What are you Thinking?

The thinking mind! 

Its called a monkey mind in yoga and indeed it does jump around all day long from one thought to another. We need to be more aware of what we are thinking and how our thoughts effect our physiology and our moods. 

DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK

The human mind has a tendency toward the negative, on average adults think 3 negative thoughts to one positive thought. We need to be aware of this so we can consciously shift it. 

To offset this negativity bias, we need to mindfully notice when we have a good experience — Savor it, stay with it! Reflect on it, lean into it. Sense how it feels in your body, and realize you can create that same feeling over and over again. Even if you only extend the feeling by 10-15 seconds this is enough for your brain to build on and strengthen positively inclined neural pathways.

Some thoughts help us stay balanced, and some bring us out of balance. Yoga and meditation is mostly about developing the mind control to choose the good thoughts and to practice reinforcing thought patterns that lead toward harmony and peace while weeding out or not following the thoughts that lead to separation and disharmony.

It starts with Filtering your thoughts. 

Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts (you won’t)— its about developing a filtering device for your thoughts.

“You train your mind to do this by switching your attention just as you change the channel on your TV set. There are many injurious channels in the mind, negative channels like anger, greed, arrogance, fear, and malice. But for every negative emotion there is a positive emotion, and you can learn to change channels.”– Eknath Easwaran, Take Your Time

Long time meditators (over 20 years) when hooked up to biofeedback devices only were able to stop thinking for 12 seconds at the longest, with the median time being 7 seconds. If you think meditation is about stopping thinking you are setting yourself up for failure.

Meditation is about choose the happy productive thoughts, and let the negative or overly critical ones go. It takes practice, it won’t happen overnight.  

THINK OF YOURSELF AS A THOUGHT METEOROLOGIST

What you think sets your mood.

When you catch yourself in a negative thought pattern, ask yourself, do I know this thought to be true? Or am I just worrying that it might be? Be careful with worry, it can manifest what you don’t want. Your thoughts create a palette in your mind that your body paints an image of, which starts to make it happen. (Bruce Lipton book)

The practices of yoga are mainly about the mind, we use asana for the health of the body of course but it is also used to take your attention, like a pause on the monkey mind. 

Meditation is a tool to strengthen your mind to develop the power of mind to stay focused on one thought —and to be selective with your thoughts. A weak mind will not be able to shake off the bad thoughts, nor will it be able to stay focused when you need to focus on a task.

 A word about Rumination

Rumination aka re-hatching — the worst thing you can do!  Rumination is directly linked to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and digestive issues.  (Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Why Ruminating is Unhealthy and How to Stop. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/why-ruminating-is-unhealthy-and-how-to-stop/)

When you are faced with an unpleasant situation or find yourself mad or upset at something someone did — It’s important to stop yourself from ruminating on it.

Remember the old saying “It hurts you more than it hurts them”? It’s true.

Instead try to paint a positive picture of the best possible outcome from this situation.  Every time you start to worry —or ruminate— train your mind to go back to painting positive outcomes. 

Imagery and visualizations are some of the most powerful faculties we have as human beings for changing our minds, which changes our physiology. It changes  our body. It changes our health.”

When you catch yourself ruminating; pause, get outside, smell an aroma, do a quick loving kindness meditation. Change your mind, give your mind something to think on —draw, doodle, color, any one of the arts, listen to music, repeat a mantra or chant. Sing a song! You give your mind something to think about and when it starts ruminating again, bring it back to what you are doing.

Getting outside —Vitamin N or vitamin nature —is a way to shift your thoughts.

Citrus and floral scents actively work on both the physiology of the body by helping your body uptake more of the calming neurotransmitters while eliciting a change in the hormonal response encouraging the feel good hormones to be released.

One of the main culprits of a nervous system gone awry is the disconnection from nature. Getting out in nature is one of the best ways to calm the mind and relax the nervous system. If its not possible to get outside (for example, in the middle of your work day) then bring the outside in with aromatics, citrus fruit, and flowers 🙂 

We need to get in the habit of checking in with your thinking mind often. And also check in to how you are talking to yourself. We talk to ourselves all day long. I tried a meditation practice where you don’t talk to yourself —ha! It’s impossible. What it did make me aware of is how badly I spoke about myself to myself. Talk to yourself as if you are talking to your best friend or your young child. Most of us talk to ourselves very critically which by itself can switch you to a bad mood.

To do this mind work we need to strengthen our intellect – the buddhi in yoga

It is the intellect that filters the thoughts.The intellect is what we use to monitor the mind and make the decisions as to which thoughts we are going to continue to think. Intellect is the mental capacity to solve problems, to understand concepts; it is not part of the thinking mind, which is why it can be used to filter the thinking mind.

Intellect is what we use to be aware. It’s a deeper mental space that we want to spend more time in. 

There are different ways to strengthen and purify our intellect depending on your belief or culture. You can do meditation or prayer or any practice, such as forest bathing, that calms the thinking mind and allows you to access the awareness part of yourself. 

One of the best ways to improve your intellect is to practice the witnessing meditation I’ll talk about later.

We are trying to use the higher parts of our mind; in the front and higher areas of the brain are we contemplate and think wisely, and not be in the lower brain is where stinking thinking and stress response occurs. (Holly mentioned an upstairs brain and a downstairs brain —we want to set the stage to be in our upstairs brain.)

We’re using the practices of yoga and aromatherapy scents to access the higher areas of the intellectual brain so we can respond with more wisdom and less from our wounded child place.Through this work is where our inner growth and personal development improves.

It is also where we find the deeper sense of oneness with all living beings. Within this layer of our intellect lies the beginnings of understanding oneness. This recognition brings greater compassion, love, and acceptance.

It is highly unlikely that one will be able to maintain this awareness 24/7, rather it will come in waves of perception, increasing in duration (hopefully) over time. As this happens you will notice you don’t get caught up in the daily dramas your mind tells you about. You also don’t get so caught up in what other people are doing. You will have less stress in your life and more calm.

It seems to me; being able to access and operate like this, is the essence of all yoga practices.

Yoga offers tools to help with the thinking mind.

These tools also regulate the nervous system by strengthening your PNS. When we are PNS dominant happier thoughts are more likely.

You want to think of your PNS as a muscle you need to strengthen. The vagus nerve makes up 80% of our PNS. We strengthen our PNS through vagus nerve stimulation:

What stimulates the vagus nerve? Meditation, breathing exercises, aromas, singing or any vibration in the vocal cords, being around those we love, being outside —these are just some of the ways to strengthen our PNS. 

Even activating a smile can make a shift because the vagus nerve monitors the corners of your mouth for stress. By smiling you send the signal to your brain ‘hey, get happy! Don’t fake the smile —activate the smile!

Vagal nerve stimulation has become popular and all practices of yoga are about stimulating the vagus nerve —plus many others like splashing cold water on your face, gargling, coughing —are all tools available to us to stimulate your vagus nerve. Massage, socializing and laughing are also  nice ways to stimulate your vagus nerve. You don’t need an expensive device with a fee for using the app to stimulate your vagus nerve.

These two sides of our nervous system are called our autonomic nervous system because it is mostly involuntary … but not so much! Yogis have demonstrated they can influence which part of their nervous system is dominant, heart rate and blood pressure —at will through breathing practices.

Breath awareness is a powerful gateway to self control. It quickly transforms our physiology, calms our mind fostering clarity.  After getting conscious with your breath the next step is crucial — mind control to align our thoughts, our thoughts become our words, and actions. Align your thoughts to your true self — steer out minds toward goodness

We can consciously shift from being sympathetic dominant to parasympathetic dominant, with ~ Breath & Mind (thoughts)

BREATHING EXERCISES CAN BE LIKE BRAIN CANCELLING HEADPHONES

Meditation and breathing exercises or pranayama are synonymous. When we meditate use the breath, and when we do breathing exercises we are focusing the mind in a meditative way on the breath. 

