Many years ago, in a previous incarnation (in Houston Texas), I was a certified biofeedback therapist. Here’s an exercise I wrote for partners.
Biofeedback for relaxation training does not necessarily mean being hooked up with electrodes to an expensive machine. A biofeedback buddy can give you information about your relaxation level and spot tension of which you may not be aware. This exercise is done with partners. For best results, switch roles and repeat.
Biofeedback buddy, read the instructions in a quiet, low voice. The sound of your voice and the touch of your hands will help deepen your partner’s state of relaxation. Everything you do should be slow and gentle. Give plenty of time for your partner to follow the directions. For best results, at the end of the exercise switch roles and repeat.
Lie back on a bed, couch, floor with pillows, or comfortable reclining chair. Put your arms to your sides (not touching your body) with your head and neck supported, and relax as completely as possible. You may want to move around a little to get in a comfortable position. Eyes may be open or shut. Hands should be loose and open, fingers slightly apart. Feet should be about 18 inches apart. All parts of your body are supported, so that if every muscle became deeply relaxed, nothing would fall or move.
We will begin by checking your breathing. Your partner will place a hand very gently on your stomach, just below the ribcage. Between the lungs and the stomach is the diaphragm—diaphragmatic breathing is deep, relaxed, and slow. Take a slow breath deep down into your diaphragm. Your buddy’s hand on your stomach should move up with each breath as your lungs expand, but your shoulders do not move, and your chest actually moves very little. Relax your stomach muscles and let the air down into the bottom of your lungs. Buddy, count breaths softly and give your partner feedback. Relaxing partner, breathe as slowly and naturally as possible. With every breath, become more and more relaxed. After ten or so breaths, we will move on to the next exercise.
Now we will check the relaxation of your major muscle groups. Focus on the muscles in your ankles, feet, and toes. Imagine all the cords and tendons relaxing and loosening; imagine all the small muscles of your feet becoming soft. Your buddy will gently grasp your foot and move or shake it an inch or two from side to side. Does it feel loose and relaxed? Try the other foot. Does the leg move also, showing relaxation of the entire leg?
Relaxing partner, focus on your arms and hands. Let all those muscles loosen—your arms and hands feel heavy and warm, as if they could sink right down into the floor—as if they would melt from feeling so warm and heavy. Your buddy will very gently touch your hand, pick it up from your side, turn it over, and feel the palm. Does it feel cold or warm, damp or dry? Buddy, shake the hand and arm gently. Are the muscles loose and relaxed? Bend the arm at the elbow. Does it bend easily? Relaxed people have warm, dry hands. Give your partner feedback about the relaxation of hand and arms. Do the same thing with the other hand. Try to find the pulse in the wrist. Is the heartbeat fast and fluttery or slow and strong? If you are comfortable with more touch, you can give your partner a hand massage as a part of this exercise.
Relaxing partner, focus on your neck and shoulders. Let those muscles loosen until they are very warm and relaxed. Biofeedback buddy, take the head between your hands and move it very gently a couple of inches from side to side. Does the head move easily in your hands? Give your partner feedback about the relaxation of the neck and shoulders.
Now we will focus on muscles in the face and scalp. Biofeedback buddy, look at your partner’s face. Does it look easy, loose, and relaxed? Are the forehead and eyebrows relaxed? Touch the forehead. Is it cool or warm? To check the relaxation of the cheeks and jaw, biofeedback buddy, gentle grasp your partner’s jaw and move it up and down. Give your partner feedback on the relaxation of the face. If you are comfortable with the touch, you may give your partner a gentle face massage as a part of this exercise, tracing you fingers over the forehead, around the eyes, and over the bridge of the nose. A gentle scalp massage of the temples area (between eye and ear) can be very relaxing.
Look at your partner’s total body relaxation. Does the body appear to be calm, peaceful, and serene? Is the breathing deep and slow? Give feedback about the total level of relaxation. Relaxing partner, as you stretch and sit up, give feedback to your biofeedback buddy about the effectiveness of their feedback.
Switch roles and repeat.