Riding the Wave
Theta waves. Reaching theta state. If you've researched floating much, you've stumbled upon those terms a few times. But, what are theta waves and what is theta state? What can those waves do for us? And how can we make them work for us?
In 1924, physiologist and psychiatrist Hans Berger recorded the first human EEG which allowed us to see what was happening in the brain. Our brains are made up of neurons whose only job is to send information to other neurons. This activity creates electrical charges that are measured by the EEG. Measuring those electric neuron communications helped us identify types of waves (or brain activity). For our discussion, we’ll focus on beta, alpha, theta and delta waves.
First, let's get a basic understanding of the types of waves.
Beta is your normal everyday state. Being alert, engaged, etc. that’s beta state.
Alpha state is deep relaxation. It's the space between beta and theta. Think daydreams or that chill space you usually find in the tank after your lizard brain stops trying to distract you but before you really drift away.
Theta state is a deeper state of relaxation. That sweet twilight right before we fully wake. You are not totally asleep but you aren't awake either. You might experience hypnogogic hallucinations.
Gamma waves occur at the deep, dreamless sleep stage. Typically 1.5 to 4 cycles per second. Your brain activity is at its lowest.
Now that we have an idea of what each stage represents, let's talk about theta specifically.
Studies have shown that when in the theta wave state, our minds are more accessible. We can experience deep learning, healing, and restorative relaxation. People who meditate for long periods (like Zen monks) reach and stay in theta state. Ned Herrmann writes, "The ideation that can take place during the theta state is often free flow and occurs without censorship or guilt. It is typically a very positive mental state." Being in that zone is when our brains (quite literally!) slow down.
So, where does floating fit into all of this? Floating allows us to get to that theta state because all distractions are removed. Without that constant barrage of input, our minds are able to disengage and let go. Neuron communication slows, cycles slow and we're open to healing, learning, creativity and more. We're are still in the early scientific stages of understanding how floating can help us achieve theta state and the doors it opens for us. If you're interested in more of the science and study of floatation therapy, check out the Laureate Institute for Brain Research website.
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