It’s about capturing the mind.

Through breath and awareness we can slow our heart rate, shift our nervous system, change our brainwaves, and relax our arteries improving blood flow. Try some breathing exercises called pranayama and experience it. I offer classes online, contact me.

Meditative aromas can be helpful for this practice. I like to take a slow whiff with 3 resonance breaths (a slower breath rate of about a 5 second inhale and a 7 second exhale).

The best breathing exercise — Laughter 🙂

Pay attention to how you feel after a few minutes of breathing or a yoga class. Calm? We call it the yoga high. Ahhhh. This is because you just spent about 15 minutes stimulating our vagus nerve.

Through mindfulness of your thoughts and awareness of your breathing patterns you can have this feeling while you are at work, driving, cooking dinner, and other times throughout your days. In actuality you want to pay attention to not get too far from this feeling in your everyday life. 

When you feel like this, your heart is more efficient, your breath is more effective —your body heals, repairs, fights disease. 

The farther away you get from this feeling, the less your body can repair and take care of itself.  And you could experience more emotional disturbances.

And more importantly KNOW WHEN YOU SLIP AWAY from this feeling. Which takes a level of awareness that is healthy for us.

And then use your tools to slip back into it; Mindfulness of your thoughts, your breath, your posture, your tone of your voice, gratitude, and simply to just RELAX.

This is what all this yoga is about.  Yoga is a self soothing tool, through its practices yoga is all about strengthening your vagus nerve. That is what is giving you the feeling of calm

Now that we are more easily able to change our channels, I want to share a channels talk I learned from Ram Dass.

What Channel are you on? 

This is from Ram Dass with some excerpts from me included.  I have found this talk of his very relevant.  I have expanded on some of his original ideas.

Channels of operation = levels of consciousness. Once we are aware of these channels or levels we can see beyond the body, the goal is to see the soul behind the eyes — see souls not the bodies.

Our Body is a Space Suit

We were born into a body that houses us, its just a body suit or a space suit.

If we separate our soul from our body realizing our soul is inside our “body suit” it will make us easier identify to other souls inside their space or body suits.

From there we can start to realize how our thinking mind creates this separateness. From there we also realize our thinking mind is not the soul. 

Our mind has channels, we can choose which one we want to operate on.

So which channel are you operating on? 

  • Channel 1 – is the body channel. We see male, female, old/young, fat/thin, blonde/brunette.

    This is also the channel of Mating . . . Spreading our seed . . . This is also the channel of vocation, many people identify with their job.

    On this plane you see everyone as a potential, a competitor, or irrelevant . . . Channel 1 is the body or space suit channel.

  • Channel 2 – is the personality channel or as Ram Dass calls it the Therapy Channel — Everyone is happy but you. Are we happy, sad, anxious, delusional, grandiose, smart, searching, hoping.

    Where are you from? Are you a Mother, a sister, a hippie, a business person in a business suit, laid back, type A or type B. Channel 2 is about our personality.

  • Channel 3 … if you’re in to yoga or alternative practices you are probably already working on channel 3.  It is the new age channel; what is your astral story . . . are you scorpio, Pisces, aries? a fire sign, a sun sun?  What is your dosha?  Pitta, vata, Kapha, etc. What are your character strengths — zest, fairness, love of learning, courage … there are 24 different character strengths (from positive psychology).

    It’s the mythical channel, seekers of the holy grail tune to this channel.

  • Channel 4 – gets deeper and this is the channel we want to start to check out.

    Seeing the soul in others eyes . . . when you look into someone’s eyes, you see another inquisitive soul looking back at you with the same questions you have . . .

    It’s an awareness that is just packaged differently . . . it’s another entity just like you in a different package. It’s the soul plane.

    Have you ever experienced that?  Looking into someone’s eyes while speaking with them and having the feeling “It’s me in here looking at you in there”.

    This is the channel we can get deeper with our relationships.  Vulnerability is part of this channel, which makes us more sensitive to others vulnerabilities — and when we have that we operate at a higher level or consciousness in all our relationships.

    On this channel we tend to be happier, more at ease with who we are, more accepting of situations that don’t go as we planned. It’s a good channel to be on for mental health.

    We are “ventral vagal” on this channel, we socialize and are happy in community.

    But we are not done there!  There’s higher to go!

  • Channel 5 – now we don’t even see the body or the package — or even the eyes — we just see 2 mirrors facing each other.

    You realize we are all one . . . It’s a deeper awareness. There is only one of all of us . . . this is one is in hippie clothes, this one is in a business suit . . . it’s all one under there.

  • Channel 6 – Ram Dass says channel 6 is just to keep the Buddhist happy . . . in channel 6 we have gone back to the void, the formless.

    Like the peeling away of the layers of the onions the Buddhists speak of, when you peel away all the layers, what’s left? 

    On channel 6 you don’t even see the package or the soul inside — all you see is pure light in every human being.

In our life we have gone into somebody training — somebody training happens  on channels 1 and 2 — the ego channels. Many get stuck on these channels most of their life.

As we mature we want to change our channels to the higher ones of 4,5,and 6.

To get to these channels or planes of existence does require a practice of some type to develop  “internal awareness”.  It can be yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices or other spiritual practices —any practice that supports you in purifying your thoughts so you can view every being as a friend, and treating all with affection (maitrī). 

We want to operate our days on the soul plane or channel feeling connection with the people around us. This will give us more joy and reduce the risk of depression or bad moods.

Aromas support your elevation to the higher channels by calming our nervous system and tending our mind toward happier states. Combining meditation with aromas will support us even better in being able to change channels. To even begin this work, we need to have the level of awareness to know when we are experiencing stress hormones in our body.

Back to our thoughts

Our thoughts create our reality. I want to say this again in a different way, your reality is created by what you are thinking about your life. Your thoughts are your narrative of your life.

This is not new knowledge. We have a history of research by Albert Ellis in how our beliefs effect the consequences of what happened to us. He calls it —Cognitive behavior meaning “how you think”.

It is not what happens to us that effects us, it is how we think about what happened to us that effects us. Albert Ellis

How do you think about your life?  Or past traumatic events?

We all have had challenges and stories through our lives, how do you think about yours?  Your perception of those events effects your DNA, your health, and your quality of life. You can be your own alchemist and turn your challenges into strength and resilience.

If you think something is going to wreck your life, it is more likely it will do so. If you believe you can heal and overcome, then you can.

You can make this switch at will, anytime. It is within your control.  All you need to do is change your mind. Change what you are thinking. 

Example of how easy this can be: Imagine; you are walking down a dark street alone at night, you suddenly hear foot steps behind you -and they are getting faster.  You start to pick up your pace, heighten your senses, dart your eyes around —SNS ACTIVATED … then all of a sudden you hear a familiar voice call out your name -It’s a fried!  Stress response over.  Back to being parasympathetic dominant.

Just like the zebras 🙂 We can make this shift.
Based on the work of Robert Zapolsky (Why zebras don’t get ulcers) he shows how wild animals when faced with danger, quickly go back to homeostasis as soon as they outrun the predator. They don’t worry about “the next lion” until they smell it.

Most all stress is no longer life threatening as it was in the caveman days, it’s time for us to learn a new evolutionary response to stress. Ask yourself, “is this life threatening?”, if not RELAX. You can figure it out.

This is not about wearing rose colored glasses. 

