Neuroscience Nerds Unite
From Yoga Nerd to Brain Nerd
I am far far away from being a neuroscientist. But… as a yoga nerd, I accidentally became a brain nerd. Following up on Meditation Basics - meet Neuroscience Tidbits. A brief and basic touch on neurochemicals, brain waves and why meditation works.
Without going into the ins and outs of the neurochemicals at play, I feel the need to point this out. Neurochemicals and our brain waves do ridiculously amazing things and while our body has been practicing, our brain has also been practicing. Specifically within action sports, we catapult ourselves into death-defying realms, where suddenly nothing else matters, which feels like no words could ever describe. If you flow, you know.
But it is highly possible to access these states in many other ways. So yes, we jump off of cliffs on our bikes and skis to automatically (sometimes) send ourselves into that beautiful and addictive neurochemical nirvana. And that’s cool. These folks who have mastered their skill set certainly gain accolades, athlete sponsorships and get paid a hell of a lot of regard. But the question remains – are they able to access that same state any time, any place, in any situation – living a holistic and truly well lifestyle? Think: On a yoga mat? In an intense conversation? In Los Angeles traffic? Day-to-day with family? Are they humble? Are they kind? Are there addictive or negative tendencies in other realms of life that would not equate to similar accolades? I can give many examples, personally and professionally, that point directly to NO.
On the other hand, we also can’t all go sit in a cave and practice meditation for 30 years to activate those same neurochemicals to cultivate that constant transformational elevated and perfectly peaceful state of a Buddhist monk.
Ultimately, in order to be well, live in harmony, creating peace versus unrest, our aim must be to cultivate this state, this experience, within all realms of life so that we can access remnants of it no matter what insane challenges life throws our way. It is not easy. It will be a challenge that arises regularly. And it requires stepping up, which will no doubt bring more challenge and test you in the most unexpected and intense ways.
The ski bum might effortlessly rip lines down crazy couloirs, but what does the rest of life look like? The uber successful tech guy might be making millions, but what does the rest of life look like? The seemingly perfect mother with impeccably clean and well-dressed children – is it all really so perfect?
Within the space of utter bliss in whatever we do, there is always the flip side. The flip side, more often than not, does not reside in the physical realm. It resides in the mental, emotional and much more subtle realms. Rituals, structure, movement, meditation, breath, great nutrition - for you very specifically, getting outside, conscious relationship skills, spirituality or any term that works for you, living and work environment, social life, service, creativity, finances and career, continuing education and overall lust for life … if only these all deemed sponsorships, big bucks and glory, right? And if only, when you thought you totally had your shit together in your 20’s, 30’s, 40's, you were right, right?
The takeaway is that just because people are capable of finding fleeting glimpses of oneness and pure bliss in the physical realm does not mean they have it all figured out in reference to holistic health and overall wellbeing. It does not mean it translates over to mental and/or emotional realms and quite often it is quite the opposite.
The talented artist, the unbelievable athlete, the million dollar suit, yes - even the world renowned yoga teacher, the seemingly perfect mother, the ever-giving social worker – all must also access the subtle realms that truly cultivate self-awareness, awareness of others, and how the two are intricately and inextricably connected. We all get yanked in different directions on the daily, but it is totally possible to foster an environment where we are meeting our needs and others equally, where our brain waves slow down bringing us to even deeper states of awareness and the perfect cocktail of neurochemicals show up to the party every day and every night. What is this mix? How can we incorporate it on the daily? Let's Après.
5 Categories of Brain Waves + How They Relate to Meditation
1. Gamma Waves - active learning, hyperactivity, most opportune time to retain information. Life Coach Tony Robbins employs techniques of overstimulation by having his clients jump up and down and dance which supports the prior in part by decreasing anxiety
2. Beta Waves – thinking mind, logical, working, analytical, planning, assessing, categorizing, pre-frontal cortex – where we spend most of our day
3. Alpha Waves – where waves start to slow down, moving from thinking to calm, peaceful, anchored, lucid, reflective, slightly diffused awareness, sometimes spacey like after an awesome yoga class. Yoga, walks in the woods, pleasurable sex are examples that lead our brains to this place where the body and mind relax and neural integration occurs.
4. Theta Waves – thinking/verbal mind transitions to meditative/visual mind, able to begin meditation, move into deeper states of awareness (often felt as drowsy), stronger intuition, more capacity for wholeness and complicated problem solving.
5. Delta Waves – that oh so elusive state Tibetan monks who meditate for decades reach. Most of us reach this state during deep dreamless sleep.
A simple meditation with focus on the breath can help you transition from Beta or Alpha to Theta state. The more time we spend here, the more we are able to cultivate deeper awareness, elevated levels of intuition, trusting our gut, becoming more creative and open to receive solutions to problems, we will work smarter versus harder and generally gracefully moving forward in the world. What is my simple daily meditation? Ask me. I would be more than happy to walk you through it.
KEY TO SUCCESS: Consistency. 5 minutes per day, every single day.
Meditators are regenerating on a cellular level resulting in youth, vitality, and optimal wellness.
87% decrease in chances of heart disease
55% less chance of getting cancer
Need More Motivation? Well then - here is why mediation works:
Because it forces us to be in the present moment.
It forces us to focus on what’s right in front of us, which becomes a habit. (Rather than worrying about what anyone else is doing.)
When you are right here right now, you are FREE.
Our mind has a natural negativity bias. It is wired to remember negative experiences to protect us. It takes effort and practice to strengthen the positive flexible parts of the mind that keep us honed in on the big picture - clear perception - and one pointed focus. This leads to progression > fulfillment > success > happy life.
Transforms negative thoughts. That downward spiral is real. It gets the best of the best. Meditation brings you back to neutral ground.
Teaches us to accept what comes up, moment to moment, without judgment. Start where you are and it will, with time and consistency, translate to all realms of life.
Supports ditching the drama – ask about this one as we will dip into depth psychology.
Banishes your inner critic. One we may have no idea even exists – but it does. And that guy will hijack you when you least expect it. The inner critic includes, but does not limit itself to:
comparing ourselves to others
focusing on what we did wrong rather than what we did right
Just to name a few because the inner critic does not like to shut up.
KEY TO SUCCESS: Yes, again... Consistency. 5 minutes per day every single day works wonders compared to 30 minutes every few days. Drop in. Every single one of us has 5 minutes.