Course Description

Designed to help students develop stress-coping skills, this course presents an introduction to biofeedback instruments, information on how to deal with stress, and personal experience training in tension reduction. Students focus on relaxation techniques, improving self-control and concentration, and overcoming test anxiety and poor memory retention. Grading in this course is on pass-no credit basis only.

Biofeedback Articles

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Biofeedback and Breathing For Health

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Biofeedback and Breathing For Health

By Gary Green, M. S.
Published in The RBMA Bulletin August 1996

Breath is life. It has been said we are given life one breath at a Time. Breathing is often taken for granted. We can live for weeks without food or water, but without breath we would survive only minutes.

Breathing appears simple enough. Everyone does it, but unfortunately when stress is introduced to the human body, breathing patterns are altered and physical changes take place. The next time you get a chance, look at a sleeping infant. Their breathing pattern is unstressed. They unconsciously breathe in through their nose. Their abdomen rises with every breath. The diaphragm pulls oxygen into the lower part of their lungs and they are completely relaxed. Everyone of us breathed this way. But, over the course of time and because of external stresses, our internal organs stopped working in a relaxed manner. Our breathing patterns became more restricted, reducing not only the amount of oxygen we exchanged in our lungs, but also restricting the amount of oxygen in our blood cells, which in turn restricted movement in our muscles, causing an overall sensation of tension throughout our bodies.

It's amazing to think that the majority of the tension and stress in our bodies can be reduced by just learning to breathe properly. Proper breathing is effective in reducing anxiety, depression, irritability, muscle tension and fatigue. It also increases the amount of red blood cells and overall circulation throughout the body. If you suffer from cold hands and feet (another side effect of poor circulation due to stress), you can learn to breathe in such a way as to increase the blood flow to your hands and feet.

The major muscle involved in proper breathing is called the diaphragm. This is a dome-shaped muscle located beneath the ribs and above the stomach. In order to inhale, the diaphragm tightens and flattens. This activity displaces the liquid contents of the abdomen and thereby creates a larger space in the chest. As this space is created, the pressure in the atmosphere exceeds the pressure in the chest and air flows in to balance these pressures out.

To exhale, the diaphragm must relax and be raised upward, compressing the air in the chest and allowing the air to be expired. Thus, inhalation requires that the abdominal area relax and expand, while exhalation requires the abdominal area to decrease in diameter. The chest and shoulders should stay relaxed throughout the breathing cycle.

All our physiological processes are controlled by the nervous system. One branch of the nervous system, called the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), is strongly affected by how we breathe. 'When we breathe rapidly, shallowly, and in our chests (thoracically), the sympathetic nervous system becomes activated. This results in increased heart rate and blood pressure, cool hands and feet, sweaty palms and other symptoms. People who habitually breathe this way may experience a sense of panic, symptoms associated with hyperventilation, and even an increased risk of heart attacks.

Slow diaphragmatic breathing, on the other hand, decreases the sympathetic nervous system activity and encourages regeneration. Slow diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to reduce the occurrence of a coronary event in people who have already suffered a heart attack. It also results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate, warm hands and feet, a decreased sweat response and a general sense of relaxation and well-being.

By consciously altering your breathing cycle you can profoundly affect your energy level and open yourself to expanded states of awareness. And since breath is closely associated with life itself, changes in your breathing patterns can influence your subconscious mind, which is intimately linked with the natural healing processes of your body-mind.

Altering breath is one of the easiest ways you can establish and interface between the voluntary and involuntary nervous systems that together coordinate the functions of every system of the body.

Patterns of breathing reflect emotional, mental, and physical states. Each emotion and significant thought has an associated breathing pattern. When stressed or fearful, we chest breathe with shallow, rapid breaths, sometimes even holding our breath. When acting agitated we may, over breathe, that is, we hyperventilate. When being cautious we under breathe. When we are startled we gasp, and when we are relieved we sigh. If we are suppressing sadness or grief we exhale incompletely and may limit our breathing to control the deep emotions we're feeling.

"Breathing into deadened or disconnected parts of our body image is perhaps the surest way to awaken and reanimate them.” -Ralph Metzner

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Stress Management

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KCKCC Offers Biofeedback Class to Teach Stress Management

by Bob Evans

Most everyone alive in the 1970’s remembers the crazy gift craze, the Pet Rock, and those same people probably possessed at least one mood ring that changed colors depending on the wearer’s temperament.

The rings, which contained a liquid crystal element that changed from blue to red, to black depending on the body’s external temperature. This was thought to reflect the “mood” of the person; hence the name. A bright sapphire blue meant cool and collected, but black and red spelled trouble.

