Interview on NPR with Dr Herbert Benson MD

Dr Herbert Benson was recently featured on NPR in an interview with Diane Rehm. Dr Benson talks about his new book the “The Relaxation Revolution”. In this interview Dr Benson discusses the connection between the mind and body . He also discusses the power of using relaxation techniques and visualization for stress, pain,hypertension and a variety of ailments.

He also discusses that there is scientific proof that a mind-body reaction can actually changing gene activity. Meaning with proper relaxation training you can actually reverse the negative effects of stress on gene activity. Listen to the full program here

Dr Benson was a catalyst to my personal interest in biofeedback and is part of the reason I work in the field of biofeedback. His studies on Tibetan monks in the 80s showed the ability of the monks to actually control their own body temperature.

During visits to remote monasteries in the 1980s, Benson and his team studied monks living in the Himalayan Mountains who could, by g Tum-mo meditation, raise the temperatures of their fingers and toes by as much as 17 degrees. It has yet to be determined how the monks are able to generate such heat.

The researchers also made measurements on practitioners of other forms of advanced meditation in Sikkim, India. They were astonished to find that these monks could lower their metabolism by 64 percent. “It was an astounding, breathtaking [no pun intended] result,” Benson exclaims.

To put that decrease in perspective, metabolism, or oxygen consumption, drops only 10-15 percent in sleep and about 17 percent during simple meditation. Benson believes that such a capability could be useful for space travel. Travelers might use meditation to ease stress and oxygen consumption on long flights to other planets.

In 1985, the meditation team made a video of monks drying cold, wet sheets with body heat.. They also documented monks spending a winter night on a rocky ledge 15,000 feet high in the Himalayas. The sleep-out took place in February on the night of the winter full moon when temperatures reached zero degrees F. Wearing only woolen or cotton shawls, the monks promptly fell asleep on the rocky ledge, They did not huddle together and the video shows no evidence of shivering. They slept until dawn then walked back to their monastery.

Herbert Benson, M.D. born 1935, is an American cardiologist and founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He graduated from Wesleyan University and Harvard Medical School.

Benson is Mind/Body Medical Institute Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute BHI.

Benson is a pioneer in mind/body medicine, one of the first Western physicians to bring spirituality and healing into medicine.

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