AHYMSIN newsletter, Issue - October 2011  

Biofeedback and Beyond

by Daniel Hertz

Biofeedback has deep roots in the Himalayan Yoga Tradition.  Swami Rama is considered one of the pioneers of modern-day Biofeedback.  In experiments done at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas in 1970, Swami Rama astonished scientists with his ability to regulate what was previously thought of as the “involuntary” autonomic nervous system functions. The experiments he participated in are well documented and explained in depth in the book Beyond Biofeedback by Elmer and Alyce Green (1977 Knoll Publishing Co.).

Under laboratory conditions he demonstrated the following:

  1. He increased the temperature difference between the left and right side of one hand to 11 degrees Fahrenheit. This caused the left side of the hand to become pink and the right side to become gray. Dr. Green described this demonstration as “showing exquisite differential control over this normally uncontrolled piece of the neural apparatus.” 
  2. He stopped the heart from pumping blood for 16.2 seconds while sitting motionless during the demonstration.

He returned to the Menninger Foundation several months later and did other brain wave and psychokinetic experiments that are also documented in the book Beyond Biofeedback.

Today Biofeedback has all sorts of medical applications.  It is considered efficacious for urinary incontinence in females, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, headache (adult), hypertension, temporomandibular disorders, and urinary incontinence in males.  It is considered probably efficacious for many other disorders including alcoholism/substance abuse, and chronic pain.

I first got interested in Biofeedback after being diagnosed with a hyperthyroid condition about 10 years ago.  I had already been studying Yoga/Meditation for several years, so I was very interested to experiment with the various relaxation and breathing exercises I had learned to see which one would be most helpful.  I bought a heart rate monitor watch, which is commonly used by runners.  This is a Biofeedback instrument because it gives constant information on a biological sign (the heart rate).  I found that 2 to 1 breathing, where the exhalation is doubled, was the most helpful for me.  This is because the exhalation is associated with the parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system.   By extending the exhalation, the heart rate slows down. 

I continued to use Biofeedback to supplement other medical treatments I received for my thyroid condition.  I believe that Biofeedback allowed me to take less allopathic medicine and eventually I was able to get entirely off the medicine.  My interest remained high, so after a few years of informal practice, I decided to formalize my study of Biofeedback.  I invested in some expensive equipment, and after about a year of training, practice, and being mentored, I became a certified Biofeedback practitioner.  I practice the Relaxation Model of Biofeedback, which uses the same relaxation and breathing techniques as taught in the Himalayan Yoga Tradition.  Detailed information on what it takes to become certified can be found at the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance website (  

There are two pieces of Biofeedback equipment that are reasonable to buy and effective for practice at home.  One is the heart rate monitor mentioned previously and the other is called a thermistor, which has a sensor that you tape to your finger and it can measure changes in skin temperature. 

There are 3 keys to learning self regulation: 

  1. Correct diaphragmatic breathing
  2. Rate of breathing ( 5-7 cycles per minute most quickly balances the nervous system)
  3. Nurturing positive emotions in the Heart Center such as love, gratitude, joy, etc.

Learning self regulation through Biofeedback is very similar to learning how to meditate.  One similarity is that you “allow” yourself to relax rather than “try” to do it.  Biofeedback supports a quantitative approach to this process.  I have found this approach to be very helpful over the years for myself and clients I have worked with.  For more information, see the Biofeedback link at

Editor’s Note:

To see the video “Swami Rama: Voluntary Control over Involuntary States Project”:

A number of published references can be found at this link:

The book Beyond Biofeedback by Elmer and Alyce Green:

This excerpt is taken from Beyond Biofeedback by Elmer and Alyce Green, 1977 Knoll Publishing Co., Chapter II: Self-regulation: East and West, pp. 197 ñ 218:

Daniel Hertz has an MS Degree in Counseling and is a long-time Teacher and Counselor in the Minneapolis Public Schools. He is internationally certified as a Yoga and Meditation Instructor (RYT 500) and has been giving Yoga and Meditation classes in the U.S., India, and Panama since 1995. He is a regular contributing writer for the Himalayan Path Yoga Journal. He is also Nationally Certified (BCIAC) as a Biofeedback Practitioner and has been offering Biofeedback sessions at The Meditation Center in Minneapolis since 2006. Daniel met Swami Hariharananda Bharati in Rishikesh, India, in 1998. For several years thereafter, Daniel spent extended periods of time in India together with Swami Hari, as well as served as his personal assistant during Swami Hari's travels in the U.S.  We invite you to visit the website