We can be in one of two states: either the mind is running us or we are running our mind.
There are five major categories of brain waves, each corresponding to different activities we do. Meditation enables us to move from higher frequency brain waves to lower frequency and calm the mind. Slower wavelengths allows for more time between thoughts which then offers us more opportunities for to skillfully choose the thoughts we invest in. Let’s break down the five categories of brain waves:
- Gamma State – The brain waves are at frequencies ranging from approximately 30 to 100Hz. This is the state of hyperactivity in the brain and active learning. Gamma state is the most opportune time to retain information. This is why Tony Robbins and other educators have audiences jumping up and down or dancing around – to increase the likelihood of permanent assimilation of information and lasting change in one’s “state.” If overstimulated, it can lead to anxiety.
- Beta State – This is where we function for most of the day. Beta is associated with the alert mindstate of the prefrontal cortex. Brain wave frequencies in this state range from 13 to 30Hz and this is a state of the “working” or thinking mind: analytical, planning, assessing and categorizing.
- Alpha State – Brain waves in the Alpha state range from 9 to 13Hz. This is the state where brain waves start to slow down out of thinking mind. We become more calm, peaceful and anchored. We often find ourselves in an alpha state after a thorough yoga class, a walk in the woods, a pleasurable sexual encounter or during any activity that helps relax the body and mind. We are lucid, reflective, have a slightly diffused awareness and at peace. This is often accompanied by an inner and/or outer glow. The hemispheres of the brain are more balanced.
- Theta State – When brain waves range from 4 to 8Hz in the Theta state, we are able to begin meditation. This is the point where the verbal/thinking mind transitions to the meditative/visual mind. We begin to move from the planning mind to a deeper state of awareness (often felt as drowsy), with stronger intuition, more capacity for wholeness and complicated problem solving. The Theta state is associated with the sixth chakra (third eye), so in this state we are able to practice visualization.
- Delta State – The final state is the Delta state, where brain waves range from 1 to 3 Hz. Tibetan monks that have been meditating for decades can reach this in an alert, wakened phase but most of us reach this final state during deep, dreamless sleep.
A simple meditation to use to begin the transition from Beta or Alpha to the Theta State is to focus on the breath. The breath and mind work in tandem, so as breath begins to lengthen, brain waves begin to calm and slow down. Try this:
- To begin the meditation, sit comfortably in your chair with your shoulders relaxed and spine tall. Place your hands mindfully on your lap, close your eyes and as much as possible eliminate any stimulus that may distract you.
- Watch your breath. Simply notice your breath flowing in. Flowing out. Don’t try to change it in any way. Just notice.
- Silently repeat the mantra: “Breathing In. Breathing Out.” As your mind begins to wander, draw it back to your breath. Notice that as your breath begins to lengthen and fill your body, your mind begins to calm.
Consistency is key—try to do this breath meditation for 10 to 15 minutes first thing in the morning and/or at night. Be consistent with your meditation practice, particularly if it is difficult to sit still as you begin. Shorter meditation sessions on a regular basis are more productive than long sessions every few weeks.
Photo by Megan Kathleen
Ashley Turner is an innovator in personal development bridging yoga, psychology and neuroscience. She is an acclaimed yoga–meditation instructor, registered Marriage + Family Psychotherapy Intern, writer and Ordained Priestess. DETAILS magazine recently named Ashley Turner “1 of the Top 6 Trainers to watch in 2014” and Dr. Oz’s ShareCare.com calls her”the #2 Online Influencer for Stress Relief.” Ashley is the creator of the annual MEDITATION 101 FREE Virtual Conference, 7 best-selling yoga dvds and co-author of ”Aroma Yoga”. Known for her charisma, depth, and accessibility, she is a sought after speaker, coach, and presenter. Practice yoga with her anytime at MyYogaOnline. She works with clients worldwide via Skype and leads transformative events to power points around the globe. Ashley lives by the ocean in Marina Del Rey, CA, and in the mountains of Aspen, CO. AshleyTurner.org