Body Wisdom

By Nancy Ivey

Research into tuning forks and the potential trauma stored in the biofield led me to psychiatrist Bessel Van Der Kolk, director of the Boston Trauma Center and noted expert in the field. In his recent book, The Body Keeps the Score, Van Der Kolk promotes yoga as a therapeutic intervention for traumatized people struggling psychologically.

Van Der Kolk discovered that yoga soothes trauma in two ways:

1. Engages the brain region integral to self-awareness by focusing on precise postural alignment encouraging objectivity from the usual neuroses.

2. Incorporates breathing techniques which affects the vagus nerve. This cranial nerve controls the autonomic systems like heartbeat and respiration and consists of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.Van Der Kolk distinguishes between childhood trauma and its effect on the child’s developing brain (which he calls developmental trauma) and traumatic events that happen to adults with fully developed brains as seen in post-traumatic stress disorder.

Attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity are brain states evident in young people who can’t focus or calm themselves down. These children are commonly prescribed the stimulant Ritalin. But neurofeedback, which teaches people how to shift their brain waves, offers new hope.

Neurofeedback is a biofeedback therapy where real-time readouts of brain activity are displayed on an electroencephalography (EEG) machine to teach people how to regulate their brain function. Electrodes applied to the scalp record brainwave activity. The signals are processed on a computer and shown to the client who sees their brainwave activity. Some brainwave frequencies are promoted and this is presented in the guise of a video game where the client is playing the game – such as flying an airplane – with their brain.

Transmitting this to a graph shows the brain wave frequency associated with your present state of mind. Beta waves oscillate between 13 and 30 hertz (unit of frequency defined as one cycle per second) and are linked to normal consciousness. Neurofeedback trains you to slow brain waves down to the alpha frequency, oscillating at 8-13 hertz, and characterized by a conscious, relaxed, meditative state of being.

By learning the “mind state” conducive to keeping the airplane aloft in their neurofeedback video, kids stabilize their brain waves in the calm alpha frequency. After six months of neurofeedback training, clients can regulate their own brain waves while facing the painful but inevitable vicissitudes of life.

If you don’t have access to neurofeedback but want to experience alpha brain waves, close your eyes and open your senses. This generates alpha waves which are also induced by mindfulness practice. Or try entraining rhythmically in a drum circle which activates alpha wave frequency after drumming for 20 minutes.

Yoga classes begin by lying on your back with eyes shut while breathing diaphragmatically. Brain wave frequency shifts to alpha – associated with the experience of “flow.” Yoga stretches tight muscles and opens restricted joints. Self-care and renewal sustains the meditative experience.

Nancy Ivey teaches yoga for CSUB and locally. Email