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Observations placeholder

Green, Drs Elmer and Alyce – Healing Asthma using biofeedback



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Beyond Biofeedback – Drs Elmer and Alyce Green

In teaching psychophysiological control of asthma, we focus on the use of visualization to tell the body what to do and not on the cause that may be involved in the bronchial sensitivity.

Hundreds of sufferers have been helped by learning the simple self-regulation exercises developed in Autogenic Training. The first two standard exercises involve the feeling of heaviness in the body and warmth in the arms and hands. The fourth exercise focuses on breathing and tries to re-establish the natural breathing rhythm associated with relaxation and freedom from stress.

We have found that patients suffering from asthma often breathe improperly, sucking in rather than expanding the diaphragm as they inhale, and a step of first importance is to teach them to breathe properly.

 An interesting example of the effectiveness of autogenic exercises occurred in our own department at the foundation some years ago. One of the biomedical technicians told me one day that his father, a farmer in western Kansas, had suffered from asthma for many years and had asked him if some of the things that were going on in our training program would be of value to him.

We had been planning for some time to use an electronic stethoscope to feed back bronchial sounds. It was our intention to install a high-pass filter (a filter that lets through only high-frequency sounds) in the amplifier in order to get rid of heart sounds and other lower-frequency noises as much as possible, so that the high-frequency wheezes often associated with bronchial problems could be amplified and fed back to the subject.

We had not had time to develop this instrument, even though it seemed such a logical thing to do, but I told our friend that even without the instrument many people had benefited from using the relaxation and breath-control exercises of Autogenic Training and that maybe his father would like to try them.

After a visit to the farm, he told me that his father would very much like to try Autogenic Training. In order to simplify the commuting problem, I suggested that I teach him the relaxing and breathing techniques and he could teach them to his father. We did this, and within a couple of months his father seemed to be free of asthma. It was during a time of year, however, when pollen and dust levels were low. We all waited to see what would happen at wheat-cutting time in June.

That was a real test, and the father was much impressed when he got through the wheat season with little difficulty.

At first he practiced faithfully and each day made an effort to quiet body and mind. He did not make it a "way of life," however; after the initial success he quit practicing even five minutes a day, and his asthma began to return.

This is an important point.

Many people are hopeful at first that self-regulation exercises will work as a pill-you do it a few times and your troubles are over. In the domain of self-regulation, however, nothing could be further from the truth.

That does not mean that it is necessary to think about it all day, but it is necessary at least once a day to relax and tell the unconscious what you expect of it and how you want the body to behave. It is better still to find brief moments during the day (for example, while waiting at a red light) to practice these skills.

The source of the experience

Green, Dr Elmer and Alyce

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Psychosomatic medicine

Activities and commonsteps