Anthropological illustrations of mind – body integration can be simply illustrated when we consider how indigenous peoples mirrored or mimicked natural, primal rhythms for sustained survival in natural settings. American Indian plains-dwelling tribes would prepare a council meeting by staging the appropriate acoustic biosphere to encourage both voice projection and an enhanced listening state.
Five drum positions for five days of non-stop drumming stands as primordial antecedent to the symbolic Olympic flame sustainment we are accustomed to witnessing every few years for the duration of the games. For this type of council gathering – that has since become known as pow wow — the “heart” drum beat was set in motion and continually maintained with alternating drummers for the entire time of the session gathering.
Historically, council meetings were oftentimes conducted with non-stop drumming at a rate of around 60 beats per minute. Specific chanting techniques (that encouraged both a pull of abdomen gently in and diaphragm gently out) facilitated a rhythmic breathing pattern concomitant with the percussive beat of the drum.
This had profound implications for a listening discourse/dialogue when participants had their body rhythm in synchrony. Moreover, it seems the ancient practice of immersion in this setting (for at least 72 hours) appears to synchronize the rhythms in accordance with mid-wifery practices encouraged by progressive maternal care givers/providers using a technique called Kangaroo Mother Care.
Indigenous Mimicry of Kangaroo Mother Care
Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) has been variously defined, but two essential components are skin-to-skin contact (SSC), and breast-feeding (BF). From the biological perspective, in the immediate newborn period of Homo sapiens, skin-to-skin contact represents the absolute correct “habitat.” Moreover, breast-feeding represents the “niche” or pre-programmed behavior designed for that habitat.
Specifics on SSC
In the uterine habitat, oxygenation is provided through the placenta and the cord, as well as warmth, nutrition and protection. These are the four basic biological needs. Parturition (birth) represents a “habitat transition.” In the new habitat, the basic needs remain the same. Research over the last two decades provides strong support for the contention the newborn, itself, in the skin-to-skin habitat, not the mother or the health service, provides these basic needs.
Oxygenation is significant enhanced by SSC, to the extent that KMC is used successfully to treat respiratory distress. The breathing becomes regular and stable, and is coordinated with heart rate. When removed from incubator and placed SSC an infant’s oxygen saturation may rise slightly, or the percentage of oxygen provided to maintain good saturation can be lowered by the infant in the natural occurrence of breathing in vibratory response to heart beat.
Heart rate Regulates When Placed SSC
Though we can regard this increase as being within the clinically normal range, what is seen is actually a return to the physiologically normal heart rate, the lower rate being due to “protest despair behavior.” Infants removed from incubators and placed SSC show a rise in temperature and a dramatic drop in glucocorticoids, as predicted by the “protest-despair” reaction.
Better than an Incubator
Mothers are able to control the infants temperature within a very narrow range, far better than an incubator. To accomplish this, a mother’s core temperature can rise to two degrees Centigrade if baby is cold, and fall one degree if baby is hot. Skin-to-skin contact is far better than an incubator for re-warming hypothermic infants.
Suggesting that perhaps it’s not father, but mother, who intuitively knows best: vibration and rhythm are a primordial link to a burgeoning social journey that begins in the womb and carries us through the conversation of life.