Not only does “The body express what the mind suppresses”. What you suppress multiplies. 

We are not suppressing feelings, we are monitoring our thoughts about those feelings.

What people would call negative emotions are okay and part of being human. Know we can change channels —By slowing our breath, we can slow our minds, which can help us change emotional channels more effectively .

Look for resilient outcomes. Whether its big T and little t traumas, we can grow from them.

Resilience is the psychological ability to bounce back quickly after being knocked down by an adversity. Highly resilient people seem to be able to change course and move forward. 

People who naturally have more resilience usually have a positive attitude in general — they are more optimistic, they have the ability to regulate their emotions, and to see failure or challenges as helpful feedback. 

Part of resilience is learning to be ok with making mistakes. There are many stories of famous authors, sports professionals, scientists, or other professionals who experienced being turned down with their projects or had a significant setback early in their career, and then went on to excel later.

This is called Post-Traumatic Growth, which entails the struggle it takes to overcome a traumatic event and the ability to reconstruct life. It’s a fairly new concept but was coined nearly three decades ago.

PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) was coined after the Vietnam war, it’s taken almost 30 years to study, research, and develop tools to not just recover, but experience growth after trauma.

For the most part there is not much difference between physical and emotional trauma, they are processed in the brain similarly. Whether trauma is physical or emotional, big T or little t, it’s all trauma.

Trauma responses are built into all of us, the familiar fight, flight, or freeze response from the vagus nerve is a physical, physiological response to protect ourselves from a threat we’re confronted with. But humans are intellectual too, part of failing to come back or grow after the trauma has to do with accepting life under new circumstances.

It’s a reconstruction process that has to occur because we don’t understand our environment as we once knew it. Our environment took us by surprise and doesn’t look familiar in the ways we’ve come to understand it. It’s like our map we’ve been developing since childhood is no longer helpful. 

This produces an emotional response, a lack of understanding a world that now looks strange. This is a main cause of anxiety. Your alarm was tripped and now it keeps setting off, even though you’re not in danger.

It takes a new belief system to move forward, to navigate an unknown world. To reconstruct your world into something that allows you to move forward with a feeling of confidence, whether or not you can make sense of what happened. 

You have confidence that you know yourself, and you can navigate an unknown world. In your reconstruction you develop a way of being that goes beyond who you were before and what you were able to do before. You find an inner strength  you didn’t know you have.

There’s no timeline for this. Some may develop a reconstructed core belief system out of necessity for survival and others may take years. In the early years its hard to make sense out of abuse or the premature loss of a loved one. The growth that develops isn’t due to the event, its in the aftermath of the event that growth occurs.

Resilience is bouncing back from an experience pretty much to exactly where you were, while post traumatic growth is something new that comes out of the experience. You are stronger and more confident than before the experience. You are now better equipped, and you have a better cognitive map. 

There are five components from research that help people with post traumatic growth. This is based on research done at Boulder Crest Foundation by a team of researchers who interviewed many people who went through different kinds of traumatic events. The five components of post traumatic growth:

  1. Personal strength, more authentic after the experience. More resilient, self-reliant, confident, humbled.
  2. New possibilities, out of necessity many are confronted with having to change the trajectory of their life. New interests, new perspectives develop. Adaptability improves, one becomes open to more ways of being.
  3. Improved interpersonal relationships, feeling closer to people, more compassionate, more empathetic. They are better connected to community, they are comfortable to disclose about themselves—share vulnerabilities, and as a result of that feel closer to other people. They know what its like to be in pain, and they understand other people who are in pain.
  4. Greater appreciation for life, more gratitude. Not taking things for granted. You have a clear sense of priorities.
  5. Spiritual growth, finding meaning and purpose in life, deeper faith, meaningful beliefs and philosophies.

More on my Resilience blog: https://www.befitbodymind.org/learn-thrive/resilience-and-post-traumatic-growth/

The loving kindness meditation – when you feel hurt or mad at someone, worrying about something, stuck in rumination

One of my favorite meditations is the Loving Kindness Meditation aka Metta Meditation.  The story on this meditation goes back to the Buddha.  He was teaching his pupils how to meditate in the woods and they were afraid of the animals, so Buddha gave them this mantra to make peace with the animals and insects that were around them.  

The beauty of this is you can use it to make peace with nature, other people you know or don’t know, and even to large groups of people like a political party.  It can be a tool to make peace!  

I like to use this mantra to help me through times of worry, or if someone upset me, or if a loved one is ill or dealing with a serious situation or condition (I send it to them in my thoughts), I’ve sent it to my daughter the most in her teenage years! 

Simply saying these lines and sending intention with your thoughts can have the power to shift what is happening for the better.

Inhale and repeat each line on the exhale sending it to yourself or someone else.

  • May I (you or we) be filled with loving kindness
  • May I be well
  • May i be peaceful and at ease
  • May I be happy

 

We nurture out body’s physiology through breathing.
We nurture our soul’s physiology through love.
Combining breathing with love is deeply restorative.

“The research of Barbara Fredrickson has shown that practicing Loving-Kindness meditation improves heart rate variability, baroreceptor sensitivity (BP), and vagal tone, leading to an ‘upward spiral’ of positive emotions. Simply by having loving thoughts, directed at various people, you can improve your heart health. The positive thoughts release a cascade of electrical and chemical reactions in your nervous and endocrine system that are associated with healing and cellular repair.”- Eddie Stern, Healing Through Breathing

Controlling our breath is easier than controlling thoughts. Put aside time to deliberately have loving thoughts, the benefits are profound.

How do you think about stress?

Knowing stress is bad for you makes it much worse for you than if you don’t know it’s bad for you … so what to do?!? The word has long been out … we can be aware of the harms of stress — without having to succumb to them. 

(Ref. for this part are from the work of Kelly McGonigal on stress. She is a Stanford University psychologist and a leader in the growing field of “science-help.” McGonigal works to help us understand and implement the latest scientific findings in psychology, neuroscience and medicine. She also has one of the most watched ted talks. https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend)

When we do feel distress we can transform our stress to something positive.

First of all, not all stress is bad. A stress response that lasts 30-40 seconds up to a minute or two, once or twice per day can support a healthy nervous system. For example, see a car swerving your way — react and avoid it. Stress over, back to homeostasis. When we feel stress, we need to react then turn it off.

It is when you keep setting off the stress alarm bells, and marinating in stress hormones that can be more problematic. It starts with being aware you are feeling stress, then consciously releasing it.

  • Recognize the stress feeling in your body. Be aware of what it feels like.  Is it in your stomach? You palms? Shakiness? Is your jaw tight? Your breathing —is it shallow or oral? Worrying? Become mindful of where you are feeling your stress. Now identify what you can control. Your breath and your thoughts. Slow down your breath, get a grip on your thoughts.
  • Observe — don’t react. Its ok to feel stressed, if we can get ahold of our thoughts we can better put our stress to good use. Direct your thoughts to a positive outcome and steer your actions in that direction. 
  • Another yoga tool to help get control of your nervous system is the bandhas (which is beyond the scope of what I want to teach here) However Exhaling with your uddiyana bandha stimulates the vagus nerve. 
    • If you are having a hard time getting ahold of your breath EXHALE STRONGLY AND SHARPLY
    • Then take a slow inhale expanding your abdomen in all directions, and your rib cage —especially expanding into your back and side ribs.
    • Slowly exhale following the action of the diaphragm as you exhale, pulling your abs inward and upward at the end of your exhale,
    • Relax and inhale repeat these last 2 steps til you get ahold of yourself

Feel the empowerment of knowing your body is going to give you what you need in the moment. — energy and quick thinking. Turn your stress into motivation — motivation to address what is stressing you out and resolve it. Adrenaline does have an upside -its motivating. Put your stress to good use!

