This blog was created from an interview with Joseph Kao, creator of iAwake’s Journey to the Center of the Self, and iAwake’s CEO John Dupuy, by Heidi Mitchell, who has been working with John for 11 years as assistant and editor. John introduced her to Integral theory and practice and brainwave entrainment enhanced meditation in 2007. Heidi is also a freelance editor of nonfiction books, blogs, and web sites. She can be reached at www.heidimitchelleditor.com.
It is common for people to try entrainment thinking it is going to produce meditation just because they listened to a track. Often they come away disappointed, feeling that nothing special happened. They decide entrainment isn’t what they were led to believe it was. Or they decide meditation is vastly overrated and for them at least, ineffectual. Their disappointment has more to do with not understanding the principles listed thus far than it does with the effectiveness of meditation and brainwave entrainment.
With digital upgrades, Berger’s machine is still in use today, known as an electroencephalography machine, or EEG. Berger used his machine to study the brains of psychologically normal and abnormal people and discovered the first brainwave, called the alpha wave and also known as the Berger wave, along with the faster beta wave, which he observed suppressing the alpha wave when subjects opened their closed eyes.
While the physiological and psychological processes being uncovered by brain science in the study of brainwaves is sometimes complex and still being investigated, certain basic principles are well-established, easily understood, and helpful for achieving the most effectively use of brainwave entrainment when seeking relaxation, improved sleep, lowering of anxiety, or other goals. This important background information and scientific knowledge presented here includes:
This depends on how ready your brain is to absorb the impact of the tones and how responsive it is. Most people experience a feeling of relaxation and calm right from the first session. The degree to which you feel these hinges on how well your brain reacts. Use it over a few days and you can experience unmistakable signs of stress reduction and improved clarity of mind. After a while, when you brain gets trained in allowing better communication between the right and left hemispheres, you will sense that the feeling of mental clarity and calm carry forward even hours after a session.
The use of brainwave entrainment techniques offers many benefits for overall health and well-being, including improved emotional stability, increased cognitive function, and a deepening of creative insight. Much of this benefit derives from the hemispheric synchronization occurring as a result of entrained brainwaves. This effect happens when the electrical impulses in both hemispheres synchronized to the same frequency being delivered through the entrainment source.
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Brainwaves are the collective electrical signal of millions of neurons working together in a living brain, producing our sense of alertness – or lack thereof - and producing our experience of reality. As brainwaves change, so does our perception of the world and our inner perception of ourselves. By learning to control our brainwaves, we can achieve specific, desirable mental states, such as feeling more relaxed, less anxious, more creative, more focused, or sleepier.
Sound and light are the most popular methods to entrain the mind, yet there are a few other options in our toolbox. Using vibrational energy from sources such as magnets and electricity has been proven to help overcome addictions, depression, and even treat neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. In this section, we cover these alternative forms of brainwave entrainment.
Entrainment is a physics principle in which one rhythmic system falls in synchrony with another rhythmic system. If you’ve ever found yourself moving your body to the beat of your favorite song, then you’ve experienced entrainment in its most basic form. Besides music, this principle can be found all around you, probably more than you realize. Here are a few examples:
That said, you achieve the best results when you listen to the tones in a relaxed, quiet environment, investing your complete attention to the tones and the effect they have on your inner self. Experts recommend that even isochronic tones be heard via headphones to cut out distractions from external noises. The best thing to do is give it your entire, undivided attention, so that you can experience the outcomes quickly and easily.
The most common way to use a brainwave entrainment is for a short-term benefit, to help guide your brain into a particular mental state at the time you need it. In a similar way to how you might take a sleeping pill before bed to help you get to sleep, or maybe drink some coffee or an energy drink to help wake you up and give you a boost of energy.
Alpha: Alpha brainwave patterns are associated with a state of wakeful relaxation. Slower and lower in frequency (between 9-14 hertz), alpha waves are dominant when we’re calm and relaxed, but still alert. Alpha waves are associated with states of meditation (your yoga class probably puts you in an alpha state), and also with our ability to be creative.
Science shows that massages reduce stress, but you don’t have to go to the spa—you can give yourself one right now. “Learning how to self-massage your foot, head, neck, or shoulders reduces the stress hormone cortisol, boosts your immune system, and increases the feel-good hormones oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin,” Dr. Serani says. You can even use a tennis ball or cold water bottle on your feet or neck. In addition, try rubbing pressure points like the webbing between your thumb and index finger, or your inner wrist. Another technique is the EFT tapping technique, literally tapping certain points on your body such as in between your eyes, your temples, and the center of your collarbone. “Tapping brings cleansing energy to the meridian points, as your mind directs the energy to what’s unbalanced in the body,” Whitaker says. “This restores your mind and body’s natural balance, which aids in releasing stress, worry, fears, and disharmony.”
Hi Rona, thanks for your compliments on my videos and the music I use, I’m pleased you’ve found them helpful. Regarding the pulse-like sound you’ve been hearing, I’ve never had anyone report something similar to that before. I also haven’t heard anyone on brainwave entrainment forums mention it. That is very unusual and because I’ve never come across it before, I’m afraid I don’t know what would cause that.
Theta frequencies have long been viewed as the doorway to the subconscious mind. Heightened intuition, deep relaxation, extrasensory perception, and vivid dreaming are all connected to this frequency. There is a distinctly dreamy and otherworldly feel that accompanies the Theta brainwave. Many therapists and hypnotherapists make use of the Theta frequency to tap into the subconscious mind and heal core issues. As such, this frequency is a powerful way to change limiting beliefs and do deep inner work.
In order to understand brainwave entrainment you first have to understand something about brain waves and electroencephalograms (EEG). Neurons are cells that communicate with each other through electrical conduction. When a neuron fires it creates a small electrical and magnetic field. These fields are far too small to measure by placing electrodes on the scalp, or even on the surface of the brain. The only reason we can detect the electrical fields of the brain is because many neurons are firing together – in synchrony. All brain waves that are measured by an EEG, therefore, represent a large group of neurons firing together.
And so we (not too surprisingly) begin to experience “symptoms” or “signs” of something that we do not ordinarily experience. Immediately, we associate these with the entrainment or the meditation. We wonder if this is something real or imagined so we often start asking others if they have experienced the same or similar things. We seek validation that our practices are producing tangible effects on us.
You don’t have to run in order to get a runner’s high. All forms of exercise, including yoga and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress. You can go for a quick walk around the block, take the stairs up and down a few flights, or do some stretching exercises like head rolls and shoulder shrugs.
Changes in neural oscillations, demonstrable through electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements, are precipitated by listening to music, which can modulate autonomic arousal ergotropically and trophotropically, increasing and decreasing arousal respectively. Musical auditory stimulation has also been demonstrated to improve immune function, facilitate relaxation, improve mood, and contribute to the alleviation of stress. These findings have contributed to the development of neurologic music therapy, which uses music and song as an active and receptive intervention, to contribute to the treatment and management of disorders characterized by impairment to parts of the brain and central nervous system, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer's disease, and autism.