Once upon a time in my mid-twenties I began practicing meditative breathing. The practice was prompted by my lifestyle at the time and the refection on myself that I was living a bit “unhealthy”. As youngster I practiced karate from the age of 10-13 so I was familiar with eastern philosophy and meditation, at least to a point. I had read several books as a requirement of my martial arts training but, I had zero experience with actual meditation. So I picked up Zen Training by Katsuki Sekida and began reading about how to meditate. Although my meditative practice only lasted about 6 months at the time I learned quite a bit about why regular breath work can help us to lead better lives. The beginning of the book broke down physiologically what breath work does for the body. Where most books would dive right into the psychological and spiritual. The point here and well expressed by the book is the meditative practice is more than just spiritual. Breathing is the most basic thing we do and when practiced in a particular way we can lead vastly improved and healthier lives.
I have a confession: I am a techy. And, I believe tech can help you sleep better.
I know: Phones, TVs, and other gadgets can wreck sleep. I get why Arianna’s bedroom is tech-free, especially when it comes to the #1 seducer — the smartphone. Who’s texting me? My kid? My boss? And when’s that new outfit I ordered from Amazon going to be delivered?
A restless, racing brain is the enemy of sleep.
So why do I make the case that tech can help us get to sleep, stay asleep, and improve sleep quality?
Because, I’ve seen people fall asleep and sleep better using tech. Safely. Without medication or other drugs.
We are often asked by counselors in counseling programs how they can incorporate biofeedback in to their counseling programs. Helping students cope with stress and offering an avenue for counseling services is a very valuable commodity to any university and its student body. Dr Wyner and Emory University have an excellent counseling program at Emory and asked her Emorys’ model This is from the desk of Dr Wyner:
This is the core of the letter that I send to counseling center psychologists who ask me how we run our program…
Great article about the student counseling program at Emory University. See the full story below.
“As the calm and collected overseer of Eagles at Ease Stress Management Services, Dana Wyner ’04 PhD encourages her clients to take a mental mini holiday, go limp like JELL-O and feel snug as a bug in a rug.
Those practical lessons for relaxation on the go are particularly helpful during exam time, when nerves are frayed and performance anxieties go into overdrive.
The Student Counseling Center Stress Clinic, funded by Emory’s new mental health fee, sees more than 30 students each semester for issues such as test-taking anxiety, phobias, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, headaches and hypertension. Services include helping students develop a personalized toolbox of positive coping strategies, small group training in relaxation skills and biofeedback, and individualized therapy sessions.”
What Is the Role of the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA)?
BCIA serves as the certification body for the clinical practice of biofeedback and neurofeedback, including Pelvic Floor Muscle Dysfunction Biofeedback. BCIA serves as the standard bearer for the fields of biofeedback and neurofeedback. The BCIA mission statement is quite simple:
BCIA certifies individuals who meet education and training standards in
biofeedback and neurofeedback, and progressively recertifies those who
advance their knowledge through continuing education.
It is apparent from this mission statement that education and training should be the main focus for BCIA– and they are! Where does the educational process start?
It all starts with the blueprints of knowledge. BCIA’s Board of Directors has spent countless hours reviewing the science and the literature on biofeedback, neurofeedback, and self-regulation to ensure that the three blueprints carefully outline the fundamental science, history, and theory of the modalities and thus set templates for what every beginning clinician needs to know. As the science and clinical efficacy literature have evolved, we have revised the blueprints to keep pace and to truly represent current best practice.
BCIA can only add information to our blueprints when efficacy has been scientifically established. We recommend that you read LaVaque and colleagues’ (2002) informative “Template for developing guidelines for the evaluation of the clinical efficacy of psychophysiological evaluations.” Additionally, the BCIA blueprints must be free of commercial bias. Once beginners can understand the accepted fundamental science, the same science as others who are certified, they are better able to review the field and make a good decision about various theories or equipment choices.
Here is a great article from CNN related to biofeedback. Dr Gevirtz, Leherer and Peper offer their insight into how biofeedback and proper breathing (taught via biofeedback) can be used to reduce stress.
Biofeedback: Can you Teach your Body to lose Stress?
When it comes to stress relief methods for me, the devil is in the execution. More likely than not, I will stack whatever it is (or an article or book about it) on my bedside table and expect it to sink in through magic and osmosis. Alas …
I got a call early last week from my friend Parvathi, who works for a Washington clinical psychologist specializing in cognitive therapy for patients with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. “You need to check out some of these biofeedback devices for stress,” she said. “My doctor has a few of them in the office. He lends them out to patients who are having anxiety.”
I was skeptical. When I actually saw a picture of one of them, the question was obvious: How do you reduce stress by sticking your finger into a socket thingy and breathing for a while?
“Biofeedback is remarkable,” said Erik Peper, a San Francisco State University professor who has been involved in self-regulation and stress management for decades as both a teacher and a clinician.
He proceeded to lead me through a 30-second breathing exercise on the phone that left me lightheaded. “You see? Even small changes in your breathing can make a significant difference in your physiology — in your body, mind and emotions.”
Biofeedback training has been widely recognized as an excellent way to promote a relaxed state for many sports applications. Many studies have been done on using biofeedback as a method of relaxation and to increase performance.
Athletes should ask themselves “Can I perform better in a relaxed state?” If it is the bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded, the athlete needs to be able to clear their mind and focus on the performance. Anxiety and high stress can cause many athletes to “choke” in clutch situations. By learning to alter their mental and physiological state with a few simple relaxation techniques they tend to perform better. Biofeedback devices are great tools in achieving these results.
There have been several Olympic athletes, NHL hockey teams, professional football teams, golfers and more, that have credited biofeedback training as a factor in their success.
In a recent chat with Thought Technology Vice President Lawrence Klein, he could not resist the opportunity to discuss the many uses of his company’s biofeedback and neurofeedback equipment. Mr. Klein said, “We have a strong presence in professional and elite sports.” Thought Technology’s equipment has been used by a number of leading Olympic Sport Coaches and several professional sports teams.
Some teams have even set up mental training centers where trainers monitor the brainwaves and other physical functions such as surface EMG, temperature, GSR, heart rate, and respiration. This helps the players learn to reduce performance anxiety and improve their ability to focus under stress – giving them the “mental edge” they need to win.
There are devices like the Resperate, that promote meditative breathing patterns and very simple to use items such as the GSR2, that measures minute changes in skin conductance or resistance and conveys the stress level by an audio tone. These devices are easy to use and very effective. Organizations and teams have also used more sophisticated systems that measure multiple physiological measurements at once for a picture of the body’s stress level.
More recently there are products being introduced to help speed up reaction time. Reaction time can be crucial in many sporting events and in the Olympics millisecond can be the difference between gold and bronze.
Below are a couple of videos about biofeedback and athletic performance.
RSA is the natural cycle of arrhythmia that occurs through the influence of breathing on the flow of sympathetic and vagus impulses to the sinoatrial node.
The rhythm of the heart is primarily under the control of the vagus nerve, which inhibits heart rate and the force of contraction. When we inhale, the vagus nerve activity is impeded and heart rate begins to increase. When we exhale this pattern is reversed. The degree of fluctuation in heart rate is also controlled significantly by regular impulses from the baroreceptors (pressure sensors) in the aorta and carotid arteries. When RSA is enhanced through biofeedback, the goal is usually to reinforce the natural feedback activity of the baroreceptors through our breathing pattern.