The quicker you resolve it the better, you will return to homeostasis ending the stress response.

You are most likely feeling stress because you care. Caring is good. 

Good stress and bad stress are chemically similar in the body — but do vary on which hormones are secreted the most.

Bad stress vs Good stress
Bad stress tends to narrow the arteries more than good stress — hence its higher risk of heart attack, good stress does not seem to have this effect on our arteries. What is the difference? Cortisol vs. oxytocin.

Oxytocin is also released in the stress response (as per the data spoken by Kelly McGonigal). Oxytocin is known as the cuddle hormone and makes us seek human connection. Adversity and stress can make us seek community. When you recognize stress, lean into your friends and family.  People who seek community during stressful times gain a better stress response (more oxytocin) and better resilience from their stress.

  • Cuddle someone —a pet, a friend, hug a tree. Cuddling will release oxytocin into our bloodstream which is the feel good “I am loved” hormone. Cuddling has been shown to also break the stress cycle allowing you to look at  your emotions and thoughts and sort them out for the better.
    • Feeling of self-love can also stimulate oxytocin. Massage yourself with an oil that has one of the cortisol reducing essential oils —or any eo that brings you pleasure.

To have more oxytocin and less cortisol it comes down to the difference between an enemy or ally. If the stress involves a person, befriending and attending evokes a positive stress response.

Essential oils that reduce cortisol:
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)

Rose (Rosa damascena)

Yuzu (Citrus junos)
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Litsea cubeba (Litsea cubeba)
Jasmine (Jasminum sp.)

Its called approach instead of fight or flee. The best thing you can do in a stressful situation involving someone else is to Befriend the person. Enemy thoughts = more cortisol, ally thoughts = more oxytocin.

Connect through your heart — Try to understand the situation from other peoples perspectives, put yourself in their shoes. Connect on the soul plane — see the yourself in the other persons eyes. Caring about the person you are mad at protects us from negative stress due to its oxytocin release.

Another tool — Stimulate your heart channel

Heart 7 is the source point for the heart channel and the Spirit Gate point in Chinese medicine. It is helpful for calming the mind and regulating the heart and circulation.

Putting a drop of sandalwood or lavender on the heart 7 acupuncture point on pinky side of wrist can increase this effect.

In bad stress situations we used to have to run and fight which would burn up cortisol and adrenaline. In today’s world we rarely run or fight —but we do have to think quick on our feet. 

Doing something can help you burn up the challenging hormones —and emotions. Get outside for a walk, go to your garden, clean something in your house. MOVE.

Use your breath as a tool to remind your body you have what it takes to handle the situation. Then use the energy from the hormones to dive in!

A word on Empathy, empathy is a positive emotion — how ever bad stress is contagious —  its’ passed through empathy. Don’t catch someone else’s stress by reacting to their stress. Attend to the person by nurturing, caring, and being courageous.

Here are some tips to avoid catching stress or other negative feelings:

  • I wear malas when I’m teaching (or Ganesh) to help protect my energy
  • I place 1 drop of sandalwood on my heart and massage clockwise
  • I also wash my hands after every class — the form of yoga i teach has a lot of hands on assistance
  • I chew on a clove bud
  • I use a teaching towel when teaching yoga, as I go from person to person I wipe my hands to clear the energy.
  • I take aromatic baths most nights or use aromas in the shower
  • I diffuse during in person classes or place a few drops of an oil or blend on the floor or peoples mats

While we know stress hurts our immune function and increases our risk for heart issues, joy actually improves immune function, and is good for heart health. Joy and courage can make our heart beat and breath faster, but it is a positive stress on the body.

There are so many ways to be healthy. Time to get more joy and less stress in our life, you can do this just by paying attention to your thoughts and consciously directing them.

My favorite meditation — The Witness

Its easier to witness yourself when you are with people. This can be especially useful in the challenging situation. 

Take pause, get into your subtle body and rise above yourself; gaze down on yourself watching how you interact and behave.

You can try it in a meditation too, take a moment and step outside of yourself. Gaze into your thinking mind —watch yourself with your thoughts. What are you thinking? Is your mind completely somewhere else? Are you thinking about the others? Are you hungry? Tired? Feeling any emotions? Observe. Be aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions— not judging or criticizing, just observing

See if you can see in yourself what perpetuates what you are thinking — again no criticizing!

This practice is called CULTIVATING THE WITNESS —become a neutral observer of your own life. 

The witness place inside you is simple awareness, the part of you that is aware of everything — noticing, watching what is around you.

The witness is actually another level of consciousness. The witness coexists alongside your normal consciousness as another layer of awareness. Humans have this unique ability to be in two states of consciousness at once. In any experience — sensory, emotional, or conceptual — there’s the experience, and there’s your awareness of it. That’s the witness, the awareness, and you can cultivate that awareness in the garden of your being.

That process of stepping back takes you out of being lost in your thoughts and into self-awareness. The witness is your centering device. It guides the work you do on yourself. 

“So your first job is to work on yourself. The greatest thing you can do for another human being is to get your own house in order and find your true spiritual heart.”
– Excerpt from Polishing the Mirror: How to Live From Your Spiritual Heart  by Ram Das

Another tool to cultivate awareness is feeling your heartbeat. This is a form of interoception. I find this easier to do when holding my breath. It may take some time for you to be able to feel your heartbeat, until you can start by palpitating your pulse.

  • Slowly inhale
  • Hold your breath, see if you can feel your heartbeat — count 8-10 of them.
  • Slowly exhale.
  • Pause empty – feel your heartbeat for 3-4 beats
  • Take a resonance breath and repeat

Meditation 101

Most of the work in meditation is internal.  You only need a brief intro into the basics of it, then you need to do it. 

It can be easier to meditate with a group, so meditation classes do serve their purpose —and it is nice community time.

Finally there is growing evidence that you want to do this! Our mind and body are connected —-and our mind and its thoughts have a direct impact on our physical health and our mood. 

Brain imaging techniques have proven meditation alters your brain and your genetic expression for the better.

The studies looked at several different meditation techniques —they all showed benefit — and they all proved you can not separate your health from your emotional well being.

Multiple studies have demonstrated that a persistent negative state of mind is a risk factor for heart disease. Conversely, happiness and optimism correlated with a lower risk of heart disease. While some people seem to be born “sunnier”, those who weren’t can use meditation to make this shift.

So many studies abound now showing meditation to lower heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol, and even improve cholesterol. These studies are consistent with the down-regulation of your HPA axis and SNS.
Nexus Magazine, How the Mind Changes Genes Through Meditation (PDF) (Archived)
Institute of Science in Society May 21, 2014
PLOS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002576
The Conscious Mind June 21, 2017 (Archived)
Psychol Bull. 2012 Jul;138(4):655-91

While the mind-body connection has long been shaken off by conventional medicine the American Heart Assoc. issued in 2017 it’s first guidelines on seated meditation suggesting it as a valuable adjunctive intervention for heart disease. Journal of the American Heart Association 2017;6:e002218

Stress related problems including pain, insomnia, acid reflux, and digestive issues account for about 70% of doctors visits. By simply incorporating mindfulness techniques this number reduced by 43% in a study that looked at 4400 people who went through an 8 week meditation training (1 hour 3x per week for 8 weeks).
https://time.com/4071897/stress-relief-healthcare-costs/

The list of benefits for this group goes on to include emotional health improvement, reduced anxiety and depression, improved immunity, pain reduction, increased kindness, improvement in brain health, improved sleep, and reduced inflammation even after the 8 weeks of classes.

