 4 or 5 hours of sleep. During this time, the body has a chance to rest and recuperate.
Relaxation is like a safety valve. Imagine a steam boiler. As the steam builds internally, if there is no safety valve to release the pressure, it will burst. Stress accumulates much of the same way over days, months, years and even decades, and many of us don't have effective ways to release it. Deep relaxation is our safety valve to release the stress.
LTK: What level of stress does someone have to experience to benefit from your relaxation techniques? Does it help individuals with low levels as well as individuals with a very high stress level such as those with anxiety disorder or PTSD?
EB: I've had people suffering from serious anxiety attacks for decades and within one or two week they can stop their anxiety attacks with the techniques. By stopping the anxiety attacks, they are able to control their anxiety before it takes them over.
LTK: Are your relaxation techniques effective for everyone?
EB: Everyone has the ability to experience deep relaxation; it's hardwired into their nervous system. They just need to be able to let go and become aware of the stress in their life.
Letting go is challenging for many people because they are constantly on guard. When they begin to experience something new they enter into unfamiliar territory, so they stop themselves. I have developed techniques to break through these resistances so that these people can then achieve the deeper relaxation state that decreases their stress levels.
Also, I tell people that you need to find out which techniques works best for you. There's no one technique that is better than another, it's all about which one is effective for you and gets you to that state of deep relaxation.
LTK: How do people know when to practice your relaxation techniques?
EB: In today's society, many people living in urban environments have their stress mechanism chronically turned on. Especially those who have a Type-A personality, the key is to become aware of when you are stressed and be able to use the techniques to achieve a deep level of relaxation.
People need to catch rising stress and be able to let it go. Many people don't realize their shoulders are wrapped around their head, until something happens that releases that tension and they then they realized they were stressed. Becoming aware of when your body responds to stress early will signal when you should employ the relaxation techniques.
How Long It Takes to Learn Relaxation Techniques
LTK: How long does it typically take someone to learn your techniques?
EB: It all depends on the individual. Some people are able to learn it in a week and others take two or three weeks.
I've had a couple of people see one of my three minute techniques on a program, try it and relieve their asthma. The techniques are not complicating, what's difficult is taking the time out of busyness to do it.
LTK: How can busy people learn the relaxation techniques so they can use them at a moment's notice?
EB: I have DVDs available now that people can use to learn the techniques. People need to give themselves time. DVD sessions are about one hour long. After each session, people should practice the exercises for a few minutes.
By investing upfront time, you can maintain your low level of stress with much less time. Once you can do the techniques well, you only need to do the exercises 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a week to improve your life.
Benefits of Deep Relaxation
LTK: What are some of the benefits of stress management through deep relaxation?
EB: I have had people with asthma who say that they don't need to use their inhalers anymore. People with high blood pressure taking medication have come off it because of their relaxation practices. I've also had people who suffered from diabetes and were able to lower their blood sugar through relaxation techniques.
LTK: How does relaxation affect health problems?
EB: When your body is in a chronic state of anxiety, all of your bodily functions are heightened. You are in a fight or flight response, which means that you have troubled sleeping, your blood sugar and blood pressure are elevated to provide your body with energy to react to the perceived threat. As this state becomes chronic, your body remains at this elevated level causing health problems.
If people are able to lower their stress and turn off that chronic fight or flight response, their blood sugar levels drop, blood pressure drops, and other bodily functions normalize, which reverts or safeguards against health problems.
LTK: What are some of the other benefits of deep relaxation?
EB: Many people have said that they are able to keep going after a long day with the help of deep relaxation. After doing an exercise, they are able to concentrate better, do more in less time, and notice improved memory.
Final Thoughts from Eli Bay
LTK: Do you have any final thoughts for readers?
EB: I teach life skills for a new world. Traditional cultures have used prayer and meditation as a form of relaxation and many of these practices have been lost in the modern world. People are overwhelmed, over competitive, have a war with time, try to do more and more in less time with no way to regulate themselves. I teach people how to regulate themselves so that can achieve deep relaxation that their minds and bodies need.
Special: Free Empowered Breathing Exercise
You can try one of the techniques right now for free by visiting the EliBay website. It's a 25 minute Empowered Breathing exercise so you can experience what it feels like to be in deep relaxation. The website also has informative articles, course information, testimonials and DVDs to get started with the program.