I once stalked Bessel van der Kolk, MD at a yoga therapy research conference at Kripalu Center for Yoga + Health. If you don't know of him, he is a psychiatrist and foremost researcher of treatment of PTSD. His most recent book, The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Healing of Trauma, is a bestseller. He discusses the benefits of yoga and mindfulness and a variety of integrative therapies in teaching self-regulation. He also reports on the neuroscientific research that supports this [Polyvagal Theory].
So, I found myself sitting in the booth next to Bessel's in the coffee shop at Kripalu. Being egged on by a friend with whom I was texting, I considered getting a selfie with him, and being too shy, I had all kinds of images in my mind of yawning deeply with arms outstretched and my phone in one hand. I would tip my head to the left and click a picture of Bessel and me! With a crazy fit of laughter, I had to leave the coffee shop without a picture or an introduction by an adoring fan. Instead, I'm sure he was diagnosing me as psychotic! Clearly not an example of self-regulation. But, anyway...
Why do yoga and mindfulness help with self-regulation? They calm the sympathetic nervous system [fight-flight-freeze response] which often gets stuck in trauma survivors. The skills taught through yoga and mindfulness help regulate emotions and biological systems in the body. Emotions get played out in the theater of the body - heart rate, blood pressure. By learning how to control our breath and our heart, we gain mastery of our emotional brain.
The above photo is an example of myself meditating at 100% coherence [I am capable of it]. Coherence is described as a number of related physiological phenomena frequently associated with more ordered and harmonious interactions among the body's systems. This includes cognitive function and the respiratory, nervous, cardiovascular and hormonal systems. The state of coherence is both psychologically and physiologically distinct from the state achieved through most techniques for stress management that rely primarily on relaxation because it teaches how to self-activate and eventually sustain positive emotions.
How does psychophysiological coherence get measured? By Heart Rate Variability [HRV]. HRV is simply a measurement of the beat-to-beat changes in heart rate. HRV is an important indicator of overall health. Emotions have a profound effect on the Autonomic Nervous System [ANS] which is reflected in heart rhythms. By training a person to increase HRV coherence with emotional self-regulation techniques, a practitioner can help a client improve health and well-being. Improved self-regulatory capacity, cognitive function and help establish a new, healthier baseline for sustained physiological and behavioral change.
My training in biofeedback will be complete end of May. I will introduce HeartMath HRV biofeedback into my practice as a tool for treating a variety of mental health issues including PTSD, anxiety, and depression. The goal of biofeedback is to assist clients to learn to self-regulate emotions and biological systems in the body. We are discovering that talk therapy alone cannot accomplish this level of psychophysiological coherence. Emotions get played out in the theater of the body - heart rate, blood pressure. By learning how to control our breath and our heart, we gain mastery of our emotional brain.
If you have an hour, take a listen/view of this webinar of Dr. van der Kolk speaking on "Engaging the Natural Healing Systems of the Brain for Self-Regulation: Trauma, Heart Rate Variability and Beyond."
Stay tuned for more... www.interioritywellness.com