Meditating for 20 minutes is akin to taking a 1.5 hour nap and provides your body with rest that can be even deeper than sleep. Even a short period of meditation helps you feel refreshed and more awake —this is because you are shutting down your senses. Your brain is constantly monitoring your senses and deciphering what they are sending in —this takes a LOT of energy,

Yoga uses the word pratyahara (5th limb) which means withdrawal from your senses. Turn the energy from your senses toward higher brain functions — such as monitoring our thoughts — instead of having to constantly translate what your senses are sending in. This is one of the reasons for the typical meditation hand position known as Jnana Mudra —we are touching self, something your brain recognizes.

We place our hands in our lap in jnana mudra, which is thumb and index finger touching, hands laying relaxed on inner knees palms up or palms down. This hand position keeps your prana or energy circulating in your body.

  • Palms up is actually called chin mudra, it is equated with a light feeling — lifting you up, and receptivity. Chin is derived from the word chit or chitta which means consciousness, so this hand position raises our consciousness.
  • Palms down is jnana mudra and is grounding effect. Jnana means knowledge or wisdom and refers to improving your intuitive knowledge.

Each finger in yoga philosophy represent something:

  • Our index finger represents our individual consciousness
  • Thumb represents supreme consciousness.

When we touch our index finger and thumb it represents the union that means yoga — the ultimate unity of individual and the Divinity or universal consciousness.

The pinky, ring, and middle fingers represent yoga’s gunas; Tamas or inertia, activity which is called rajas, and sattwa which is balance or harmony and luminosity. In yoga philosophy we have to pass through these states of being finding balance and then rise above to reach a higher consciousness.

Through meditation we get better acquainted with our minds and we enhance our ability to regulate our life experience of our environment rather than letting our predicaments in life dictate how we experience our life.

How meditation effects your brain:

All Meditation in general slows your brain to the alpha waves which bring your left and right brains into coherence, improves endorphin production leading to an increased sense of happiness —resulting in a more integrated personality.

Different types of meditation activate different parts of the brain.

Mindfulness meditation where you focus your attention on something; a flame, a word, symbol like OM, sound or visualization — activate the executive mode of your brain by keeping you in the now, the present. The object or word of focus is used to keep you present. 

This increases gamma brain waves —gamma waves are able to process information from different brain areas simultaneously. They pass information rapidly and quickly. Gamma waves help modulate perception and consciousness. Its the brainwave of integration, it helps us accept and digest our experiences. Gamma waves are the brainwaves of higher consciousness.     

Mindfulness meditations are some of the easiest meditations to learn!

Transcendental meditation— introduced to the world my Maharishi Manesh Yogi and make popular by the Beatles. It uses a mantra based on its specific vibrational quality in which you repeat to yourself a word, such as the word ‘one’ which is commonly used in the west or corporate settings —or a mantra such as the OM (the sound of creation), So-Hum mantra which means I am that, RAM means to shine (like the sun), or Shanti which means peace.

Transcendental meditation (TM) improves your corpus collosum —which is the bridge between your two brain hemispheres, TM strengthens this bridge.

Your left brain is in charge of the past and the future, language, math, critical thought. While your right brain is in charge of “right now”, intuition, inspiration, connectedness, creativity, and problem solving.

By strengthening the connection between your right and left hemispheres you gain access to more creative problem-solving and increase your production without adding stress.

The best meditation? The one you will do.

Ishvara pranidhana (the last niyama) is the term in the yoga sutras that means find the internal, spiritual, calming benefit from your practice. Ishvara is “supreme being” and pranidhana means “fixing” as in fixing your attention there.  

If we don’t find the inner spiritual meaning personally from our practices we are less likely to stick with them. Inner motivation is more effective than outer motivation (say to improve some aspect of health).

How to Meditate?

Keep it simple … just sit. Find a comfortable position. 3-5 minutes is a perfect meditation time for beginners. The only really required posture is to keep your spine straight, you can do that lying or sitting, sitting on the floor or chair or pillows or couch, just get comfortable and allow your spine to be straight. My favorite place to meditate is outside.

Then slow down your breath, and breathe through your nose only. Now what?

Outer focus vs. inner focus

You can choose an outer focus such as a mantra, candle, a sound, the sun, OM, anything outside of your body that reflects a higher spiritual purpose to you. Or you can choose an inner focus such as your breath or heartbeat or an area of your body that needs healing. 

You can even choose a visualization of something in your life you are trying to create or change. A new job for example; visualize yourself going to work at your new job and feel what it would feel like, see yourself driving there, walking into the space, smell in your mind the smells of that area of your new job. Play it out real time in your head.

Here are a few short meditations for you to try:

Outdoor meditations can help us tune into nature around us. Similar to forest bathing, smell the outdoor smells, hear the birds and the bees, softly gaze at flowers, feel the sun or the breeze — use nature to keep you present.

“The earth is the guru of the body. The sky is the guru of the mind.”

I like to sit on a cotton mat or a lambskin, you want a natural material that will allow you to ground with the earth while you are meditating.

You can also do a walking meditation —eyes open of course. Its a slow mindful walk where you match your cadence to your breath inhale for 3-4 steps and exhale for 3-4 steps staying present with your surroundings. 

You can also lie down on your mat on the ground for a lying mediation connecting your entire body to earth energy, feel supported by the earth.

Sun Meditation – This one is especially nice when you can sit outside and meditate.

  • Facing the sun, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, close your lips, and part your teeth.
  • Smile just a little.
  • Take your breath a little slower and a little deeper.
  • Now envision your heart is the sun. Feel the sunlight radiating outward from your heart. 
  • Feel this light illuminate your entire inner body, you are glowing from the inside out. 
  • Feel your heart shine your sunlight up your throat and let it reflect on your brain.
  • See your brain as the moon reflecting the sunlight. Feel your brain reflect what is in your heart. Sit with this.

Mindfulness meditation is learning to ignore our minds and, instead, listen to our hearts.

With mindfulness, you learn that your mind thinks thoughts. You learn to allow them to occur without much judgment. Ignore your mind so you can cultivate more of what is in your heart.

To come out of your mediation, take a deep inhale and exhale through your open mouth with a haaaaa sticking your tongue out. Rub your hands together to get some warmth and place your palms on your eyes for a moment. Bring your hands to your heart in prayer position and chant an OM if you like. Keep this feeling and take it with you as go off into your day or evening.

Breathing Meditation — Interrupted inhale aka Viloma (2 stage)

This is a two stage interrupted inhale with a 10 second exhale. 

We Inhale 3 seconds pause 2 seconds, then inhale 2 seconds and pause 3, exhale 10 seconds. This can be done seated or lying.

Start with 1-2 minutes resident breathing.

  • Inhale 3 seconds – PAUSE 2 seconds
  • Inhale 2 seconds – PAUSE 3 seconds
  • 10 second exhale

End with 1-2 minutes residence breathing and a one minute (or more) rest with belly breathing.

We can use these practices to break our mindless habitual tendencies. 

I have come to realize much of our maturation through these yoga practices leads us to be aware of our default natures, or the subconscious patterns, attitudes, and behaviors we fall into without consciously wanting to.

In science this is our default mode network (DMN). The simple explanation of our DMN is it is our programmed behavior from our childhood days that we relied on to get us what we want, or simply to feel safe in our environment.

A child who got what they want through temper tantrums will most likely be quick to anger as an adult, is an example. The DMN is your brain’s default mode you fall into when you not aware of your thoughts and how they make you speak and act. Usually when this happens you are pre-occupied with something else.

