The key to effective learning, quick memorisation, effective decision-making, and creative thinking is to be in a relaxed and calm state. This is why you should only memorise when you are in a relaxed state, both physically and psychologically. Stress and negative emotions can hinder our ability to learn and remember, as the body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that put the body in a state of high alert. The human mind doesn’t prioritise memorisation.
To illustrate this, do this for me, press your hands together with maximum force and tell me where your focus is. Try to memorise in this state, it becomes clear that it is difficult to do so. This is what it is like when you’re trying to memorise in a state of high tension. But there are ways to make ourselves more relaxed and one of those ways is breathing.
How breathing can create better conditions to memorise Qur’ān.
The stages of brain waves
The brain works best in the beta stage, which is characterised by brain waves that oscillate between 31+ cycles per second.
Explaining the beta, alpha, theta, and delta states of mind (brain waves)
The stages of beta, alpha, theta, and delta refer to different types of brain waves. Beta waves are associated with a strongly engaged mind, while alpha waves are associated with relaxation and stage 1 sleep. Theta waves are associated with light sleep and dreaming, while delta waves are associated with deep sleep.
The states of beta, alpha, theta, and delta are associated with different brainwave frequencies. Each state has its own benefits, such as increased performance, motivation, creativity, intuitive guidance, energy and happiness, improved immunity, and enhanced learning abilities. Meditation can be used to reach these states and experience their benefits.
Entering the states of beta, alpha, theta, and delta through breathing is possible. To enter an alpha state of mind, one can practice deep abdominal breathing and focus on the breath. Regular meditation has been shown to increase alpha waves and reduce beta waves, while combining it with other techniques such as yoga breathing and qigong effortless breathing can help transition to theta and delta breaths.
The first state a person can be in is the beta state
The initial stage of brain activity is the beta stage, which is characterised by heightened awareness, motivation, and a high level of mental tension and scattered thoughts. In this stage, brain waves oscillate at a rate of 16 to 30 cycles per second. A person in a beta state include being in an awake state with conscious thought and logical processing, as well as being alert and actively processing information. Beta waves are high-frequency, low-amplitude brain waves. Alpha states, on the other hand, have been described as sublime, flying, floating, lightness, light, vast space, the opening of the heart, love, contentment and peace.
The beta state is not at all suitable for memorisation because this state is greatly influenced by negative thoughts and negative self-talk. We get can get about 60,000 thoughts a day, 80% of which can be negative, and we can speak to ourselves around 500 words, 88% of which can be negative.
Most of our decisions made in this beta state are bad. Our memorisation is slow, because unfortunately we tend to memorise and learn in this state of high stress and anxiety. How many of us have studied for days, and then at the moment of an exam we forget everything we studied?
The second state is the alpha state
A stage characterised by relaxation and psychological calmness. It is characterised by stillness, reverence, reassurance, and beautiful meditation.
We reach this stage in a natural way several times a day, for example:
- When we experience things in salāh (namāz) and recall what we recite from Qur’ān, the heart is present and the soul is reassured.
- When we feel a pleasant day, a person relaxes all the muscles of his body and thoughts.
- When we listen to an influential, emotional or motivational speech, the eyes shed tears
- When we read the Qur’ān while pondering and reflecting over the verses
This is stage in which we were able to memorise and remember quickly.
Alpha brain waves are associated with a relaxed mental state and occur when the brain is in a restful and awake state. Alpha waves induce feelings of calm, increase creativity, and enhance one’s ability to absorb new information.
This is why the alpha stage is called the ideal learning state!
Before we memorise anything from the Qur’ān, we must reach this state, in order to unleash our the mental capabilities that Allāh has bestowed upon us.
We will learn how to get there later.
The third stage is the theta stage
A wonderful stage is also characterised by deep relaxation, which a person enters naturally when he sleeps and may continue for some time (some studies say the first 45 minutes), such that a person is not aware of what he hears or what is happening in the world. This stage can also be used to learn.
