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Spirit of the Valley
The Magazine of Mountain Wellness

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AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2005 ~ THE DALAI LAMA & TETON WELLNESS ISSUE!!!

 

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Waves of Change

Working with Our Brains for Optimal
Health, Vitality, and Wellness

 

by Angela Earle

 

Scientifically proven and studied, biofeedback is a technique that allows us to see into the space between our ears, listen in on our most inner conversations, and allow our science and discoveries to work for us. Effects of using biofeedback, unlike medication, allow each person to discover for themselves what works best, and to shape their own wellness program, from the inside out. It is scientific evidence of what mystics have been doing for thousands of years - working with and mastering thier own minds. We are so lucky to have Sheila Plowman, a highly trained practitioner offering this technique in our own community at her practice at
Peak Potential Biofeedback.

 

Looking Inward

Sheila Plowman first became interested in this modality as an alternative therapy to drugs when dealing with a family member. The more she learned about the technique, the more interested she became. With a background masters degree in psychology, she had a firm bedrock to build her practice on.

Richard Caton, an English physician, was the first to “discover” the presence of electric currents in the brain in 1875, but it was not until 1924 when Hans Berger, a German neurologist, using ordinary radio equipment amplified this activity and recorded it on graph paper. It was through this process that he was able to discover that these brainwave

frequencies changed according to an individual’s state of mind, consciousness, and body. Over the last 80 years scientists, doctors, and psychologists have continued to study, discover, and refine what all of this can mean to us. After learning to measure these brain waves, studies then uncovered that they could actually be controlled and altered. The ramifications of these scientific discoveries have been manifold, ranging from the ability to control pain, attention deficit disorder, anxiety and an array of other conditions, into the emotional and creative aspects of a person.

In the medicine spectrum, neuro and biofeedback hold a unique space, not totally fitting into either the traditional or alternative/complementary medical models. Regardless of where it fits, the integral component to its success and popularity lies in the idea of self-empowerment – with the message that we are not at the mercy of drugs or our bodies. We have a choice, and we can help, heal, and transform ourselves and return to an optimal state of being. For those uncomfortable or reluctant to delve into the alternative realm, biofeedback offers a way to begin to explore alternative therapies and look into oneself.

 

 

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a technique in which people are trained to improve their health by learning to control certain internal bodily processes that normally occur involuntarily, such as heart rate blood pressure, muscle tension, and skin temperature. These activities can be measured with electrodes and displayed on a monitor that both the participant and his or her practitioner can see. The monitor provides feedback to the participant about the internal workings of his or her body. This person can then be taught to use this information to gain control over these “involuntary” activities.

Types of Brain Waves

Alpha – 8-13 (cycles per second, or hertz) Hz
– the receptive mind, awareness
Beta – 14-26 Hz – focus, problem solving
Theta – 4-7 Hz – creativity, meditation
Delta - .5 – 4 Hz – deep sleep

 

 

 

Hooking Up

So, what does all of this look and feel like? Biofeedback therapy is generally done in a series of sessions – doing just one session doesn’t allow the brain enough training to allow the learning to stick. I learn quickly that talking about it is one thing, but being in the chair, hooked up to electrodes (which is not scary at all – all of the energy is going from the brain to computer monitors, and nothing is coming into the head) and going through the modules is a different kind of experience than I would have imagined. A picture slowly appears on the monitor in front of me, each piece a reward for my brain responding to the parameters set by Sheila on another computer where she is watching the insides of my head. For instance, if she wants to help boost beta brain waves, she will reward my brain every time (or at a specific rate) it goes above a certain percentage of activity. For reasons not clearly understood yet by scientists, even if the subject doesn’t understand what beta brain waves are, or even that the practitioner is rewarding for a certain sequence, the brain understands and responds. The effects of the changes vary according to each person, as does the particular modality and program, in what Sheila describes as the “art” of developing a treatment for each person.

 

All Hooked Up & Ready to Change!

 

Luckily for Sheila and my fellow readers, I had taken a spill on my mountain bike a few days prior to starting my 10-session program with her and was having many and varying symptoms that could be monitored. The effects of her programming are dramatic, or at least were for me, and according to Sheila are more pronounced the first few sessions as changes are made and integrated at a high rate. My mind would clear, and then get foggy, depending on what waves were being targeted. After each session, I felt like I was back in graduate school cramming for a final exam because of the workout my brain was getting. While it is still too early to determine overall effects my person, follow up by Sheila monitors everything from sleeping patterns, to health status, and mental alertness. For a full recount of my experience before and after, see the Spirit of the Valley website at www.spiritofthevalley.info early September for our findings!

ASpectrum of Opportunity

Sheila has used biofeedback in her own life and practice and continues to learn more and more. Researchers have really only delved into the first few layers of information, and the field is always growing, expanding, and determining new and more effective ways of implementing the knowledge stored deep in our minds.

For Sheila, this modality has offered her a way to not only provide a service to people, but to constantly expand and more deeply explore her own interests. She has been very involved in helping people with ADD and many other physical ailments, and is now exploring in addition to this, the realm of creativity and other options for people who may not consider themselves unwell, but want more out of their lives and are seeking to tap into their potential – hence the name of her business – Peak Potential Biofeedback.

The most important aspect to all of this for Sheila is the fact that people are given tools to take with them into their own lives to shape and control what they do and how they feel. This idea of self-empowerment is core to her practice, and once learned, can be used whenever a person chooses, giving them the option to determine their own level of well-being. This idea is actually more powerful and profound than one might think at first glance. In fact, this idea is revolutionary – it is looking at health care practitioners as our teachers, not as our saviors. It is putting the responsibility for our health – and for the state of our lives – back in our own hands.
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Sheila is certified through the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America. She can be reached at: 208-721-0765.