Binaural beats are created from two different continuous tones, which when sent separately to each ear create a single beat inside your head. Isochronic tones are basically a single tone which is switched on and off at regular intervals. Imagine a single continuous tone playing on a stereo system and you’ve got your hand on the volume switch. Then once per second, you turn the volume off for half a second and keep doing that every second. For half a second the volume is off, for the other half a beat waveform is formed. The beat is cycling once per second per second, i.e. at a rate of 1Hz.
In addition to its calming physical effects, the relaxation response also increases energy and focus, combats illness, relieves aches and pains, heightens problem-solving abilities, and boosts motivation and productivity. Best of all, anyone can reap these benefits with regular practice. And while you may choose to pay for a professional massage or acupuncture session, for example, most relaxation techniques can be done on your own or with the aid of free audio downloads or inexpensive smartphone apps.
Brainwave entrainment is a field of study and endeavor founded in the same physiological and psychological processes that make music, drumming, and chanting so powerful as methods for transforming the mind and spirit and aiding in healing of the body. These processes involve how the electrical energy in our brains synchronizes with sounds and visual stimuli, producing a particular brainwave frequency and its associated mental states.
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.
Theta waves have a frequency between 4 and 7.5 hertz, making them slower than more wakeful alpha but faster than the dreamless slumber of delta. Theta brainwaves are the frequencies of nighttime dreams and REM sleep when the brain goes through bursts of activity and eye movement. People also experience theta waves in a state of light sleep, deep relaxation, during meditation and prayer, and when daydreaming. Theta waves produce an experience of inward wakefulness where we become disengaged from the outside world while engaging in inner activity. At the lower frequencies of theta, sleeping states are experienced, and at the higher range of frequency, awake relaxed states are experienced.
It is also possible that some people experience headaches which are almost always the result of the binaural waves. Fortunately LifeFlow can also be used without headphones, since it contains not only binaural waves but other forms as well. If you’re one of the people who suffer from headaches using entrainment, you can take off the headphones and use LifeFlow over open speakers. This usually solves the problem.
Business executive and radio producer Robert Monroe started experimenting with brainwave entrainment and has a series of powerful out of body experiences using it. In 1971 he published his cult classic “Journeys Out of the Body” sharing his experiences. He later created one of the first audio entrainment companies called Hemi Sync, alongside the Monroe Institute of Applied Sciences.
I have a strange reaction to Binaural beats, as well as isochronic beats, and anything similar. After listening, I often feel vey fatigued, nauseous, and sometimes quite depressed. This effect can last a few days. So I stay away from it now, as well as guided meditations that have such beats in the background. Have you heard of this kind of reaction before?
Your brain operates at certain levels of activity – the normal waking, active Beta, the meditative Alpha, the asleep-and-dreaming or deep meditative Theta, and the deep sleep/unconscious Delta. Beta is characterized by one thing we all want to get away from – stress.But that brainwave state has its place. It’s the action mode, and that’s the way it should be! If we’re not alert when we’re awake, bad things can happen, right?
I am fortunate to be working with Deepak Chopra, M.D., and Dr. Rudy Tanzi, co-authors of the bestselling book Super Brain, on a technology called Brain Wave Entrainment. Deepak is very well known, but Rudy is an amazingly interesting person as well. He is the Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Vice-Chair of Neurology at Mass General Hospital. Rudy co-discovered three of the four original Alzheimer's genes and today runs the Alzheimer's Genome Project. He also plays the keyboards, including, at times, for Aerosmith. He is kind of a real life "Buckaroo Banzai."
It takes slightly more time to practice guided imagery, but this is a great way to leave your stress behind for a while and relax your body. Some find it easier to practice than meditation, as it allows more engagement of the conscious mind. You can focus on imagining relaxing environments you would love to visit, or on memories of your "happy place" for when you're stressed. You can play natural sounds in the background as you practice, to promote a more immersive experience.
In addition to potentially boosting sleep-promoting hormones, binaural beats may also reduce our perceptions of pain. A 2017 study found binaural beats used in combination with visual stimulation led to reductions in patients’ perception of acute pain. Other recent research showed binaural beats helped improve pain perception in patients with chronic pain.
I call the kind of intuitions and inspirations that come when we meditate and do these kinds of practices my “marching orders.”Okay, this is what I need to do. We’re not using our brilliant linear minds here; that’s not the place wisdom comes from. The place of wisdom is, again, relaxing into these states with loving-kindness, and then all the stuff can come out, whether we are dealing with our shadow issues or dealing with our light issues—the wisdom and gifts we haven’t yet brought forth that need to be birthed.
There are five main categories of brainwave frequencies: Gamma (40Hz+), Beta (13 – 40Hz), Alpha (7 – 13Hz), Theta (4 – 7Hz), and Delta (<4Hz). Each category is associated with a different state of mind; so, for example, when you’re in a peak state of performance, your brain produces Alpha Waves, and when you’re in a deep sleep, your brain produces Delta Waves.
All of this is entirely understandable, even somewhat predictable. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes counter-productive. Such experiences, while having a certain feeling of solidity to them, are largely the product of our desires and expectations. Did your face get flushed? One look in the mirror confirms it did. Was this caused by the entrainment? No, it was not. It was the result of what was sought after and what was expected or even hoped for.
Research suggests the negative effects of stress on the body seem to be exaggerated in people who are inactive, a phenomenon called”stress-induced/exercise deficient” phenotype. Because we react to stress by experiencing changes in our neuro-endocrine systems, regular exercise is protective because it regulates various metabolic and psychological processes in the body, including reinforcing our natural circadian rhythms, sleep/wake cycles, moods and blood sugar levels.
Entrainment guides our brainwaves into targeted ranges, but they are ranges we go through naturally many times every day. LifeFlow 10, for example, takes the brain to a 10Hz frequency. We experience this same frequency when closing our eyes and taking a deep breath, or when consciously relaxing physical tension in the body, or when we find ourselves lost in a daydream, or when we view a beautiful sunset, or when we find ourselves caught up in an especially peaceful bit of music. If there was a cause-and-effect relationship between these 10Hz brainwaves and our face flushing, then our face should also flush when we enter that daydream, listen to that piece of music, watch that sunset, or close our eyes and relax. The same brainwave patterns are present during all those activities as they are while listening to LF-10. But these other activities don’t bring on the same face flushing.
If brainwave entrainment leaves you with unwanted side-effects (see below) or discomfort, you’re probably encouraging a range of brainwaves that are already excessive in some area of your brain. The way around this is to get a brain map to see what your brain’s strengths and weaknesses are, and see what (if any) brainwaves could use some encouragement.