The brainwaves of bliss

Last year I had a wonderful week in Shropshire, where I attended a writers' retreat. I could wax lyrical about this, but I won't, save to say I got so much done, and loved every minute of being in the middle of the woods, but no one but four other inspiring writers around. 

And although the book is edging nearer to completion (it's with an editor right now!), I wanted to share some exciting research I have discovered about yoga nidra and brainwaves.

Brainwaves are basically the way neurons in our brain communicate with one another. There are slow steady (low frequency) brain waves, and higher frequency brainwaves. The way I think of it is that some of the brainwaves are like posting someone a letter - it takes time to write, find an envelope, post, and be delivered - and some brainwaves are like sending a text or email (rapid to write, quick to send - as anyone who has drunkenly text an ex will know).

Now in case it wasn’t already blindingly obvious, I am not a scientist, so all the information here has been gathered from various training courses, books and of course, good old Google. My descriptions here are woefully simplistic, and to any scientists who dared to get this far, thank you for bearing with me. I simply try to explain, in scientific terms, an area which has not been widely researched, and even within yoga circles is not massively understood. In my research I often find conflicting messages, and so this blog comes with a disclaimer that none of this is certain. Just like life, hey?

So, the brainwaves - unlike much communication in our fast paced world, our brainwaves achieve a harmony in their message relaying. Just like a choir, there are the high sopranos, the low bass, and the altos and tenors in-between. Yoga and meditation help to bring these brainwaves into harmony, because when there is disharmony, there is often dischord in the life. Our perception of ourselves and the world is out of balance, and our overall health can suffer. 

There have been some great studies done on yoga and meditation, but it is yoga nidra that is my love. So, here goes:

Yoga nidra takes us predominantly into the delta state of being. This is also where we go in deep, restorative sleep, and is why proper restful sleep is so important in healing. This is where cortisol (one of the stress hormones) production ceases, and carbohydrates and cholesterol are metabolised. The delta state is sometimes called the state of empathy - so beautiful. Our mind is more relaxed in yoga nidra than in typical deep sleep because we have consciously removed the tensions.

Beta is our regular waking state of consciousness, a good place to be when making decisions and being productive, but a bad place to force the brain to continually reside because it takes so much energy. Remember being a student and relying on high sugar drinks and snacks to keep you going? That's those beta brainwaves for you, but even the Coke and Haribo is not going to help you here; running the brain in beta is really inefficient, so if anyone has ever found themselves pulling in later hours in the office and yet seeming to get less done, now you know why. 

The theta state is thought to be the state of the 'present moment' (thinking mindfulness meditation, to watching the sunset), and then the seemingly most mysterious brainwave of them all, the gamma. Gamma is the state of mind when we are actively engaged in the states of universal love, altruism and ‘higher virtues’ (as found by researchers, not just some hippy - although turns out those hippies knew what they were talking about hey?).

“Gamma is also above the frequency of neuronal firing, so how it is generated remains a mystery. It is speculated that gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence."

There are beautiful videos on youtube claiming to take you into different brainwaves, so check them out, and let me know if you find any goodies. If you fancy some delta brainwave action right now, why not take a yoga nidra break and listen to my dreamy recording focused on taking your awareness around the body, and if you want the real experience, why not sign up to a Restorative Afternoon and receive the gift of yoga nidra in the knowledge you are doing both your brain and your body good?