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May 7, 2014

Neuroscience Proves that Meditation Works. ~ Rae Indigo

Meditation by h.koppdelaney

Since ancient times yogis have known what scientists are now able to prove; that the benefits of meditation are as numerous as they are profound.

Meditation may be the most effective method available to humans when it comes to harnessing the power of thought, as well as cultivating a sense of peace, clarity, happiness and even bliss.

When we learn to train our brain and focus our attention our full potential is cultivated, helping us to achieve peak performance in any chosen undertaking. We then make a shift from simply surviving to actually thriving, empowering ourselves to positively impact and improve all aspects of our lives.

Neuroscience has now identified five major categories or types of brain waves and each one corresponds to different activities.

Through meditation we are able to move from a higher frequency of brain waves to a lower frequency, thus activating different centers in the brain.

The slower the wavelengths, the wider the gap between thoughts and the more opportunity for you to skillfully choose which thoughts you subscribe to, which ones you invest in and the resulting actions you may take.

Here are the five major, scientifically designated categories of brain waves, exemplifying the evolution of the meditative state (they are measured in Hz – cycles per second).

1. Gamma State (30 – 100Hz): Gamma brain waves are the highest frequency of all brain wave types. It’s a state associated with hyperactivity and active learning. It’s also a state that’s the most opportune time to retain information. When over stimulated of the gamma state occurs, it generally leads to anxiety, resulting in stress.

2. Beta State (13 – 30Hz): Beta brain waves are associated with our normal waking consciousness and a heightened state of alertness, logic and critical reasoning. This is where we function for most of our day, a state of the “working” or “thinking mind” (analytical, planning, assessing and categorizing).

3. Alpha State (9 – 13Hz): Alpha brain waves are present during deep relaxation (usually when the eyes are closed); we feel more calm, peaceful and grounded. An “Alpha state” is often generated following activities such as a yoga class, a walk in the woods, a pleasurable massage and/or during or after any activity that helps relax the body and mind. In this “mindful” state the hemispheres of the brain are more balanced (scientists call this neural integration).

4. Theta State (4 – 8Hz): Theta brain waves occur during deep meditation and light sleep, including the all-important REM dream state. This realm of your sub-consciousness may only experienced momentarily as you drift off to sleep (transitioning from Alpha) or waking from deep sleep (transitioning from Delta). A state associated with strong intuition and/or visualization.

5. Delta State (1-3Hz): The Delta brain wave frequency is the slowest of these five and is experienced in deep, dreamless sleep and in very deep, meditation where awareness is fully detached. Yogis and Tibetan monks that have been meditating for decades have been known to be able to reach this state while in an alert, wakened phase, although most of us only reach this final state during deep, dreamless sleep.

One simple meditation anyone can use to begin the transition from Beta to Alpha and then to the Theta State is to focus on the breath.

Breath and the mind work to influence each other, so as your breath begins to slow and lengthen, your brain waves will follow suit and also begin to slow down and lengthen.

Once you are comfortable, with your spine straight, start by just watching your breath.

Simply notice it flowing in and flowing out.

Resist trying to change or alter it in any way.

Just notice it, remaining aware and mindful as it moves. It is likely that your mind will begin to wander (especially in the beginning), but continue to return, drawing it back to your breath.

The more your mind begins to calm the easier this will become. Be consistent; shorter meditations on a regular, daily basis are more productive than longer intermittent sessions done weekly or every few weeks.

What proponents of meditation have been saying for centuries is now confirmed and scientists can prove it.

Technological breakthroughs in neuroscience (such as researchers being able to monitor brain activity), shows conclusively that meditating has beneficial effects on the brain.

More and more scientific studies every day are acknowledging and demonstrating the broad range of mental (and physical) benefits of meditating regularly.

~

References:
[1] The Science and Clinical Applications of Meditation
[2] Functional brain mapping of the relaxation response and meditation (Pdf.)
[3] Meditation Associated With Increased Grey Matter in the Brain
[4] Integrative body-mind training (IBMT) meditation found to boost brain connectivity
[5] Neurophysiology of Meditation
[6] Neuroscience pushes meditation into the mainstream

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Apprentice Editor: Carrie Marzo / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: h.koppdelaney / Flickr

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Rae Indigo