Sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste. These are the five human senses, as taught in school, mainly felt as responses to sensations from the outside world. But what if you could add a sense that tells you more about your inside world, like heart activity and stress levels?
Maybe having additional senses that reveal what's happening in the 'invisible' realm sounds too 'Hollywood' to you, and that's okay. But there is a way that’s very realistic and doesn't require developing supernatural abilities to, for example, control your metabolic processes, like in the movie "Lucy."
You can learn what's happening inside your body via technology that captures your vital signs and then sends back information on improving that activity. It's like having an artificial sense that knows and works to improve your bodily functions.
And that's precisely what biofeedback is all about. So, let's discover how this method, which is growing in popularity, works and why you should try it out.
What is biofeedback?
As a group of authors researching this practice in medicine  explained, "Biofeedback is a mind–body technique in which individuals learn how to modify their physiology to improve physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health."
Here's another helpful description: "Biofeedback is a self‐regulation technique through which patients learn to voluntarily control what were once thought to be involuntary body processes."
Biofeedback typically includes two elements:
- Your 'body data,' a.k.a. your vital signs or 'first-grade' biosignals, like heart rate, respiratory rate, heart rate variability, and skin temperature.
- The tech equipment connected to your body that processes the data, and feeds it back to you in a visual or audio form.
Originally, biofeedback was born in a clinical environment as a helpful technique in reducing symptoms of specific medical conditions, such as :
- Chronic pain
- High blood pressure
- Sleep disorders
- Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Panic disorder
- Anxiety disorder
One of the areas where biofeedback therapy showed significant improvements is stress management. Why stress?
Because biofeedback training is proven to reduce sympathetic arousal related to stress conditions.
We can use biofeedback to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) - the portion of the ANS that calms us down. That can be monitored through parasympathetic activity, like our heart rate (HR), respiration rate, skin temperature, and heart rate variability (HRV) .
This is where wearables that measure these parameters come in.
Real-time data vs. average data
Many wearables on the market, like smartwatches, bracelets, and rings, measure different vital signs for various purposes.
However, they don’t always include biofeedback. For example, your wearable can only monitor your HRV and display it on the screen with little insight into what that means and how to improve it.
Secondly, wearables typically offer average vital sign information - not real-time data. For example, HR that gets picked up by smartwatches and rings usually has tens of seconds or even minutes of delay.
That’s okay for regular jogging, for example, but for the biofeedback training where you want to manage stress, that’s insufficient. In that case, you need more precise, live data – captured and displayed in milliseconds, so you can immediately react and interact with your inner body state.
Instant biofeedback with OxaOxa is the first wearable that offers live biofeedback in real time.
It includes a garment (bra, T-shirt, or belt) and a small sensor device that instantly picks up your vital signs, particularly heart and breathing rate, and HRV.
Then, it transforms that data into insights about your sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. This feedback is audible, so you can ‘hear your calmness’, and visible through the app, showing how much you’re stressed – in real time.
It calculates your state of resonance, which is when your heart and breathing rate are in sync, because that frequency brings immediate calm.
Finally, Oxa teaches you how to adjust your breathing pace to achieve resonance by responding to your bio signals with live audio biofeedback.
These pleasant audio cues slow your breathing, relax muscle tension, and ease your thoughts, which activates your PNS. As a result, you overflow with calmness.
If you practice with Oxa regularly, you can train your nervous system to become stronger and more resilient to stress.
Learn more about resonance breathing in our blog.
It would be challenging to play the piano without immediately hearing the sound you are making. That’s precisely what Oxa’s live biofeedback provides - immediate audio feedback on your calmness levels and your state of resonance. This enables you to react at that moment, adjust your breathing for maximal resonance, and calm down at any time.
Interested in learning more about Oxa? Check it here.
 Dana L Frank, BS, Lamees Khorshid, PsyD, Jerome F Kiffer, MA, Christine S Moravec, Ph.D., corresponding author, and Michael G McKee, Ph.D.; 'Biofeedback in medicine: who, when, why and how?'; Ment Health Fam Med. 2010 Jun; 7(2): 85–91.
 Schwartz MS, Andrasik F. Biofeedback: a practitioner's guide. New York: Guilford Press, 2003.
Get the Oxa Sensor and your choice of garment - lounge-wear shirt, bra, or band. Your purchase includes access to the Oxa app which gives personalized data summaries and insights, as well as access to breathing exercises to teach you how to harness the power of your own breath.