Posts under tag: Meditation Research

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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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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