The Relaxation Response is the innate protective mechanism to counteract stress. It is characterized by a decrease in metabolism, as well as heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate levels; decreased brain activity; increased attention and decision-making capacity, and changes in genetic activity that are opposed to those associated with stress.
The most common current illnesses generate slow-cumulative damage, and are the product of a complex interaction between thoughts, emotions, feelings, personality traits, biological background, socio-economic-cultural frameworks and the ecosystem.
Stress is now recognized as the cause, or aggravating factor, of many of those slow-accumulating diseases. Acute or chronic physical stressors, psychological and social agents, generate real bodily facts that break the homeostatic balance of the body and activate involuntary physiological responses that prepare us for “fight or flight”: secretion of certain hormones (and inhibition of others) to raise blood pressure, as well as heart and respiratory rates, basal metabolism, and blood flow to muscles.
Contemporary life is constantly making us face situations where physiological responses that have evolved to respond to acute emergencies of the physical type are triggered, and they have disastrous effects when provoked chronically.
The practice of any psychophysical exercise (and this includes most of Yoga and other current sports training systems) that entails goals which require forcing the body to undergo certain postures, stretches, tensions or excessive breathing, acts as a stressing agent that activates the expected physiological consequences.
A healthy and therapeutic practice should focus on inducing, through an adequate selection of exercises and the correct way of performing them, the psychophysical effects of the Relaxation Response.