Deep breathing is an easy stress reliever that has numerous benefits for the body, including relaxing muscles and quieting the mind. Breathing exercises are especially helpful because you can practice them anywhere. Perhaps more importantly, they work quickly so you can de-stress in a flash. The karate breathing meditation is a great exercise to start with, and this basic breathing exercise can be done anywhere to help you reverse your stress response, get back to being more proactive (rather than reactive), and face stress with greater resilience.
“In order to get into a flow state, you have to calm a part of the brain, the posterior cingulate cortex, which is the source of what brain scientists call the default state, which is the non-focused state,” says Harris. “At any rate, it turns out that Holosync [binaural beats], when you listen to it, [calms that part of the brain] and so does traditional meditation. It’s just Holosync does it faster and more easily and more effortlessly. It turns down the posterior cingulate cortex and it enhances the other part of the brain that, when it’s enhanced, you can easily go into a flow state.”
They are not beyond what is “normal” but for most of us they are outside of what is “typical”. Whether we consciously seek them or not, somewhere in the back of our minds we hold beliefs that because meditation and brainwave entrainment are beyond our usual set of experiences, then the evidence that they are having some sort of effect on us must also be outside of our normal range of experiences.
These two tracks entrain the brain to specific frequencies in the lower regions of Beta brainwaves, beneath 20 Hertz. Most people are operating in a stressful brainwave frequency above 20Hz during their days, so listening to these tracks while you work, commute, run errands or anything else during your waking day will help you maintain a calm, yet active state of mind.
Because of the way they are created, there may be a positive benefit from listening to binaural beats without considering the brainwave entrainment aspect, but I haven’t seen any research on that. I first discovered brainwave entrainment through binaural beats about 10 years ago now, but they didn’t do anything for me. So I’ve never been a regular user of them. I believe isochronic tones are a more effective way to produce hemispheric synchronisation because they produce a much stronger response in the brain
Binaural beats are dual tones, each one slightly different from the other. You hear one tone in each ear and your brain responds by creating a tone to reconcile the difference between the two. Isochronic tones are single tones. The variation in pattern here is brought in by interspersing silence between the sound, which means that your isochronic tone does not have a continuous sound but tones broken up by silences. Studies show that isochronic tones have far more contrast than binaural beats because of the silence and sound pattern. This sharp contrast evokes a faster impact from your brain, prompting it to match the frequency more quickly. Also, isochronic tones are found to be stronger stimulants to the brain.
The phenomena of brainwave entrainment was first described in the scientific literature in 1973 by Gerald Oster in results published in an article in Scientific American entitled, “Auditory Beats in the Brain”. He showed that a specific brainwave could be induced when a person heard two separate, but closely related, sound frequencies, one in each ear. He discovered that when the frequencies heard by each ear differed by about 10 hertz, the brainwave pattern of the person hearing the sound would synchronize to the difference between the two frequencies. For example, if the person heard a 410 hertz sound in one ear and a 400 hertz sound in the other ear, their brainwaves would stabilize at the difference between the two, or 10 hertz. This technique is called binaural beats, and it is a fundamental principle of brainwave entrainment methods.
You’ve heard me talk before about how sound can make a difference to sleep. Patients often tell me that they fall asleep to relaxing music, they seem to find it really helps them let go of active thoughts and quiet their mind—which, like yours probably does, tends to race from one thing to the next all day long (aka I can’t turn off my brain syndrome).
Maybe a favorite popular song, a certain piece of Classical music, a raucous dance beat, the pulse of Reggae, Indian, or African drums, or the chanting of Gregorian or Tibetan monks, but you probably know how the sound of music, drumming, or chanting is capable of transporting you into an altered and joyous state of mind and uplifting your spirits.
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.
One faulty expectation as it pertains to brainwave entrainment is that listening to an entrainment track is the same as meditating. If you’ve understood the principles so far as they’ve been laid out you understand why this idea is completely untrue. If the answer is not yet obvious to you, read the material covering these principles again and try to grasp their meaning.
All techniques, whether mantra, focus on the breath, contemplation of a koan, or any other, are simply the vehicles we use to take us into (hopefully) a meditative state. Put another way, the purpose of repeating a mantra is not to get proficient at repeating a mantra. The purpose is to take us to a meditative state where the mantra slips away and is no longer necessary.
So to summarize their claim, they're saying that entrainment means that a binaural beat will cause your brain's electroencephalogram to match the pattern of the phantom beat. Well, if it did, entrainment certainly doesn't apply and would not be part of the equation, so we can scratch that off the list. But it doesn't make the claimed observation wrong. We do know that certain electroencephalogram waveforms are often associated with certain kinds of activity. For example, physical activity or REM sleep often produces an electroencephalogram with a sine wave of between 4 and 8 Hz, which we term a theta pattern. Waking relaxation with eyes closed often produces a pattern from 8 to 12 Hz, which is called an alpha pattern. There are only a few characterized patterns, and pretty general descriptions of what kinds of activities go with them. The claim made by the binaural beat sellers depends on much more granular and specific matches. For example, the claim that a binaural beat with a frequency of X produces the same effect in your brain as Vicodin is wholly implausible. Such claims presume that we know the exact frequency of the electroencephalogram in each of these desired conditions, and the fact is that brain waves don't work that way. It is wholly and absolutely implausible to say that desired brain condition X will occur if we get your EEG to read exactly X Hz.
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.
In physics, entrainment is the process of two oscillating systems coming to assume the same periodic rhythm, such as is observed when two clocks slowly synchronize their ticking and tick together in harmony after some time. Pendulums also achieve this same synchronicity when swinging in close proximity to one another, a phenomenon first observed and written about in 1665 by Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch scientist.
Since opening their online store in 2011, Binaural Beats Meditation has served “hundreds of thousands” of customers, according to James Matthews, the site’s customer happiness manager. “We continue to see an increase in interest… from individuals, but increasingly so from therapists using the music to help clients, health and wellness organizations, and businesses around the world.”