Theta brain waves are associated with a very deeply relaxed state of mind, often described as an “autopilot” state. They occur when a person is daydreaming or taking time off from a task, and can also be experienced during REM sleep. Theta waves are the dominant frequency in healing, high creative states, remembering emotional experiences, memory retrieval, and more.
The fourth is the delta stage
A stage that is often called the minor death.
Delta brainwaves are the slowest measurable brainwave band and have the highest amplitude. They are most commonly observed in people during deep, dreamless stages of sleep, and an excess of delta waves when a person is awake may result in learning disabilities and ADHD, making it difficult to focus. Delta brainwaves are associated with deep relaxation, healing, and restorative sleep.
The best memorisation and learning happens in the alpha stage
If you want to memorise the Qur’ān faster and quicker then you should memorise while you are in the alpha state. This stage helps you memorise much faster than the beta stage, which, unfortunately, most of us memorise in, then we wonder why we don’t memorise a surah faster.
Most of those who memorise the Qur’ān in madrasah rush to memorise without taking enough time for psychological preparation and relaxation. Many psychologists used to take advantage of this stage in learning and studying.
Dr. Georgi Lozanov is known as the “father of accelerated learning” and developed suggestopedia, a learning/teaching theory based on his early-1960s study of suggestion. It uses techniques such as breathing, visualisation, and biofeedback to facilitate learning. His method was found to allow students to learn foreign languages three to five times faster than traditional methods, and researchers concluded that the results were positive. The students were memorising more than 500 foreign words per day, and their ability to retrieve words and sentences after several weeks was 90%.
Our madrasah systems (and secular educational institutions) are deficient in this aspect, as many students learn most of the time while they are under the shadow of tension, fear and anxiety, and anticipation for exams, those exams cause a lot of stress and anxiety among students, which leads them to forget a lot of what they learned the moment they enter the examination hall.
I hope our dear teachers learn these sciences and apply them in their classrooms, where learning can be done in a better manner and in an environment that encourages creativity.
Benefits of breathing for memorisation
Breathing can help improve memory by reducing brain fog, improving focus and working memory, and facilitating the retention of newly learned motor skills. Additionally, research suggests that the rhythm of breathing can influence neural activity that enhances memory recall and emotional judgement. Therefore, incorporating breathing exercises into one’s daily routine may help to improve memory. Deep breathing improves clear thinking, concentration and performance.
Breathing regulates blood pressure. Counting breaths taps into the brain’s emotional control regions.
Breathing the right way
There is no need for speed, just breathe!
When we start memorising, we accustom ourselves to speed. Speed in work, speed in achievement, even speed in eating, such that there is no time to eat with the family as before, so we rush to fast food restaurants, and unfortunately it is one of the main causes of obesity and illnesses.
This need for speed has also made it’s way into the way we breathe. Tension in breathing leads to the following:
- Enough oxygen does not reach to the bloodstream in your body.
- Your blood vessels narrow.
- The amount of oxygen that reaches the brain is not enough.
- Your heart rate and blood pressure go up.
- You feel a slight headache, more tension.
Which leads to:
- Chronic fatigue and weakness in strength.
- Chest pain
- Trouble in the arms, legs and hands.
- Spasms in the neck, shoulders and back.
- Stomach troubles.
- Anxiety and stress.
- Night sweats and bad dreams.
Breathing through nose best for memory.
Poor breathing is common and can lead to health issues. Breathing through the nose properly can reduce stress and calms the brain. The rhythm of your breathing affects memory. Researchers think that nasal inhalation triggers greater electrical activity in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional epicenter, which enhances recall of fearful stimuli. Inhaling also seems linked to greater activity in the hippocampus, the seat of memory. Controlled breathing may boost the immune system and improve energy metabolism.
According to some estimates, more than 50% of children and 61% of adults breathe through their mouths too often. As a result, we also risk bad breath, poor sleep, learning difficulties, tooth decay and even malformation of the jaw.
