It’s no secret that meditation has a positive effect in our overall health and wellbeing. Not only does it help cultivate more peace and invite more clarity to one’s thoughts, the practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to enhanced connectivity between the brain regions.
What Are Brain Waves
All our thoughts, emotions and behaviors are controlled by masses of neurons within our brains. They use electricity in a way to communicate with one another, in order to produce synchronized electrical pulses known as brain waves. As a result, our brain waves change according to what we are doing and feeling.
Different Categories of Brain Waves
There are five major categories of brain waves, each responsible for a specific activity. Meditation provides us with an ability to move from higher frequency brain waves to lower frequency brain waves, enabling us to take control of our feelings and emotions more deliberately.
- Gamma Waves
Gamma brainwaves are considered the fastest brain waves. They are attributed to the state of hyperactivity and active learning. Plus, they also enable our brains to process different types of information simultaneously.
As we retain more information during the gamma state, this is the main reason why a lot of teachers encourage their students to jump up and down before class.
The gamma state is also speculated to improve perception and consciousness; therefore, some yogis deliberately activate their gamma waves for spiritual emergence.
- Beta Waves
Beta brainwaves are responsible for helping us perform cognitive tasks and in perceiving the outside world. Therefore, when we activate our beta state, we become alert, attentive and engaged in focused mental activity.
- Alpha Waves
Alpha brainwaves are most dominant during meditative moments. It is when the brain gets into a resting state, and it is what many new-age philosophers refer to as the “power of now” or the present moment. We get into the alpha state very easily after a yoga class, a relaxing massage or a walk in the woods. It aids in overall mental coordination, calmness, and alertness, and it helps us easily feel more calm, peaceful and grounded.
- Theta Waves
Theta brainwaves occur most often during sleep, but are also very dominant during deep meditation. It is the state by which our senses are slowly withdrawn from the external world and are moving into a deeper state of awareness that is associated with stronger intuition, vivid imagery, and complicated problem solving.
- Delta State
Delta brainwaves are slow yet loud brainwaves that are produced during dreamless sleep and in very deep meditation states. It is during the delta state where healing and regeneration are stimulated, which is why deep restorative sleep is so essential to the healing process. It’s been said that Tibetan monks who have been engaged in regular meditation practice can reach this stage mindfully while awake.
The Importance of Brain Waves
Research on neuroscience has shown that brainwave patterns are associated with different kinds of emotional and neurological conditions.
When certain areas of our brains are over-stimulated and aroused, we become more prone to aggression, anxiety disorders, sleep problems, and chronic nerve pain. Conversely, when other areas of the brain are under-aroused, we easily become prone to developing depression, attention deficit, and insomnia.
More so, any instability in our brain rhythms can trigger all sorts of illnesses and disorders – ranging from migraines and epilepsy to rage and anorexia. Therefore, our brainwaves always need to be in balance, in order for us to remain emotionally stable and mentally fit.
How Meditation Alters Brain Waves
Even if we will never fully understand how the human brain works, the good news is that we are not slaves to all our thoughts, emotions, and controls. By engaging in daily habits of behavior and changing our thought processes, we can successfully alter how our brains are wired and how our neurons communicate with one another.
Chemical interventions such as medications or psychedelic drugs are the most common ways to alter brain function, however, meditation and yoga are non-dangerous ways to align your brainwaves into balance. In fact, committing to a daily practice of mindfulness meditation is an effective way of entering the alpha state more rapidly without any chemical alteration.
If you are new to meditation, the simplest way to begin the transition from the beta to the alpha state is to focus on your breath. As the breath and mind work in tandem, by lengthening your brain, you are training your brain waves to slow down considerably.
Learning How to Meditate
Depending on what you think may be helpful for your practice; here are some useful steps to get you started:
Step 1: Find a quiet spot in your home where you can sit comfortably with your shoulders relaxed and spine tall.
Step 2: Place your hands on your lap and close your eyes. It is best to put out the lights and eliminate any stimuli that may distract you.
Step 3: Observe your breath. Notice where it goes and just simply observe the way it enters and leaves your body. It is important to watch your breath without changing it in any way.
Step 4: If your mind starts to wander or get distracted by different thoughts, just focus on your breath. Notice that as your breath begins to lengthen and fill your body, your mind begins to calm.
Step 5: Start your practice with 5 minutes a day and add one minute each week. In truth, shorter meditations on a daily basis are more productive than long sessions once every few weeks.
Truth is – there is no one right way to meditate. Some people prefer to repeat a mantra, while others sit still in silence and observe all their thoughts without any judgment. The trick is to remain consistent with your practice. That means committing to a time and place where you simply sit still and focus on quieting your thoughts.