Alpha is the next level down, between 8Hz - 12Hz, corresponding to being awake but deeply relaxed. It can be a little confusing that Alpha is lower than Beta, but it is named that way because Alpha was the first brainwave "discovered" (identified) by Hans Berger in 1929. Meditating in this state is very relaxing and most people find it very easy to become entrained in this frequency.
Start by kneading the muscles at the back of your neck and shoulders. Make a loose fist and drum swiftly up and down the sides and back of your neck. Next, use your thumbs to work tiny circles around the base of your skull. Slowly massage the rest of your scalp with your fingertips. Then tap your fingers against your scalp, moving from the front to the back and then over the sides.
Recently developed entrainment software has been designed to correct specific imbalances in hemispheric activity associated with undesirable mind-states. For example, people suffering with depression often have more activity in the right hemisphere, and specially designed brainwave music decreases this activity while increasing activity in the left hemisphere, reducing depression.
Yoga has been shown to have similar benefits, reinforcing the “mind-body connection,” improving how people (especially women) feel about their bodies, helping with sleep and controlling anxiety. A review of over 35 clinical trials that tested the effects of regular yoga on stress levels and health found that, overall, yoga offers significant improvements in various physical and psychological health markers for the majority of people. (3)
These brainwaves are actually a bit of a mystery. They’re the highest frequency you can achieve, but scientists are a little dumbfounded by them. Unlike the next set of brainwaves (Alpha and Beta), Gamma brainwaves don’t’ really translate to feeling active and alert. Rather, what’s been discovered is that in Gamma, neurons are firing so harmoniously, that people often feel like they are having a spiritual experience. This brainwave state has been associated with expanding consciousness and understanding the value of universal love and harmony.
“…humans have always been intrigued by the possibilities for influencing mental functioning that emerge from combining rhythmic sound and rhythmic light stimulation. Ancient rituals for entering trance states often involved both rhythmic sounds in the form of drum beats, clapping, or chanting and flickering lights produced by candles, torches, bonfires, or long lines of human bodies passing before the fire and chopping the light into mesmerizing rhythmic flashes. From Greek plays to Western opera, our most popular entertainment forms have made use of combinations of lights and sounds. Some composers, such as the visionary Scriabin, actually created music intended to be experienced in combination with rhythmic light displays.”
There are many advantages and disadvantages with binaural beats. One of the major advantages is hemispheric synchronization. Since both hemispheres are required to create the beat within the brain, this method is an excellent way to create greater harmony between areas of the mind typically functioning independently. Binaural beats are also known to have effective hypnotic and relaxing effects.
Hey, even before we spoke about creating Journey, I was thinking about how people across the world do their spiritual practices and the commonalities between them all. I was thinking, there is the path of stillness—which links right back to what we were talking about getting to a state of deep, profound relaxation and bringing clarity into stillness. Then there’s the path of rhythm, of rocking, of dancing. But there’s always a rhythm to it—even in the movements of Tai Chi, there’s a smoothness, a smooth rhythm. What it never is, is arrhythmic—those are the movements of a more anxious, frightened animal kind of thing.
Because the brain filters and interprets reality in a split-brained way, we tend to see things as separate and opposed, rather than as connected and part of the oneness spoken of by the great spiritual teachers (and, in the last few decades, by quantum mechanical physicists). Thus, at a deep level, the dual structure of our brain, in conjunction with brain lateralization, predisposes us to see and experience ourselves as separate from, and often in opposition to, the rest of the world—instead of experiencing the elegant interconnectedness between us and everything else. Our childhood associations and programming build on this inborn tendency by training us to seek this and avoid that, to move toward pleasure and away from pain, to do good and not bad, and so on. The greater the lateralization in the brain, the greater the feelings of separation—and the greater the feelings of separation, the greater the fear, stress, anxiety, and isolation.
Isochronic tones are the newest technological advancement in the field of brainwave entrainment. Isochronic tones are regular beats of a single tone. In fact, an isochronic tone is a tone that is being turned on and off rapidly at regular intervals, creating sharp and distinctive pulses of sound. This effect called “Amplitude Entrainment” tends to excite the thalamus and causes the brain to generate the same brainwave frequency (“frequency following response”) as the tone. The thalamus, vital structure lying deep within the brain, has multiple important functions: it is involved in sensory and motor signal relay, and the regulation of consciousness and sleep. Therefore, the use of isochronic tones is a very effective way to induce a desired brainwave state.
Most wisdom traditions have employed methods that allow the subjects' brain waves to slow down such as meditation, [Hindu] kirtan, [Gregorian, Menzuma or Sufi] chanting, Hebrew davening, Native American drum circles and rain chants, Tibetan prayer bowls, and whirling dervishes and African trance dancing. The rhythm of these wisdom tradition technologies actually slows people's brain waves from their normal busy brain frequency we call Beta (13-30 cycles per second or Hz), to Alpha (8-13Hz) -- meditation, Theta (4-8Hz) -- deep relaxation and dreaming, and Delta (.5-4Hz) -- slow wave or dreamless sleep.
Theta brainwaves are next highest in frequency above delta and are especially important for many people using brainwave entrainment and meditation because theta waves are at a threshold, forming a link between wakefulness and the subconscious mind. Theta waves bridge between our awake self and the creative and insightful understandings from below our conscious awareness, and while they are not common in awake adults, they are normative for children under 13 years old.
Some people believe that using this stuff can be a replacement for meditation. While sitting passively and listening to something that can give you the same effect frequency-wise as meditation, there is still far more benefit to meditating than just entrainment. Meditation and mindfulness allow you to really understand yourself on a level far deeper than technology will bring you.
The Frequency following response (FFR), also referred to as Frequency Following Potential (FFP), is a specific response to hearing sound and music, by which neural oscillations adjust their frequency to match the rhythm of auditory stimuli. The use of sound with intent to influence cortical brainwave frequency is called auditory driving, by which frequency of neural oscillation is 'driven' to entrain with that of the rhythm of a sound source.