The importance of deep breathing for memorisation of the Qur’ān
Deep breathing can help you focus by reducing stress and calming the nervous system. It can also help you disengage from distracting thoughts and sensations, as well as reduce brain fog, improve focus, and boost memory. Additionally, focusing on the breath activates brain networks related to mood, attention, and body awareness.
Breathing is the immediate link to the body. Diaghramic breathing is linked to the brain. There is a direct link between emotion and breathing. Inhaling creates more oxygen in, which creates more energy. Exhaling creates relaxation.
There is some evidence that deep breathing practices can enhance cognitive performance, including memory. It is possible that mindful, deep breathing can help reduce brain fog and cultivate clear thinking. Similarly, the expert-recommended breathing techniques may help with concentration. Pranayama – alternate nostril breathing – is often performed for relaxation and meditation purposes. Studies into how breathing affects the brain have gained traction in recent years.
Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that can help reduce stress and anxiety. It involves consciously using the diaphragm to take deep breaths, allowing the breath to flow as deep down into the belly as is comfortable. Counting to yourself can be helpful to get into a rhythm and it is recommended to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
The importance of deep breathing also lies in the fact that many alternative medicine scientists assert that deep breathing cures 75% of organic diseases.
As deep breathing:
- Strengthens the lymphatic system.
- Treating many organic diseases.
- It breaks the negative state.
- Sharpens vital energy.
- Increases focus and strengthens memory.
Super oxygenated breathing (self generates adrenline), it boosts motivation and focus, and the immune system.
Do you want to know the reality behind the effects of deep breathing on memory?
As mentioned, on average, a person thinks 60,000 thoughts per day. Can you imagine such a huge number of thoughts? Our thoughts, unfortunately, lead us to stress, anxiety, fear and sadness.
We are constantly thinking. We think about our relationships, children, studies, work, the boss at work (or at home), salary, costs of living and will everything suffice until the end of the month? We think about business, the authorities, we think about our loans, debts, and think about our dreams – a dream house, an ideal future, a summer vacation, the states and achievements of our children, our professional futures, the futures of our children. The future of our marriage, the future of our country, we think about the past, we live in the past. Why did you marry so-and-so? Why did you join this line of work? Why did you specialise in this field at the university? Why did you take up this profession? Unfortunately, we spend most of our lives thinking. We think either about the past, or about the future, regretting the past, or worrying about the future. Meanwhile, we are losing our present time, wasting the present, the only time we have to live. These thoughts cause stress, anxiety, sadness, anger and depression.
Negative thoughts are a cause of mental illnesses, and many illnesses. Negative thinking, followed by tension and anxiety, prevents us from learning, prevents us from memorising well, prevents us from creative thinking, and prevents us from making the right decisions.
Now here’s the secret:
Deep breathing, it breaks those negative thoughts, it breaks that chain, it forces you to stop thinking, it brings you to the present moment. It pulls you to be present.
In a simple moment of deep breathing, in which negative thinking stops, the mind is emptied of thoughts, and the mind is prepared to receive what is coming without confusion, anxiety or tension. The mind is fully prepared to receive information, fully prepared to learn, fully prepared to memorise.
And that is the secret behind this, which will help us, if Allāh wills, to receive the Qur’ān with a humbled heart, a clear mind, and an open mind. It will help us to memorise a page from the Qur’ān faster (in seven minutes or less in many cases).
Let’s learn some breathing exercises
Several times a day, practice deep breathing exercises to improve your memory. Here’s how: Relax and exhale completely through your mouth. Then, through your nose, draw in a deep breath — you should feel yourself sitting or standing taller. Hold this breath for a few seconds to allow your body to absorb all the oxygen and then exhale through your mouth again, making an audible sound. Repeat this pattern three more times. As your brain receives more oxygen, you will likely find that you think better and remember more. As an added bonus you may even find yourself sitting and standing taller.
Deep breathing and relaxation exercises are distinguished by a very important characteristic. The exhalation time is always longer than the inhalation time, so that the exhalation is very slow, and it is desirable for the air to come out of the mouth.
