How Meditation, Breathing Exercises, and The Chorus Method Work for Stress Relief, Nervous System Health, and a Life of Happiness
Written by Ali Abramovitz
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)(3)
- Improved attention and focus (4)
Scientists have concluded that meditation leads to these positive changes by improving how the cerebral networks in our brain function (5)(6).
But Chorus isn’t just traditional meditation. The Chorus Method incorporates breathing exercises, 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 (7).
Good news, breathing exercises can help!
By using controlled breathing, like we do in Chorus, we stimulate the vagus nerve and actively control our autonomic nervous system.
Here’s how the breathing exercises for stress really work:
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 deep 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, using both rhythmic breathing to the beat of music, as well as deep breathing.
These breathing exercises for stress, together with the music, 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
- Clearer thinking
- More control over your emotions
- Enhanced connections with loved ones
- And with time, greater overall fulfillment in your life.
Now…let’s do it!
- (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
- (3) “Increased Theta and Alpha EEG Activity During Nondirective Meditation”, 2009, https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2009.0113
- (4) “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
- (5) “The effect of meditation on brain structure: cortical thickness mapping and diffusion tensor imaging”, 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3541490/
- (6) Check out our blog post “How Meditation Actually Benefits the Brain” for more on the physical changes in the brain.
- (7) 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