Physiological Biofeedback (Autonomic Nervous System & HRV
BWB therapists use biofeedback, a training procedure that employs computerized technology to show us information about how our body is functioning internally. This helps us to increase our awareness of how our body and mind respond to external events. It is only with awareness that change can occur. We all experience the effects these processes (such as pain, muscle tension, anxiety, or other ailments) have on our bodies and minds. However, since the physiology that drives these reactions are not consciously perceivable, the information gained through biofeedback helps make these otherwise subconscious responses, within our voluntary control.
Using modern biomedical sensing electronics and sophisticated computer programs, the physiological information generated is easy to interpret and understand. Working with this real time “feedback” from our own bodies, the therapists teach us how to take control of these subtle, internal biochemical processes. With biofeedback, we can learn to change what is happening inside us, without drugs or invasive procedures. The effects can be astonishing.
Heart rate variability (HRV)biofeedback allows us for the first time to monitor direct measures of the parasympathetic side of the nervous system. This additional information makes it easier to discover exactly what you can learn that will truly impact the symptoms you are experiencing. HRV is highly correlated with health and fitness. During HRV sessions you will learn how to decrease your nervous system reactivity, warm your hands, exercise a powerful reflex that impacts blood pressue, and alter your breathing in such a way as to impact your heart rate and other physiological signs. In turn, this will restore balance of the nervous system and improve your overall health. Blood pressure readings can lower. Anxiety typically decreases. The mind learns how to quiet. Respiratory efficiency increases.
In more technical terms, clients with various disorders reflecting autonomic nervous system (ANS) disregulation also tend to show decreased HRV. This decreased variability tends to be seen in those with high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. One can think of HRV as a general measure of adaptability. Diminished HRV is a sign of vulnerability to stress, whether it is from psychological or physical stress or from the effects of living with chronic illness. Research shows that this type of respiratory training can be used as a “promising intervention to increase baroreceptor cardiac function in primary hypertension” (Reyes el Paso, et al, 2006).
Biofeedback is pain-free and non-invasive. It is effective for both adults and children. It has many applications for a wide variety of health problems such as headache, asthma, stroke, learning disorders, myofascial pain, and mood disorders.
The objectives are to help persons develop greater awareness and voluntary control over their physiological processes that are otherwise outside awareness. With biofeedback as a guide, the patient learns, in relatively short order, how to lower their overall arousal levels.
Autogenic Training Phrases
Autogenic training was first developed by a German neurologist/psychiatrist who designed phrases to promote healing, calming, and physiological balance. Practicing autogenics trains our bodies to respond quickly to messages from the brain. As you listen to the audio (click link below), visualize the feeling occurring in your body. Over time and with practice, just thinking about doing autogenic training will cause physical changes in the body.
Edmond Jacobson, a noted physician introduced progressive neuromuscular relaxation. The focus is on contracting and relaxing muscles to help individuals clearly discern the difference between tension and relaxation. The audio here introduces passive neuromuscular relaxation, where proper breathing and focus of awareness are combined to promote relaxation. The emphasis is on noticing muscle groups and releasing them without tensing them first.