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September 4, 2023

Building WellFi Pt.2: Science

The Science Behind Breathonics — Music, Brainwaves and Breathing

Real solutions, rapid results. Music, frequencies and breathwork are all proven to benefit psychological and physiological function. The Breathonics team applies research-based evidence to create and refine their own proprietary formula into bite-sized breathwork sessions in the BRX app. Feel great in just 5 minutes.

Are there days where you lack energy and can’t get off the couch? Or just when you needed to be sharp for that big work meeting, you find your thoughts scattered, unable to concentrate? BRX is proven to help. In our last blog, we discussed the need for mental fitness solutions, the rise of Wellness Technology and the release of the BRX app. Now, in Part 2 of the WellTech series, we’ll dive into the science behind Breathonics.

The Breathonics concept lies at the intersection of music, science and technology. The formula combines guided breathwork sessions with an electronic music tracks or soundscapes suited to each outcome (e.g. improve focus, gain energy, catch more sleep, etc.), and binaural Hertz frequencies corresponding to brainwaves (which we’ll unpack below) to help you override your mind and body systems, swiftly changing or enhancing your state. Each breathing protocol is represented by an animated symbol.

By occupying multiple senses in these breathing exercises, users experience a level of engagement that keeps their attention from drifting (important in today’s world where we are primed for constant stimulation). It also caters to the wide variety of people’s preferences / cognitive learning / processing styles, and serves as an inclusive measure to reach people with compromised senses (e.g. blindness or deafness).

BRX is based on the science of the human nervous system, split into two: the Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord) and the Peripheral Nervous System (Somatic and Autonomic Nervous Systems). The latter (ANS) is linked to the Vagus nerve: a control mechanism for the ANS which connects the brain, body and gut, and regulates many critical bodily functions (e.g. breathing, blood pressure, heart rate and digestion).

The ANS comprises two halves: the Sympathetic Nervous System (arousal / fight and flight), associated with the production of adrenaline and noradrenaline (and other stress hormones). The other is the Parasympathetic Nervous System (recovery / rest and digest), associated with homeostasis and calmness.

Breathwork is proven to influence the ANS and HRV (heart rate variability). In short, asserting control of the breath directly impacts how we feel. Each state-of-being is related to a breathing pattern (e.g. panic breathing is typically fast and shallow, happiness breathing tends to be slow and deep). Humans are the only mammal with the awareness and ability to reverse-engineer this process. Inhaling activates the sympathetic side of the ANS, while exhaling activates the parasympathetic. An extended exhale quickly signals permission for the body to relax.

Breathonics has teamed up with specialists in the fields of music, science and tech, including audio producers, psycho-musicologists and tech developers to create an experience like no other: the BRX app, whose formula is backed by evidence drawn from research papers and literature reviews related to stress, breathwork, music and more. Let’s take a look at what this academic writing has to say on the matter:

Believed to contribute to over 50% of physician visits worldwide, stress is a phenomenon known to us all, “regardless of socio-economic status, education, race, or creed” (ibid.). Prolonged exposure to stress leads to other physical, mental and emotional health implications, including brain function, memory, cognition and learning, immune system function, cardiovascular system and more (EXCLI Journal).

Breathing and emotion have a symbiotic relationship, affecting and revealing insights about one another. For example, breathing “[changes] in response to changes in emotions, such as sadness, happiness, anxiety or fear”, while vice versa, deliberate, controlled manipulation of the breath can alleviate, change or enhance states of being (MedCrave). Rhythmic breathing, alluding to a musical component of breath manipulation, “facilitates physical, mental, and social well-being” during and after practice, in both short and long term.

Stressors of modern society can be relieved through nature-based rehabilitation, supporting swift recovery and return to work in those dealing with severe stress. Emulating the exposure to biophilic sound (“such as chirping birds or the sound of the breeze”) in the form of digitally produced soundscapes helps to mimic its calming effects on one’s wellbeing.

Music has long been known to affect our mood. Modern science allows us to verify these anecdotal claims. Looking at electronic music, studies have found the following:

  • The excitement from the composition of a track’s breakdowns, build ups and drops stimulate the brain’s dopaminergic reward system. This encourages us to move our bodies and dance, and can also be utilized to improve physical stamina, athletic performance and health in general
  • Tempo holds much influence over our state of being. Broadly speaking, slower-paced, down-tempo music grounds us. Our heart rate and emotional valence (perceived positivity or negativity) decreases, and increases activity in regions of the brain associated with the default mode network (autopilot mode) — think of this all as mentally switching off, acceptance and letting go, bearing resemblance to meditative states. Faster music creates an uplifting effect, generating activity in regions of the brain corresponding to positive emotions and activation of positive emotional valence. Our heart rate increases to keep up with the pace.
  • Looking at tempo in more detail, research shows that music at speed of 60bpm (beats per minute) induces Alpha brainwaves. These waves are responsible for inducing a state of relaxation. At double the speed, music at 120bpm (a popular tempo for electronic music) is “the frequency of the fetal heart rate, and the same beat believed to be used by South American shamans to bring their tribes into a trance state” (Dr. Douglas Rushkoff). 120bpm is also said to be humankind’s “preferred tempo” (best speed of performing repetitive movements), aligning with trance or flow states.
  • Honing in some more on specific genres, techno provides great focus without distraction due to its repetitive nature and very little presence of lyrics
  • House music, with its “positive” sounding major key vocals and melodies, makes us feel happy (although this, along with all hypotheses, is subject to individual preference and socio-cultural influences)

In clinical settings, music has been shown to affect positive changes in cardiovascular and mental activity, “associated with reductions in BP [(blood pressure)] and RR [(respiratory rate)]”, reducing stress, pain, anxiety and even depression (European Heart Journal). The effect of music on the heart-brain axis is well known and documented, “evoking and modulating emotions as well as moods, and is associated with activity changes in brain structures known to modulate heart activity, such as the hypothalamus, amygdala, insular cortex, and orbitofrontal cortex,” indicating music’s potential as a “low-cost and safe adjuvant for intervention and therapy”.

Investigating the effects of music on the brain brings us to brainwaves: recorded activity typically captured by EEG scanners, measured in Hertz (Hz) frequencies — exactly like sound. Waves are indicative of certain states of being, determined as follows:

“Waves can be categorized as delta (1–4 Hz), theta (4–8 Hz), alpha (8–13 Hz) (which is sometimes divided into alpha 1 (8–10 Hz) and alpha 2 (11–13 Hz)) and beta (more than 13 Hz). Another category of very high (30–40 Hz) frequencies is referred to as gamma waves.”

(National Library of Medicine)

Studies on BWE (brainwave entrainment), including binaural beats and isochronic tones, yield positive physical and mental outcomes. Most striking is that brain entrainment can directly induce mental states, as “was demonstrated that a group of individuals exposed to 6 Hz sounds for 10 min presented a significant increase on theta wave (4–8 Hz) cortical activity in comparison to control group that did not receive the stimulus,” (Revista Mexicana de Neurociencia).

In the BRX app, you can find an array of sessions featuring the proprietary combination of guided breathing exercises, bespoke music for the session, and binaural Hertz frequencies akin to brainwaves, all represented by a unique breathwork symbol. Here are 4 different breathing protocols: 2 Power Down exercises to help you rest, and 2 Power Ups to recharge. Feel great in just 5 minutes.

That’s it for the Science of Breathonics. Stay tuned for the next blog, where we’ll dive deep into the tech.