Even though elements of it have been known for centuries – mainly through the practice of Yoga – it is only since the 1960s that it has been studied in any depth.
Another name that has been used is Neurofeedback, mainly used when it is referring to Biofeedback using Brainwave measurements – but they are really just two different names for the same process.
Which interestingly, also are the same disorders that are most helped by meditation !
Biofeedback has also been used for the treatment of Asthma, Raynaud’s Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Stress, Anxiety and Menopausal Hot Flushes, and so on – but this form of treatment tends to be expensive, because of the “high-tech” equipment required.
What exactly is Biofeedback?
To understand this we have to look at those systems of the body that happen automatically and without our conscious control, for example –
………our heart rate varies from moment to moment throughout the day, depending on our exercise rate, amount of relaxation or stress, diet and many other outside influences.
………similarly, our blood pressure is constantly varying as a result of these influences, as is out skin temperature, muscle tension and brainwave rate.
In the same way we are usually unaware of the changes that take place in these systems on a moment-to-moment basis – unless we are using some kind of instrument or machine to measure them
…………..for example a watch to measure our heart rate;
…..a blood pressure cuff to measure changes in our blood pressure,
…..an EEG machine (ElectroEncephaloGram) to measure our brainwaves, and so on.
However, many studies have shown that if we find a way to measure these bodily processes in a way that is able to be accessed by the individual being studied, then within a fairly short time the subject is able to consciously vary these processes – and that is what Biofeedback is.
That maybe not completely clear to you, so I will give an example;-
It is relatively easy to organize a set-up where your pulse (i.e. heart rate), is monitored and displayed on a T.V.screen in front of you in a form like a graph, which rises and falls on a moment to moment basis, in time with the changes in your pulse.
Quite amazingly, after just looking at this graph for a relatively short period of time, most people find that they become able to make their pulse slow down or speed up slightly – just by watching the graph, and sort of “willing” the pulse to slow down or speed up.
If you ask these people how they are doing this, in most cases they will not be able to explain how they are causing these changes to occur – they say that they just “sort of happen !”
Logically this seems to be impossible – but about 80 percent of people are able to learn how to make these changes in the heart rate “at will” – just by looking at some “feedback” of the heart rate in real time – but it takes time and patience to learn to do this efficiently.
Apart from using visual input – like the graph showing pulse rate that I mentioned above – sound is often used as the monitoring method.
For example, one of the most commonly used instruments for this uses the activity of the Sympathetic Nervous System (associated with fear, ‘fight or flight’ and other stress or stimulant effects), and relays this back as an auditory ‘tone’……..the more stress – the higher the pitch of the tone.
It does this by measuring changes in the Electrical Conductivity of the skin – that in itself changes depending how much we are sweating or not (a direct measurement that is linked to the level of stress that we are feeling) –
(When we are stressed we sweat more, when we are relaxed we sweat less – these may be very small differences from moment to moment – but we are still able to measure them)
HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN ?
The theory is that we are more influenced by external inputs – whether visual, auditory or other – than we realize.
If we can set up sort of information “triangle” – somewhat as shown in this Biofeedback picture;-
then this forms a sort of continuous “loop” where each part influences the other two.
After a fairly short time, our mind becomes able to watch or listen to what is going on in the unconscious activity that is being measured (for example – blood pressure, skin resistance and so on), and somehow “gets” the ability to change it –
….and this is basically what Biofeedback is.
Let me give you two examples from my own experience;-
Years ago, before I had got involved in meditation, I purchased a hand held device, called a GSR2, that measured the electrical conductivity of the skin (as we have just talked about above) –
………when I got it, I spent a couple of hours using it –
……and got nowhere !
It gave out a fairly high pitched tone – that although it went up and down in pitch a little bit from time to time – it did not give me any sense at all that I was influencing the small changes in the tone pitch.
After a couple of days of this, and trying to work out what differences I was “feeling” when the tone went down, and then trying to repeat these “feelings” – I began to get better at it.
A couple of days more and I was able to get the tone to go down more easily, and for greater periods of time.
Until about a week later I was able to start to get the tone down fairly quickly, and to keep it in a lower range for longer and longer periods –
….until after a month I could keep it in a low pitch for up to 10 minutes or so with no problem !
Interestingly, I found that at that stage, after each session, I felt very relaxed and refreshed – the same feeling that I later associated with doing a meditation !
So obviously what I had been doing with this machine, was training myself to slow my brainwaves into an Alpha, or meditation pattern.
The second example was years later;-
Being a Physician, I had easy access to a simple machine that measured and recorded my pulse rate, and played it back to me as a graph on a monitor screen –
….(rather like the machine that you often see in movies when the actor is supposed to be in a hospital Intensive Care Ward !).
By this time, having done different kinds of meditation for many years, I was better at relaxing myself mentally – and within only a few hours of use of this set up, I was able to slow my heart rate “at will.”
My overall impression of this was that Biofeedback certainly worked for me……but was a hassle to get set up, was expensive, and that doing a meditation gave the same result for a longer time and with less hassle.
And that now with the coming of Guided Meditations with Entrainment Beats embedded, I was able to reach much deeper meditations effortlessly – with the Entrainment Beats doing it automatically for me.
Therefore, to summarize all that I learned then and since –
………Biofeedback is certainly very interesting
…..it works for about 80 percent of the population
……but it takes a fairly long time to get good at it
…….the required machines to measure and record the pulse, blood pressure, skin conductivity and so on, are usually pretty expensive,
…..and that meditation using inbuilt Entrainment beats is so much easier and more efficient, that I am sure it is the very best way to get results.
However, if you would like to explore Biofeedback more, and be able to have access to the different machines and so on that are currently available,
– then here is an English website that has all sorts of information about it and also sells products for it and many other health related tools and equipment;-