There is some recent research coming out on our default mode networks finding a connection between default mode network and cognitive challenges such a Alzheimers and dementia. Those whose default mode network is rumination or worry, may be at an increased risk for cognitive decline than someone who’s default mode network is more productive.

Part of our work is to be more aware of what is flitting through our brains as we do our activities of daily living. Can you change your thoughts toward spiritual and emotional growth and not worry and rumination? 

The simplest start is a Breathing Meditation with Resonance breathing — 18 breaths only. The same area of your brain that counts also handles worry. By counting, if you do think, it is less likely to be worrisome thinking. Resonance breathing is a breathing meditation.

  • Sitting or lying comfortably, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, close your lips, and part your teeth.
  • Smile just a little.
  • Close our eyes to little slits and look downward with an out of focus soft gaze, looking inward. What is your inner health? What is your inner thinking? Let it go.
  • Take your breath a little slower and a little deeper.
    See if you can take a 5 second inhale and a 5 second exhale.
  • See if you can keep this cadence or a comfortable cadence for 18 breaths (approx. 3 minutes) or more.
  • Every time the movie in your head starts, come back to your count. (Realize your mind can spin stories all the while you keep count! Try to be aware when this is happening.)

Now take this breath with your throughout the rest of the day.

In the book “The Mindful Body” by Ellen Langer, Ph.D she talks of a study where participants were led into an empty room and given a series of reaction time and mindfulness tests; beforehand one of three situations in it took place in the rooms.

  • In one room meditators had meditated for 45 minutes then left.
  • In the second room people watched a stressful video for 45 minutes, then left.
  • Third room was empty for 45 minutes.

Participants entering after the meditators or stressful video watchers found their rooms both more appealing and enlivening. However only the group entering the meditation room improved the reaction times in the mindfulness test.

Dr. Langer summarized, “These mysterious results suggest that somehow our mindfulness leaves a residue in the air and as such may affect the mindfulness of others.”

I experienced this walking into my own yoga studio —and others have commented on it as well. Just walking into the studio they start to feel lighter, they change their breathing, the feel happier. We truly can create sacred spaces in the areas we do our spiritual practices.

When we meet someone, we can feel on an intuitive level through our EMF fields if they are stressed or happy — this is explained by the concept of neuroception coined by Stephen Porges, Ph.D. However it seems to go beyond that —our “vibes” can remain in a room after we leave it. 

Make a point to leave behind positive vibes of attention and kindness. Filling spaces with traces of kindness 🙂

Which chemistry are you creating in your body?

Your thoughts choose which chemicals get created in your body; feel good chemistry or feel bad chemistry. Your thoughts set your moods.

Psychoneuroimmunology —a fairly new field but the knowledge has been around for a long time. Psychoneuroimmunolgy demonstrates the connection between the mind and the body. 

Your every thought produces a biochemical reaction in the brain. The brain then releases chemical signals that are transmitted to the body, where they act as the messengers of the thought. The thoughts that produce the chemicals in the brain allow your body to feel exactly the way you were just thinking. 

Every thought produces a chemical that is matched by a feeling in your body. When you think happy, inspiring, or positive thoughts, your brain manufactures chemicals that make you feel joyful, inspired, or uplifted —usually called endorphins. 

When you anticipate an experience that is pleasurable, the brain immediately makes a chemical neurotransmitter called dopamine, which makes you feel excited. 

If you have hateful, angry, or self-deprecating thoughts, the brain also produces chemicals called neuropeptides of stress. You feel hateful, angry, or unworthy. Your thoughts immediately become matter.

Unconscious ways of thinking become our unconscious ways of being — they directly affect our lives just as much as conscious thoughts do. 

Just as all thoughts set off biochemical reactions that lead to behavior, our repetitive, unconscious thoughts produce automatic patterns of behavior that are mostly involuntary — that is until you voluntarily catch yourself. These behavioral patterns become neurologically hardwired in the brain — they set your habits.

It takes awareness and effort to break the cycle of a thinking process that has become unconscious. 

First, we need to step out of our routines so we can look at our lives. Through contemplation and self-reflection, we can become aware of our unconscious scripts. 

Then, observe these thoughts without responding to them, so you don’t set off the stress cascade of chemicals that produce habitual behavior. 

Its this level of self-awareness I keep speaking of, so we can observe our thinking mind. When we can exercise control over our thoughts we pave the way for new patterns of thought that open up horizons of possibilities.

Yogas gives us strategies to deal with distractions so we can choose our thoughts and leave behind traces of kindness, these are from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali is not the author of the sutras, he is a collector of the information. He collected the information from the Vedas, Upanishads and other oral teachings, and arranged them into four comprehensive chapters within a philosophical context. Chapter 2 is the chapter most often referenced for yoga, it covers practices, kriya yoga, and the 8 limbed ashtanga yoga path as taught by Patanjali.

Sutra means thread or “suture”, and literally means to stitch something together. Each sutra is a short terse statement that can be translated many different ways depending on who is doing a commentary on them.

Patanjali’s main point is that yoga is the the mastery of the mind.

What in the mind needs to be “mastered”?  The six poisons; desire, anger, greed, delusion, pride, envy. These are distractions that can become obstacles when we dwell on them. All of us in a human body will experience these distracting emotions from time to time, it is when we dwell on them they become poisonous.  Patnajali gives us five suggestions to focus the mind away from these distractions, and four attitudes to have with people to help keep your mind harmonious.

Remedies:

  • Exhaling and restraining the breath is the first suggestion or remedy. When we hold the breath, especially after an exhale, carbon dioxide builds up in our body which has a calming effect on our nervous system.

    All breathing practices or breath awareness will help with this shift; erratic, shallow, mouth breathing sets off our stress response. Train yourself to be a slow, deep, nasal breather all day long. This is why we do breathing practices, we are trying to train our body to breathe in the manner we are practicing.

  • Sensation awareness — what are you bringing into your body through your senses? Scrutinize what you bring in through your senses as much as what you bring in through your mouth. See with your eyes what is pleasant, hear with your ears what is auspicious — don’t watch stressful movies, try to fill your senses with beauty.
  • Inner luminosity —the sun meditation we did — feel an inner luminosity or light radiating from your inner being. See it creating a aura of beautiful sunlight around you.
  • Stable mind. Meditation is the tool for this, being able to pull away from bad thoughts and switch to the good thoughts at will. Practice will allow you to do this easier over time.
    • By way of the heart – meditating on the heart. A tool to take control of your thoughts is to imagine breathing through your heart center. Try it! It makes you feel lighter.
  • Contemplating the stream of the mind (critical thinking). Learn to laugh at your thoughts or in some cases discover what past experiences has led you to the thoughts you are having which can empower you to strengthen your mind away from unpleasant thoughts. Your mind is not always correct, it thinks thoughts that are not true — or are only speculations. Learn not to believe everything you think!
    • Contemplating what your mind would be like if you had no desires — contemplate that you have everything you want in life, what would it look like?
  • And lastly by contemplating on anything higher minded whatsoever one likes 🙂

Yoga Sutras also gives us tools on how to behave in community and with other people. The four attitudes to have with people:

  • Friendliness to the happy
  • Compassion to the sorrowful
  • Sympathetic joy towards the virtuous. Be happy for someone accomplishments as if they were your own —don’t be jealous that they are not your accomplishments.
  • Equanimity towards the un-virtuous — in further words don’t let someone else’s wrong doing pull you off your center of well being.

YS 1:33

Buddhist quote:  “Most days 10-20 minutes of meditation are all thats necessary, except when you’re really busy, then a full hour is necessary” 

 As we wrap up “What are you thinking”, I want to revisit brain waves. Thinking affects brainwaves and brainwaves affect physiology and biology.