Well, like pet rocks, and mood rings, biofeedback debuted and gained popularity during that bell-bottomed decade, and then slowly faded into near obscurity. Now, however, everything old is new again. Mood rings can be found on shopping sites; pet rock can be purchased on ebay; and biofeedback gains popularity again as a technique of alternative medicine to help people lower stress, blood pressure, heart rates, and control subliminal brain messages.

With the newfound popularity of alternative medicines and biofeedback, Kansas City Kansas Community College offers a short, 8-week mini course for one hour elective credit beginning in Oct. 13. The class runs 4-6p.m., Tuesdays for 8 weeks. It’s a pass/fail class that transfers as an elective. Green expects several KCKCC faculty to enroll in this first session taught since his retirement in 2001.

Gary Green, the campus expert on biofeedback and other alternative medicine practices teaches the course that reflects his years of study and teaching of the alternative practice.

According the Wikipedia, “Biofeedback is a non-medical process that involves measuring a subject's specific and quantifiable bodily functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, sweat gland activity, and muscle tension, conveying the information to the patient in real-time. This raises the patient's awareness and therefore the possibility of conscious control of those functions.”

Green agrees. He said he teaches people to unlearn past practices that lead to stress He explained that breathing correctly helps people overcome trained unconscious responses to daily situations. He explained that when given a new, simple task, people actually respond to it in the absolute wrong way. They traditionally stop breathing when they should instead breathe deeply to help complete the task given. Other examples included tensing when a phone rings when anticipating bad news. People tense up and stop breathing or breathe shallowly instead of giving the brain blood, and lungs the deep breath needed to overcome a possibly stressful situation.

Green compares the technique known as biofeedback to other techniques that concentrate on breathing—yoga, Lamaze, TaiChi Piranha, Jazzercise, and others. He explained that all concentrate on breathing. By teaching different breathing one learns how to control physiological conditions.

Again, Wikipedia affirms Green’s premise: “By providing the user access to physiological information about which he or she may be unaware, biofeedback may allow users to gain control of physical processes previously considered an automatic response of the autonomous nervous system.”

“Biofeedback is an educational awareness process of learning to unlearn,” Green said. “I call it a course in disobedience. You are actually trying to unlearn the conscious and unconscious adaptations that you make to stress. Many times we are not aware that we hold our breath during certain times. For example: we tighten the shoulders when we are at a computer trying something new. We start churning the stomach at times. These are all biofeedback issues, and we are not aware we are doing it. Then when we get through it, we exhale and start breathing deeper. We realize we have been breathing short and shallow.”

Under stress, blood vessels constrict and flow affects the exterior temperature of the body, he explained. Eyes dilate; people clench their teeth; the hands get cold; and then blood pressure rises, Green explained. By learning biofeedback techniques, people can learn to control all this and can eventually stop blood pressure medicines, but only after specialized biofeedback training. As people study and learn what triggers their stress, they learn to manage and cope by using new methods to avoid the problem.

Green said in his classes, he teaches some breathing exercises. The more people practice proper breathing, the more likely they are to help themselves through biofeedback. In the 8-week course, Green said he teaches basic breathing and why it is important. Then he explores the various ways to learn breathing techniques. He mentioned, yoga, Lamaze and others that he covers in the class. For his background, Green traveled to China to work with and teach some of the younger generation how to walk and breathe using biofeedback to combat stress and cancer. Some of the participants, he said had outlived their prognosis for life as cancer victims by several year.

Learning to control one’s body is a key element in stress reduction and the immune system. Green asserts that correct breathing keys the unlocking of many problems stemming from stress. He wants everyone to become his or her own body guru. Green quotes Albert Einstein by saying, “When you listen to your own body, you learn all you need to know.” Another platitude comes from Calvin Coolidge, “When you sit quietly, half of your problems disappear.” That leads to his class philosophy: “Color outside your lines. Go beyond you comfort zone. You can go back after class. Test new water. Consider new options.

“I am a retired physician, a surgeon,” said Dr. Michael Ballentine, a microbiology teacher at the college who already enrolled in Green’s class. “It’s important to know how to relax better. Some think alternative medicine is like witchcraft. Actually, pharmaceutical medicine developed from herbal medicine. We are finding out that things outside conventional, traditional medicine have merit. Some tools work, some tools don’t work,” He encourages people to try and explore.


If you are experiencing the following kinds of stress related symptoms:

difficulty in sleeping - tire easily;
muscular aches - sore to touch;
upset stomach;
accelerated heart beat;
lack of energy - yawning;
"sleepy eyes" when driving;
headaches - often in afternoon;
sighing often;


You may want to try the following stress coping suggestions.

"Four-Fours" of Breathing. Breathe in slow and easy and deep for a count of four. Hold the breath for a count of four. Then breathe out for a count of four. Do that four times, then repeat the repetition four times daily.

