Types of Biofeedback
Neurofeedback is brainwave training and is one of the “big guns” of biofeedback. It is a computer-based program and is most commonly used in athletes to assess their brain response under stress. It is commonly used to train better attention and focus and is an approved non-medication treatment for ADD/ADHD. It works by changing the amount of slow brain wave activity associated with inattention. It is also used to help an overly active or anxious brain find a calmer state. Some of us are also using neurofeedback as an effective treatment for post-concussive syndrome and traumatic brain injury, which unfortunately are fairly common in the equestrian world.
Timing and coordination are crucial skills for most athletes and different riding disciplines can have their own specific timing challenges. In riding, cues or aids typically work best when applied accurately. In particular, dressage riders need good rhythm, and accurate timing for tempi changes, for example.
The Interactive Metronome (IM) is a computer-based therapy program that helps individuals to improve muscle control, coordination, attention and other specific abilities. Users practice timing and sequencing of motor patterns and actions in order to increase motor speed and the processing of information.
The IM can help if you have trouble with timing and coordination of aids, attention and focus under pressure, and recovery from head injury—to name a few benefits. It typically involves 15 hour-long sessions over three to five weeks. The Interactive Metronome training must be done under the direction of a skilled practitioner but if you believe you have difficulties with timing and coordination it will be well worth the purchase. This one is inexpensive and found on amazon.com but there’s tons on the market.
Other ‘Do It Yourself’ Improvements
While some advanced biofeedback training will require professional guidance, you can train the basics of muscle tension regulation, relaxation and attention, on your own at home.
You will need a stimulating or mildly stressful activity such as Lumosity, or a challenging video game you can download and play on your cell phone or computer. Lumosity has a free version that will do just fine. To start with, just focus on muscle tension. Click here for Lumosity.
While you play and are intensely focusing, watch your body posture. Pay particular attention your muscles in your forehead, jaw, shoulders and hands. Do you tense up anywhere in particular?
Tensing your muscles does not usually help with focus and concentration. The trick is to develop an awareness of when and where you hold tension, and learn to release that tension at will. In addition to this exercise, practice paying attention and relaxing muscle groups as you go through your day. Driving is an excellent activity for this. For more tips on using biofeedback when riding your horse, click here.