Posts under tag: Meditation Benefits

How Meditation, Breathing, and The Chorus Method Works: A Deeper Dive

Written by Ali Abramovitz 

Meditation

Not only can meditation make us feel better, but with consistency it can literally strengthen our brains. Yep, that’s right, we can actually rewire the neural circuits and strengthen physical connections in our brains. 

So, when you are meditating and feel control over your emotions, have an uplifted mood or positive outlook, you are actually training your brain how to do this in real life.

Numerous studies have found that meditation affects brain activity in some pretty awesome ways, including:

  • Reduced perception of pain (1)
  • Brain waves associated with feelings of calm become more pronounced (2)
  • Improved attention and focus (3)

Scientists have concluded that meditation leads to these positive changes by improving how the cerebral networks in our brain function. (4)(5)

Breath

But Chorus isn’t just traditional meditation. The Chorus Method incorporates controlled breathing, which assists in the regulation of our nervous systems.

Quick refresh: the autonomic nervous system is the part of our body that controls functions like heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pulmonary response and others. The autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts. First, the sympathetic nervous system, our fight or flight system, and second, the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest system. 

A common problem in modern life is that we are in a constant state of partial stress. That low buzzing of anxiety or subtle feeling of being on edge throughout our days, causing us to be irritable or impatient, struggle to focus, or have trouble sleeping isn’t just bad for our mental well being, it’s bad for our physical health as well. (6)

Good news, breathing can help! 

By using controlled breathing, like we do in Chorus, we stimulate the vagus nerve and actively control our autonomic nervous system. 

By breathing quickly and in a controlled manner, we intentionally turn on our sympathetic nervous system. This trains our minds to consciously access the nervous system, so we can control it. We turn up the sympathetic nervous system SO THAT we can turn it down and spend the rest of our days in a relaxed state of actual calm and no longer suffer from the chronic partial stress described above. 

On the flip side, by breathing slowly and in a controlled matter, we intentionally turn on our parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces blood pressure, relaxes our body, and calms our minds.

The Chorus Method

So…how does all this factor into Chorus?

The Chorus Method combines traditional meditation and controlled breathing, with music and personal guidance to make it easier and more enjoyable to improve the health of our minds and bodies.

We do this by starting off with concrete and tangible objects to focus on (breath, beat, teacher’s voice, tingles ✨) so that when we move into the traditional meditation on the back half of class, our mind is actually able to enter a calm state vs. wrestling to get quiet. You know the feeling when trying to FORCE yourself into a meditative state …yeah, we want to avoid that! 😉

You can think of the rhythmic “belly, chest, release” breathing as the “warm up” for the mind strengthening. Just like a physical workout, the warm up loosens the body up and gets the blood flowing so when you do the exercises they are more effective.

In this first part of class we harness the power of our breath, together with the music, to create space in our minds and bodies SO THAT we can effortlessly sink into that calm state we all love, and effectively strengthen our minds, by the end of class. 

Oxygen is the energy source for every metabolic process in our body and is essential to brain function. As we practice controlled breathing, we literally move oxygen through our bodies in ways that help on the molecular level to increase energy and brain capacity. Through this physical reaction, paired with mental focus, we create space in the mind so we can do the work of strengthening those “mind muscles.”

By adding Chorus to your routine on a frequent and consistent basis (we recommend at least 2 classes per week) you will feel tangible benefits outside of class like better sleep, more control over your emotions, enhanced connections with loved ones, and with time, greater overall fulfillment in your life.
Now…let’s do it!

Footnotes:

  1. “Cortical thickness and pain sensitivity in zen meditators”, 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20141301
  2. “Brain waves and meditation”, Science Daily, 2010: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100319210631.htm “Increased Theta and Alpha EEG Activity During Nondirective Meditation”, 2009, https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2009.0113
  3. “Mindful breath awareness meditation facilitates efficiency gains in brain networks: A steady-state visually evoked potentials study.”, 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30209327
  4. “The effect of meditation on brain structure: cortical thickness mapping and diffusion tensor imaging”, 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3541490/
  5. Check out our  blog post “How Meditation Actually Benefits the Brain” for more on the physical changes in the brain. 
  6. Premier Health: “Beware High Levels of Cortisol, the Stress Hormone”, 2017, https://www.premierhealth.com/your-health/articles/women-wisdom-wellness-/beware-high-levels-of-cortisol-the-stress-hormone#:~:text=Cortisol%20narrows%20the%20arteries%2C%20while,may%20constantly%20pump%20out%20cortisol.

The Chorus Method

So…how does Chorus work?

The Chorus Method makes it easier to calm the mind by starting off with concrete and tangible objects of focus (breath, beat, teacher’s voice, tingles ✨) so that when we move into the traditional meditation on the back half of class, our mind is actually able to enter a calm state vs. wrestling to get quiet. You know the feeling when trying to FORCE yourself into a meditative state …yeah, we want to avoid that! 😉

You can think of the rhythmic “belly, chest, release” breathing as the “warm up” for the mind strengthening. Just like a physical workout, the warm up loosens the body up and gets the blood flowing so when you do the exercises they are more effective.

Once we’ve created space in the mind by using the power of the breath coupled with the music, we can effortlessly sink into that calm state we all love, and effectively strengthen our mind, by the end of class. 

As we breathe, we are literally moving oxygen around in ways that help our physical bodies on the molecular level, and carve out the space in the mind so we can do the work of strengthening those “mind muscles.” 

By adding Chorus to your routine on a frequent and consistent basis (we recommend at least 2 classes per week) you will feel tangible benefits outside of class like  improved mental clarity, mood, focus, and sleep, and with  time greater overall fulfillment in your life.

Now…let’s do it!