"Dead Body" Pose. Lie down on your back on a comfortable surface. Place a book on your abdomen, near your belly button. As you inhale, allow your stomach to push against the weight of the book. The book should lift with the inhalation. As you exhale, allow the pressure of the book to push your stomach in. Continue to exhale and let your stomach fall until you have expired the air. Repeat for ten minutes. Allow the air to flow evenly and slowly. Be sure you observe the book rising and the abdomen expanding during inhalation and the book sinking and the abdomen decreasing during exhalation. Allow this breathing to go slowly. You may observe that the breathing rate decreases (breaths per minute). If your attention drifts, bring it back to observing the breath and the movement of the abdomen. Observe how over time your skill improves in breathing slowly and effortlessly. Observe also how your attention and mindfulness is becoming trained, a skill which is applicable in all phases of our lives. This slow breathing encourages regeneration.

Mental and Emotional Balance. This very simple breathing exercise creates a relaxed, broad mental view that is very centering, and has been used in the treatment of angina.

Sit with your spine straight, close your eyes and focus them on the point where your nose and eyebrows meet. Use your right thumb to cover the end of your right nostril, rest your left hand in your lap and inhale slowly through your left nostril. Then remove your thumb, place your right little finger over the end of your left nostril and exhale slowly through your right nostril. Then inhale through the right and exhale through the left. Repeat this alternating pattern. Do not hold your breath in once you've inhaled; begin to exhale immediately. Also, once you're done exhaling, inhale immediately.

The more powerful the breath, the more powerful the effect, so start moderately at first. Continue for a maximum of 11 minutes, less at first if you like.

10 Biofeedback Commandments:

Thou shalt always be aware of your bodily "going-ons."
Thou shalt constantly be breathing deeply.
Thou shalt relax all your muscles daily.
Thou shalt lie down in imaginary green pastures for twenty minutes daily.
Thou shalt not eat junk.
Thou shalt run and soar with eagles for 2 miles daily (or walk briskly).
Thou shalt be loving to thyself and others.
Thou shalt "let" thy body do its "thing" by rest and relaxation daily.
Thou shalt see thyself as being more and more in control everyday.
Thou an what you thinketh.

Book List

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Books 1 - 10

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Ageless Body , Timeless Mind -
Deepak Chopra M.D.

All The World is a Stage -
Dennis Weaver

The Power of the Now -
Eckhart Tolle

Molecules of Emotion -
Candace Pert Ph.D.

Healing Myths - Healing Magic -
Donald M. Epstein

Go Within or Go Without -
Gloria D. Benish

Healing Beyond the Body -
Larry Dossey

Light Emerging -
Barbara Ann Brennan

Manifest Your Destiny -
Wayne W. Dyer

Handle with Prayer -
Alan Cohen

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Books 11 - 20

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Anatomy of the Spirit -
Caroline Myss Ph.D.

Communion with God -
Neale Donald Walsch

Manifesto for a New Medicine -
James S. Gorden

Radical Healing -
Rudolph Ballentine

Healing our Worldview -
The Unity of Science & Spirituality -
John Hitchcock

Evidence from Beyond -
Margaret Flavell

Where God Lives -
Melvin Morse M. D.

Lightning at the Gate -
Jeanne Achterberg

Spirit Matters -
Michael Lerner

Inner Reiki -
Tanmaya Honervogt

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Books 21 - 29

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Chi - Fitness -
Sue Benton & Drew Denbaum

Earth Medicine -
Kenneth Meadows

The Medicine Way -
Kenneth Meadows

The Spirit of Reiki -

There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem -
Wayne Dyer

Moments of Grace -
Neale Donald Walsch

Friendship With God -
Neale Donald Walsch

You Are a Spiritual Being Having a Human Experience -
Bob Frissell

The Biology of Transcendence -
Joseph Chilton Pearce



Modern Tai Chi

When most people first join a Tai Chi or QiGong class, they are not quite sure what they are getting themselves into. Most have a mother, a doctor, a friend, a daughter, or son telling them, "This Tai Chi stuff is the greatest thing since sliced bread and you have gotta try it!" However, these enthusiasts can't quite explain why you've gotta try it. So the following is for you, or whoever's been trying to explain it to you.

Tai Sci
Biofeedback uses a computer program to train people how to relax when under stress. The computer shows them when their blood pressure goes up and their heart beats faster so that they can then practice relaxing and slowing things down. Dr. Gary Green, a leading biofeedback specialist, refers to Tai Chi as "biofeedback without the computer."

In modern terms, Tai Chi and QiGong are ancient systems of biofeedback and classical conditioning. Traditional Chinese doctors of long ago noted that our natural tendency is to hold onto stress, which bogs down the brain. They therefore created exercises that would train the mind and the body not only to continually dump stress, but also to actually change the way the body handles future stress (not the way your kids change the way you handle stress, but in a good way).



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