The Genius of the Alpha State

Last month Maureen’s newsletter examined research about the human brain’s ability to develop new neurons, a process called neurogenesis, regardless of age. This new research is discussed in detail in my new book The Genius of Spirit: Using Dreams, Meditation, and Self-Awareness to Stop Insanity and Help Humanity.

This has great implications for the yoga community since wenow have solid scientific proof that over time meditative activities such as yoga potentially strengthen and increase those neuronal connections, essentially making us smarter!

My book takes a global perspective delving into the great imbalances that exist in our world. That age-old phrase the rich get richer while the poor get poorer has never been so true. Over three billion people, half our planet, survive on less than $2 a day. Our fastest growing commodity is the number of billionaires we produce, people who earn so much money it would take thousands of lifetimes to spend. The top 10 percent of the world’s wealthiest people monopolize 85 percent of the world’s wealth, while a child dies of poverty every six seconds. This poverty of spirit, where spirit is pushed aside while mind or ego takes over, creates a world of insanity.

Poverty will continue to plague us, unless we begin operating in greater numbers from the wisdom of our hearts, of greater right brained awareness, rather than the insanity of the mind. But what do dreams and meditation possibly have to do with this? These imbalances may only be reversed when we have a critical mass of people operating from the wisdom of the alpha state— informed, aware humanitarians. In alpha, that precarious realm of dreams and meditation, our brain waves are relaxed but aware, between 8 and 12 cycles per second; our core or true state. Alpha is the only brain rhythm where we can be both awake and alert or asleep, so it is the best state to enhance our lives. Our brain waves operate at different oscillating electrical voltages or frequencies, and alpha was discovered first by German neurologist Hans Berger, the man who also invented the EEG machine or electroencephalogram which measures these frequencies. They’re called alpha because they were the frequency discovered first, and Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet.

As a young man when Berger was enrolled in the cavalry, his horse reared during a training exercise and he landed in the path of a horse-drawn carriage. Berger didn’t receive serious injuries, but was badly shaken and never forgot his brush with death. His sister who lived several miles away had a sudden premonition he was in danger and insisted their father telegraph him. Berger believed this was a case of “spontaneous telepathy” and while he was in danger, somehow he transmitted these thoughts to his sister. He entered medicine with the goal of investigating this psychic energy in the brain. Like many important discoveries, his findings were met with skepticism, and colleagues considered him a crank. He successfully recorded the first alpha brain waves in 1924, but filled with doubt, didn’t publish his findings until 1929. It took another 14 years before EEG machines gained global acceptance.

Thanks to Berger, we’re able to understand the genius of the alpha state. Neurofeedback allows researchers to watch the brain in action, and train participants through brainwave biofeedback to become aware of and maintain the alpha state for longer periods of time. Corydon Hammond, at the University of Utah School of Medicine, a leader in this field, believes that neurofeedback training has the potential to quiet the mind, and improve sports performance without the use of drugs. He feels it holds great promise to enhance concentration and attention, reduce anxiety, improve control over emotions such as anger, and to overcome effects from mild head injuries and concussions. Studies have shown that alpha brain waves increase just before peak physical performances, while novices or inexperienced athletes do not exhibit these same alpha spikes. Before their best free throws elite basketball players show a burst of alpha brain waves along with elite golfers, archers, and marksmen. Greater alpha brain wave spindles have also been found in highly skilled musicians.

Alpha is the place of genius where our soul or spirit is free from the muddle of the mind–free to achieve individual greatness. It’s the place where we tap into love, compassion and the altruistic qualities needed to restore global imbalances. If we become overly reliant on technology we lose that ability to truly be present and to focus–we’re plugged into external devices rather than tapping into our own brilliant electrical devices–alpha brain waves. I’m not advocating giving up our gadgets, rather reaching a place of balance, where we’re not enslaved by them. If we really master the alpha state, we may have the potential to go beyond these gadgets–imagine having the ability to communicate telepathically with your best friend rather than using your cell phone!

In this alpha state we’re at our most perfect or peak level of insight and awareness, perhaps the place all humanity may strive for in the future. When we dream, meditate, take a yoga class, or relax in alpha, we remember who we truly are. We’re not just a body, or a mind. In our true or core state of alpha, we release all confusion, forgetfulness, disorientation, ego, judgment, fears and anxieties; we strive towards our greatness and we’re ingenious. This is the genius of spirit.

© 2014 Excerpt from The Genius of Spirit by Dr. Marina Quattrocchi

Published by Virtual Bookworm

Dr. Marina Quattrocchi began doing yoga in 2000, completed her teacher training with Maureen Rae in 2003, and became certified with the Yoga Alliance in 2004. After needing to take a break from yoga for six years, due to a severe case of osteoarthritis, she’s easing into teaching gradually, and is incredibly grateful she is able to teach. Her keen interests in dreamwork, meditation, and spirituality blend seamlessly with her yoga practice. She’s the author of Dreamwork Uncovered, and her second book The Genius of Spirit: Using Dreams Meditation and Self-Awareness to Stop Insanity and Help Humanity will be released shortly.