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The Art of Unplugging

The idea of unplugging is great in theory, but certainly difficult in practice. We are constantly bombarded with emails, texts, push notifications – it’s easy to feel spread thin, and like our attention is never our own. That’s why we love to take every opportunity we can to remind you to take a moment. Take a beat. Reflect on all that you are. Because you are enough.

When was the last time you didn’t look at a screen for an hour? 2 hours? A full day? We are so plugged in, it’s easy to forget that looking at a screen 24/7 isn’t great for us, physically or mentally. Perhaps start by taking note of your habits: do you pick up your phone as soon as you wake up? Before you even sip some water or say good morning to your loved ones? Acknowledging a habit is the first step to making change. Tomorrow morning, maybe have a glass of water, wash your face, take the dog out, and THEN pick up that phone.

After reading this, close your laptop, put your phone down. Step outside if you can. Take a deep breath, in through your nose, out through your mouth. AAAHHHH. Isn’t that nice? In the week ahead, try paying attention to your screen time; see if unplugging a little more than usual helps reduce those feelings of self-comparison and FOMO that social media so infamously creates. Observe how small conscious acts can truly change the way you *feel.*

We can’t wait to unplug with you in class this week!

How to Rewire Your Brain For Gratitude

What three things are you grateful for in this moment right now? Can you write them down? On your phone, in a notebook, in an email to yourself – see if the feeling of gratitude intensifies when you right these things down.

Gratitude is an incredibly powerful mindfulness tool. It accomplishes so many things in a short amount of time. It rewires our pattern of thought to notice all the things that are going right in our lives, when we can often feel trapped in a story of negativity. It helps us call to mind things that bring us joy, adjusting our mood and outlook. It shifts our perspective and suddenly we can feel more optimistic about our present circumstances. And it’s totally free, can be done without a wi-fi connection, and takes mere seconds.

Try this quick journaling prompt throughout your day. Any time you feel stress or anxiety bubbling up, see if you can identify 3 things you feel grateful for. They can be seemingly small in nature, every little feeling of gratitude matters! If you have the time, see if you can jot those down quickly as well and amplify their effects.

We are so grateful for all of you and we can’t wait to see you in class!

Why Breathing Exercises Work for Stress Relief

In stressful situations, we know to “take deep breaths” to calm down. But why? In this post we break down the science of your breath.

One of the most important aspects of our Chorus technique is the active breathing practice we incorporate which helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Does that sound like a foreign language to you? Honestly us too, so we’ll explain.

The sympathetic nervous system is in charge of regulating bodily systems like heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation, etc. It gets activated during physical activity, which is great! It can also get activated as a response to stressful situations or thoughts, which can be not as great. It’s not ideal to have a text or email or a meeting increase our heart rate high enough to make us feel like we’re running a sprint. And it’s actually not great for our brain to constantly be activating the sympathetic nervous system during low stake moments. Enter the parasympathetic response!

Our parasympathetic nervous system is in charge of decreasing our heart rate and blood pressure in order to stimulate relaxation, sleep, and calm. And guess what activates this system? That’s right – your breath! The age old advice to just breathe during stressful situations is actually scientifically sound. Deep, focused breaths turn our parasympathetic system on, assisting us in accessing that peaceful meditative state.

The way we breathe in Chorus helps to calm the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, dropping us quickly into that relaxed state where we can experience relief from stress and anxiety, mental clarity, and prepare ourselves for a sound night of sleep.

To experience this first hand, join one of our San Francisco classes, and we’ll show you everything you need to know!

How Meditation Actually Benefits the Brain

We know that meditating makes you feel better, but did you know that it makes your brain work better? Not just your mind, but your actual, physical, brain.

For over twenty years scientists have been studying people who meditate before, during, and after meditation to understand what’s going on physically.

Benefits
Numerous research studies have found that brain activity is affected during and after meditation in ways that result in some pretty awesome benefits:

  • Reduced perception of pain(1)

  • Brain waves associated with feelings of calm become more pronounced(2)

  • Improved attention, focus, and ability to visually track multiple objects(3)

Scientists concluded that meditation leads to these positive changes by improving how the cerebral networks in our brain actually function.(4)

But what about physiological change? When we improve our muscle function – i.e. grow stronger – we can see physiological change; we get bigger muscles. Our brains are harder to observe, inside our heads after all.

Nevertheless, one aspect of physiological change has been documented. Scientists have shown that the grey matter in our brain – the area where most brain activity takes place – actually increases in mass with meditation.(5)

See! You think better; you get bigger thinking muscles.

…..Now, if you like us, have found it challenging to develop a meditation practice, even after knowing these amazing benefits, then join us for Chorus! During our signature classes, we combine different mindfulness techniques and breathe to the beat of an energizing playlist designed to make it easier to turn down the noise in our minds and ensure you feel something from your very first session. You’ll leave feeling calm, clear, and connected. Most importantly, we’ll help you change meditation from something you know you *should* do to something you actually *WANT* to do.

Until next time!
Ali & MK

Footnotes:

(1) “Cortical thickness and pain sensitivity in zen meditators”, 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20141301

(2) “Brain waves and meditation”, Science Daily, 2010: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100319210631.htm
“Increased Theta and Alpha EEG Activity During Nondirective Meditation”, 2009, https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2009.0113

(3) “Mindful breath awareness meditation facilitates efficiency gains in brain networks: A steady-state visually evoked potentials study.”, 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30209327

(4) “The effect of meditation on brain structure: cortical thickness mapping and diffusion tensor imaging”, 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3541490/

(5) “Eight weeks to a better brain”, The Harvard Gazette, 2011, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/

(6) “Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness.”, 2006, https://europepmc.org/articles/pmc1361002

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