The levels of consciousness range from being fully alert to being deeply asleep. They are mainly distinguished from each other by their brain wave frequency. It is also important to note that there are no rigid boundaries separating them. Instead, the levels blend into each other, as is described below:
Level State of mind and body
Beta Full Consciousness (13-25 cycles per second)
Alpha Twilight period between being asleep & being awake (8-12 cycles per second)
Theta Deep Hypnosis & Meditation (4-7 cycles per second)
Delta Full Sleep (0.5-3 cycles per second)
Beta is the state of total consciousness – the normal state. Alpha and Theta fall into the category of altered states of consciousness.
The Alpha and Theta are the states when behaviour modifications are most likely to take place. Suggestions given in these states go directly into the subconscious mind without any interference from the analytical conscious mind. The subconscious has no power of reasoning and will accept the suggestions as they are, and will act upon them.
So, where does Hypnosis fit in all this?
Hypnosis is one of the most effective tools to induce an altered state of consciousness. Suggestions can also be effective under normal consciousness (Beta level) but research has shown that they are over a hundred times more helpful under an altered state.
Almost 80% of physical and psychological problems are stress related. And, since relaxation forms the core of all hypnotic procedures, it enables us to exclude anxiety and tension from our normal thought cycles.
All these processes involve physical relaxation and a narrowing of consciousness. In the case of Hypnosis, it is task or goal oriented, as we are mentally working on something (our desired goal).
In meditation and yoga, on the other hand, consciousness is free-floating and it may lead to a greater sense of expanded awareness. Many mediators use hypnosis and one can slip from one state to another quite easily.