Different brain waves are associated with different functions in the body. When our brain waves are slower such as the alpha waves, we have more of a tendency to be creative and productive along with increased ability to rebuild through lengthening telomeres and increased stem cell activity.

Whereas the beta brain wave is a faster brain wave and is the brain wave we are in when we are working and doing busy-ness in our days. In the active beta brain wave we don’t do much rebuilding, we do more thinking.  It is our consciousness that we live out of most of our days. While it’s not bad (and quite necessary!) to spend some time in Beta brain waves, Continual high frequency processing is not a very efficient way to run the brain, as it takes a tremendous amount of energy.

However when we are in the “zone” — finding our flow where we work very efficiently while enjoying what we are doing our brain waves slow down the alpha brain wave. This slower brain wave is not so draining on our brain power. When we are in the zone we can do the work we do in beta mode but stay in alpha mode 🙂

Spending less time in beta thinking and more time in alpha thinking will keep your brain young. This is anti-aging for your brain .

Our body shifts energy to where it needs it — we don’t have enough energy in our body to support too many functions at once.  Our brain shifts energy from different areas as well.  Our brain also needs to reboot and it can not reboot when it is in high frequency processing all day (and night -if you can not turn off your thinking for sleep).

We are like the plants:

Think about plants — Those of us that know plants and when to harvest understand how a plant moves its energy; early in the spring plants energies are mostly in the roots, since the plant is small and depending on climate may have had to hibernate underground for the winter the roots hold the energy.  If you want the medicine from the root, you harvest in the spring.

Most Flowers have the energy of the plant in the early morning hours, usually flowers are harvested during the early morning hours to get more medicine from them — Some variations like night blooming jasmine will be collected at night since it blooms at night.

Late summer and into fall the energy of the plant is going to the seeds, it is in the fall we harvest the seed as the plant is putting more of it’s energy there.

Just as a plant moves energy, so does our body — AND SO DOES OUR BRAIN.

Our body doesn’t have unlimited energy to handle every system of the body all day long.  Instead our body moves energy around to where we need it.  During this process some organs and systems of the body may be deprived for a period of time — if it short, it’s not a problem.  If there is an increased or prolonged need for energy in one particular area or system, the other systems will start to be drained.

Let’s learn about brain waves and how they effect our physiology.  I have been starting to see a “snapshot” of what happens to several different functions in our body when we get tweaked — lets look at heart rhythms, brain waves, and our DNA under stress:

We know our heart rhythm is effected by our mood — and our breathing — and our heart rhythm effects how our brain operates:

  • When under stress our heart rhythm (using heart monitors) is erratic and disordered — these erratic signals travel on the neurons from the heart to the brain limiting our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason, and make effective decisions.
  • In contrast the more ordered and stable patterns of the heart’s input to the brain has the opposite effect – it facilities higher cognitive functioning that not only benefits the entire body but also profoundly affects how we perceive, think, feel, perform.

And our brain waves do this as well, it can be seen on EEGs when we are stressed our brain waves became erratic vs. when we are happy and calm they smooth out nicely.

And you know our DNA does this too!

  • When we are stressed our DNA literally closes up – gets tight — and does not function optimally.
  • When we are happy or relaxed, our DNA in turn relaxes and opens up where it can perform its healthy functions.

Pay attention — when we get “tweaked” it literally effects our health in many different ways.  You want to “choose your battles wisely” — and don’t let others tweak you too often!

Brain Wave Coherence (from EEGs)

We want to smooth out our brain waves too — and have coherence between the portions of our brain. The yogis figured this out a loooooooong time ago with cross over practices, how? Who knows?

Neuroscientists have shown cross-body movements help the left and right hemispheres of the brain to connect and coordinate. The more your hemispheres connect, the more optimally you perform on any given task.

When we use both eyes, both ears, both hands and feet equally, the corpus callosum which connects the left and right hemispheres of our brain becomes more highly developed.

The corpus callosum ensures both hemispheres communicate efficiently and allows for the sharing of information, learning, and memory between them. While most cognitive function contains right-brain and left-brain components, many functions, such as language or spatial reasoning, have a dominant hemisphere.

Yoga practices that improve the communication between the brain hemispheres include Transcendental Meditation (TM) and a funky “ear lobe squat” called Thoppu Karanam.

And the yogis knew about brain health through breathing and meditation practices as well. Now with biofeedback EEGs, and heart monitors we can see different types of pranayama exercises shift our brain into different wave patterns.

Brain waves speed up or slow down depending on what we are doing and thinking — both our physical and mental activities can effect our brain waves.

  • As we become more calm and slow down our thinking brain waves slow down too.
  • As we become more active in thinking they speed up.

When our brain waves are slower, these are some of the ways they effect our physiology:

  • Better mental resourcefulness and better mental coordination
  • lower blood pressure, heart rate, and lower levels of stress hormones
  • DNA replication become more efficient

As the brain waves get slower

  • Creativity and Intuition increase
  • Learning and memory improve
  • Stem cell activation improves! 
    • Importantly, certain frequencies stimulate the reproduction of stem cells, while other frequencies cause the stem cells to migrate and adhere where needed.  To use stem cells for healing, those are the three things required: replication, migration and adhesion, and all three can be triggered through meditation.

As they get Slower and slower

  • Brain efficiency increases improving mental performance
  • Cellular regeneration
  • Telomere lengthening happens
  • Empathy increases

Brain Waves 101:

  • Beta waves are the thinking, problem solving brain waves we use most of our days — at least those of us with brains.
    • Beta waves are during normal wakeful activity, it is a higher frequency at 13-36 HZ
    • Beta is a ‘fast’ activity, present when we are alert, attentive, engaged in problem solving, judgment, decision making, or focused mental activity.  Excerpts from:  https://brainworksneurotherapy.com/what-are-brainwaves
    • Beta brainwaves are further divided into three bands; Lo-Beta (Beta1, 12-15Hz) can be thought of as a ‘fast idle’, or musing. Beta (Beta2, 15-22Hz) is high engagement or actively figuring something out. Hi-Beta (Beta3, 22-38Hz) is highly complex thought, integrating new experiences, high anxiety, or excitement. Continual high frequency processing is not a very efficient way to run the brain, as it takes a tremendous amount of energy
  • Alpha waves are the light meditative state — sustain it for 15 seconds and you are “meditating” 🙂  Alpha is during rested, relaxed, meditative states at 8-13 Hz
    • (From the Daily Mind)   Alpha Waves: Healthy alpha wave production supports mental resourcefulness and better mental coordination. The presence of alpha waves is indicative of a general state of relaxation and relief from weariness. Many believe that alpha waves are the bridges between consciousness and unconsciousness. Meditation synchronizes alpha activity between the four regions of the brain: left, right, anterior and posterior. This effect positively correlates with creativity.
    • The presence of alpha waves is a sign of deep relaxation, without requiring the mind to be empty—they characterize wakeful rest. Alpha waves also promote calming changes in the nervous system. The result is lower blood pressure and heart rate and lower levels of stress hormones that are conducive to a calm mind.
    • The alpha state is the state of BEING PRESENT
    • Nose breathing and yoga increases alpha brain wave activity. (Mouth breathing exercise produces a significant amount of beta brain waves that are associated with a stress response).
  • Theta Brain Waves – this is the deep meditative brain wave. They occur during during deeper meditations and sleep – during the twilight phase between as we wake or drift off to sleep.  They are at 4-8Hz. 
    • Theta waves enhance creativity and intuition.  Theta waves are our gateway to learning and memory.  In theta waves we withdraw our thinking from the external world and focus on signals originating within. Theta waves are the 5th limb of the yogic 8 limbed tree – pratayahara or the withdrawal of senes.
    • Theta waves are said to help open the “third eye”
    • Theta waves increase stem cell production.
    • In theta we are in a dream; vivid imagery, intuition and information beyond our normal conscious awareness. It’s where we hold our ‘stuff’, our fears, troubled history, and nightmares.
    • Yoga increases Alpha and Theta brain waves
  • Delta Waves: These waves are characteristic of sleep — deep dreamless sleep, unconscious.  Extremely slow, but loud brain waves at .5-4 Hz, low frequency and deeply penetrating.  Maybe very experienced mediators can find delta waves in the waking moments.
    • Delta waves suspend external awareness.
    • Increases in delta waves is associated with higher brain efficiency and may improve mental performance and health.
    • Delta waves will cause a decrease in the stress-producing hormone, cortisol.
    • Delta brain waves increase cellular regeneration and telomere lengthening supporting healing and regeneration.  This is why deep restorative sleep is so healthy for us.
    • EFT tapping meditations (From TCM) have been shown to increase delta waves.
    • Delta state is the kundalini state.  Fusing of mortal mind w/ the divine mind.
    • The delta state is a source of empathy.
  • Infra-Low are known as Slow Cortical Potentials that underlie our higher brain functions.  They are so slow they are difficult to detect and measure.  They are <.5Hz They appear to play a role in brain timing and networking.  Very little else is known about them.

