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Biofeedback, the Western Approach to Deep Relaxation

Updated on April 15, 2011

Meditation in its Purest Form

"It may be possible to bring under some degree of voluntary control any physiological process that can continuously be monitored, amplified and displayed." -Elder and Alyce Green/Menninger Foundation

Until not too long ago, there had been a clear line dividing bodily organs into two separate components: the voluntary, and the involuntary organs. Today, with the advancement of technology capable of measuring minute changes in the body, all that has changed. Biofeedback, as the new technology is called, have scientist marveling at the futuristic possibilities of self-help technologies that are already helping thousands of people to control their own heart rates, lower their blood pressure, control their migraines, alter brain waves, improve their sex lives, and much more.

Research in this area has proven that subjects can take control of virtually any physiological process at will. This is truly a modern day science breakthrough, and evidence of the link between the mind and body explained centuries ago by the leading philosophers and thinkers of the past. But what do biofeedback machines look like, and where can you find them?

They are actually more common than what most people know. If you have ever used a thermometer to measure your temperature or got on a scale to measure your weight, you have used biofeedback technology. Doctors all over the world now rely on biofeedback devices for almost all kinds of diagnoses. Take a tour down a hospital corridor, and you will see biofeedback machines all over the place: ecg (electrocardiogram) machines with electrical sensors that measure our heart rates, devices to measure blood sugar levels, survey inner organs, bones, and even cells.

Depending on the condition, the patient is usually hooked up to a computer monitor while bodily information is collected by the device and then relayed back to the practitioner. The practitioner, after reading the results, can identify bodily patterns and choose a proper treatment or relaxation therapy to help the patient take control of their condition. By paying close attention to the way one feels at the moment that the biofeedback device is registering a blissful or relaxed state, patients can consequently learn how to induce their bodies to that same state at will. It is in reality a case of mind over matter to the second power.

Today, there are a variety of biofeedback devices in the market for the general consumer, but none is a one size fits all. One very popular mini-biofeedback device is no bigger than a cell phone, but it helps people manage stress by helping them to synchronize their breathing with the wave patterns on the device’s small screen. According to clinicians, the 'Stress Eraser'  activates a part of the parasympathetic system that induces relaxation. Keep in mind, however, when thinking about purchasing a biofeedback device that biofeedback treatment is always secondary to prescribed treatment. In fact the The Mayo clinic cautions the use of biofeedback treatment for people with diabetes, or mental conditions.

While many forms of meditation being practiced in America have been handed down to us by our eastern counterparts; yoga, reiki, etc, biofeedback is truly the first American form of "deep meditation". It has even been called "the first western yoga." It seems to me that when it comes to alternative medicine, western society is like a train; slow at the start, but once it gains momentum, nothing can stop it.

References: The Big Book of Relaxation, The Relaxation Company, Inc

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