Breathing exercise 2, 1, 4
It is one of the easiest exercises to prepare you for entering the early alpha stage.
- Take a deep breath for two seconds.
- Then hold the air for a second.
- Then exhale it from the mouth for four seconds.
This breathing makes you feel relaxed, and quickly, you can use other numbers, for example: 4, 2, 16, so you inhale for 4 seconds, hold the air for two seconds, and exhale for 16 seconds.
The secret is that the exhalation, very slowly, and longer than the duration of the breath taken through the inhalation, and the repetition of this breathing 7 to 10 times prepares you to enter the early alpha stage. This exercise is easy and simple, with the permission of Allāh, you will succeed to a large extent. You must pay attention, do not start memorising unless you have breathed and relaxed yourself, for at least two minutes.
The 2, 1, 4 breathing exercise is a type of pranayama that involves inhaling for two counts, holding the breath for four counts, and exhaling for two counts. This exercise can help to calm the mind and body and is often used to reduce stress and anxiety. It should be done slowly and with deep breaths. Box breathing is a different type of breathing exercise that involves inhaling for four counts, holding the breath for four counts, and exhaling for four counts.
The 2-1-4-1 breathing exercise is a technique that involves inhaling for two counts, holding the breath for four counts, and exhaling for one count. This ratio of 1:4:2 can help to deepen relaxation and refresh energy. Other breathing exercises involve counting breaths, such as inhaling for one count and exhaling for two counts.
For those of you that need to beat the nerves. There’s a shortcut to calming the nervous system. The fastest way is two inhales and then exhale. The 2-to-1 breathing exercise is a deep breathing technique that can help regulate the motion of the lungs and quiet the nervous system. It may reduce physical symptoms and improve mental clarity, restore inner balance, and destress the body.
For those who want to deepen their relaxation, they should take the following two steps:
Body relaxation exercise
With deep breathing, I close my eyes, then focus on each part of my body, at a specific time for that part to relax. For example, I think of my right foot, and I try to make it relax, with some gestures, for example, by speaking to it, every part and every cell of my right foot, completely relaxed.
Then I focus on my left foot, then my right leg, then my left leg, then the right thigh, then the abdomen and chest, and the two shoulders, then the head from behind, and the back, to the heels of the two legs, yes, continuing deep breathing, I pass my focus on every part of my body, and I feel completely relaxed.
Mental relaxation exercise
After physical relaxation, I can do mental relaxation, in which I try to relax the mind from all negative thoughts and daily worries, and I try to imagine one of the following images:
I imagine that I am in front of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, a very beautiful beach, when imagining it makes me feel comfortable and relaxed, and I delve into beautiful aesthetic images, and imagine the view, the sounds of the waves, the sounds of birds singing, the sound of the breeze, then I try to feel the feelings of relaxation, tranquility and calmness.
You can do anything else. For example, recall one memories of reverence and presence of the heart that you have felt:
- Your first Hajj or Umrah, and the spiritual feelings that you experienced during that time.
- In prayer, when you were impacted by the imam’s recitation, and how your heart was humbled and touched.
- When you heard an amazing reciter of the Qur’ān, and how your eyes shed tears.
Physical and mental relaxation is one of the most important things helping to get rid of stress and work pressures. Studies say that work stress leads to many diseases, for example:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Hair loss
- and many more
Physical and mental relaxation, even for five minutes, has a magical effect on the body, as it stimulates the release of endorphins, which is a very useful hormone, and a divine treatment for many diseases. I recommend practicing relaxation in the middle of the day so that you can renew your activity. This is why the midday nap is a sunnah!
So remember the important thing in this matter is the following principle:
Never start memorising the Qur’ān unless you have done some relaxation exercises for the mind and body, even for two minutes!
May Allāh grant understanding, health and wellbeing! And allow us to memorise and retain the Qur’ān in the best way.1 - Like and share!