And then there is the new Brain Wave on the block:

  • Gamma brainwaves.  They are the fastest wave with a high frequency (like a flute) and are able to process information from different brain areas simultaneously.  They pass information rapidly and quickly.
    • Gamma waves are above the normal frequency of neuronal firing so how they are generated still remains a mystery.  It is theorized that a greater presence of gamma waves is related to a higher consciousness.  Something we need a little more of today!
    • They are the most subtle of brain wave frequencies, your mind has to be quiet to access gamma waves.
    • It is thought they help modulate perception and consciousness.
    • Gamma waves are only active in states of universal love, altruism, and higher virtues.  This is why it took so long to discover them!
    • Gamma brainwaves are the “download” brain waves — you know when a master of some type learned something as a download from the universe — it is in the gamma brain waves this happens
    • Gamma brain waves used to be thought of as “spare brain noise” (just like scientists used to call our RNA junk DNA!). 
    • Gamma is the wave length of happiness and integration.
    • And perhaps gamma brainwaves are the 4th mental state the yogis talk about.  Brain waves loosely correspond to the yogi concept of 4 states of consciousness which is represented by the om symbol — it is said the 3 represents the first three states; the waking state (beta and maybe alpha brain waves), the dream state (theta and maybe some alpha brain waves here too), the third state being the deep dreamless state (which corresponds to delta waves), and the 4th state known as Turiya which is symbolized by the half moon and dot of the OM symbol — the half moon represents the illusion of the senses which we have to go through to reach the “dot” of the perfect state of being aware of Awareness.  In this 4th mental state there are no ignorances or incorrect identifications with something other than Self.

Gamma is the brain wave of integration.  

Integration is important — whether it is a fun experience or one of loss or grief — we need to digest and integrate our life experiences so we can move forward in our life.

Gamma waves are our brain waives of higher consciousness —and of happiness 🙂

How can we integrate or shift into gamma brain waves?  We have tools:

#1 is perception!  Your perception can effect your brain waves.  How are you perceiving your life?  If you perceive your life as being a vehicle for higher consciousness you may be encouraging gamma brain waves.

#2  Kapalabhati and Bhastrika!  The faster breathing pranayamas produce brain waves similar to gamma waves — our brain waves of higher integration and higher consciousness. Brahmari also shows via EEG to increase gamma waves. It used to be said Brahmari increases theta waves but more recent studies reveal it to increase gamma. But then it might be individual … in some it may increase theta and others gamma.

Kapalabhati and Bhastrika initially gives one a sensation of excitation (due to their effects via EEG on activating temporoparietal cortical area brain waves) followed by emotional calm and higher mental alertness. While these faster pranayamas initially decrease alpha and theta waves, when studies looked at practitioners who had been practicing over 4 years they increased alpha and theta waves. So there is a positive adaption over time.

Agni sara, nauli, and surya bhedana promoted alpha waves. “They hypothesized that the brain responds to the somatovisceral inputs arising from the abdominal wall activity. The conclusion is that these Pranayamas stimulate specific receptors in the body, each of which has, in their turn, specific frequency of activity and localization in the brain.”

This study I recently came across also discovered the longer one practices pranayamas, meditation and awareness the more time each day they spend in alpha and theta brain waves. I plan to dig deeper into this research, I’ll keep you posted.

And the word is out … I just heard of a company that makes music to change your brain waves. They make music that can put you in delta, theta, alpha, and beta waves depending on what you are doing at the time (the company is brain.fm –no affiliation). Personally I’d rather use breathing and awareness to make these shifts at will.

What does all this mean? Our consciousness has an enormous effect on our cells.  This is a big leverage point for you health. We can consciously shift our brain wave patterns into healthier wave lengths through awareness of our thinking and breathing patterns. 

Research finds when you start your day with a short meditation you encourage synchronicity in your brain — you condition your beta thinking.  By slowing down your beta waves toward the alpha state your problem solving ability goes up 260%  in a slower brain wave state, our creativity doubles, and productivity increases.  This is why I wake up, sit up in bed and meditate for 18 slow breaths (about 3 minutes) most mornings.

When your brainwaves are out of sync it is associated with emotional and neurological conditions.

  • Over arousal in some areas is linked to anxiety, sleep problems, nightmares, OCD, anger/aggression, and chronic pain.
  • Under arousal in certain areas leads to depression and ADHD.
  • A combination of over arousal in some areas and under arousal in others can happen too — which causes instabilities in your brain waves or brain rhythms and correlates with tics, bruxism, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, migraines, narcolepsy, epilepsy, sleep apnea, vertigo, tinnitus.

Any process that changes your perceptions can change your brain waves.  You want to think thoughts that synchronize your brainwaves and all 4 sections of your brain, you will  make better decisions quicker.

The more I learn about the body the more amazed I am at its healing capacity — it is a self healing machine! The body heals naturally if you give it what it needs real nourishing food, some calm time, and connection with nature and other people.  

Pay attention to your thoughts and words to increase your healing potential.  Research shows that emotional immunity to negatives states of mind are linked to physical immunity and resisting disease. A person who can remain unshaken through emotional turbulence is less likely to get disease.

When times get tough it can be easy to fall into negative thinking patterns and detrimental self talk — kind of like our brains default mode network – which takes over and subconsciously keeps us in a negative pattern.

With consistent meditation and practicing awareness — catching yourself when you start the negative self talk and replacing it with more effective and uplifting talking and thinking it is possible to retrain your brain to a more positive default mode.

When you are going about your day — be aware of what your are doing … one thing at a time! If your mind is spinning while you do the dishes you won’t be creating slower brain waves where healing and regeneration happen … instead you’ll support the aging process.

  • Inhale reach for the dish, exhale slowly as you wash it, inhale place it in the rack, exhale come back to center. Repeat with the next dish 😉 

The brain is so powerful it can even simulate being in a woods just by looking at a picture of the woods.

Next time you lie down for rest pose after a yoga practice, see if you can fall into that light meditative sleep.  You may be encouraging the theta waves in your rest pose, why not?  You’ll increase stem cell production, open your third eye and receive information from the universe, and awaken from rest pose with more insight, intuition, and creativity.  

Now that’s something to take with you off your yoga mat!

 

 

 

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