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3 types of meditation: 16 Types of Meditation – Headspace

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16 Types of Meditation – Headspace

The above list of meditation styles is far from exhaustive. Here are some other forms of this ancient practice that you may want to explore. (Note: Many of the following techniques should be learned with an experienced — and in some cases certified — teacher to be most effective.)

  • Zen meditation. This ancient Buddhist tradition involves sitting upright and following the breath, particularly the way it moves in and out of the belly, and letting the mind “just be.” Its aim is to foster a sense of presence and alertness.

  • Mantra meditation. This technique is similar to focused attention meditation, although instead of focusing on the breath to quiet the mind, you focus on a mantra (which could be a syllable, word, or phrase). The idea here is that the subtle vibrations associated with the repeated mantra can encourage positive change — maybe a boost in self-confidence or increased compassion for others — and help you enter an even deeper state of meditation.

  • Transcendental meditation. The meditation techniques and exercises in the Headspace app are not the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) program, nor is the Headspace app endorsed by Maharishi Foundation USA, Inc., which teaches the Transcendental Meditation program. If you are interested in the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) program you can visit the Maharishi Foundation’s website. The Transcendental Meditation® program is taught one-on-one by instructors trained and licensed by Maharishi Foundation in a personalized and individual manner. The practice involves sitting comfortably with one’s eyes closed for 20 minutes twice per day and engaging in the effortless practice as instructed. Students are encouraged to practice twice a day, which often includes morning meditation, and the a second session is in the mid-afternoon or early evening.

  • Yoga meditation. Just as there are many different types of meditation, so too exist many styles of yoga — particularly Kundalini yoga — that are aimed at strengthening the nervous system, so we are better able to cope with everyday stress and problems. However, in order to integrate the neuromuscular changes that happen during yoga and gain the greatest benefit from the practice, we must take time for savasana or Shavasana, known as corpse or relaxation pose, to relax the body and relieve tension.

  • Vipassana meditation. Another ancient tradition, this one invites you to use your concentration to intensely examine certain aspects of your existence with the intention of eventual transformation. Vipassana pushes us to find “insight into the true nature of reality,” via contemplation of several key areas of human existence: “suffering, unsatisfactoriness,” “impermanence,” “non-self,” and “emptiness.”

  • Chakra meditation. This meditation technique is aimed at keeping the body’s core chakras — centers of energy — open, aligned, and fluid. Blocked or imbalanced chakras can result in uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms, but chakra meditation can help to bring all of them back into balance.

  • Qigong meditation. This is an ancient and powerful Chinese practice that involves harnessing energy in the body by allowing energy pathways — called “meridians” — to be open and fluid. Sending this energy inward during meditation is thought to help the body heal and function; sending the energy outward can help to heal another person.

  • Sound bath meditation. This form uses bowls, gongs, and other instruments to create sound vibrations that help focus the mind and bring it into a more relaxed state.

Did one or more of these meditation techniques speak to you? Remember, ultimately it doesn’t matter which technique you choose. What does matter, however, is that you choose a style that allows you to integrate the qualities you experience during meditation practice — calm, empathy, mindfulness — into the rest of your day.

If you’re looking for an introduction to different types of meditation, check out the 10-day beginner’s course on the essentials of meditation — available for free in the Headspace app. From there, once you gain more experience and confidence, you can explore the whole library of content, covering everything from sleep, compassion, and sports to anger, stress, focus, and more. Get started today!

Sign up for free today, and start reaping the benefits of guided meditation!

READ NEXT: What are the benefits of daily meditation?

A Guide to 7 Different Types of Meditation

3. Guided Meditation

Guided meditation, which is sometimes also called guided imagery or visualization, is a method of meditation in which you form mental pictures or situations that you find relaxing.

This process is typically led by a guide or teacher, hence “guided.” It’s often suggested to use as many senses as possible, such as smell, sounds, and textures, to evoke calmness in your relaxing space. (3)

4. Vipassana Meditation (Sayagyi U Ba Khin Tradition)

Vipassana meditation is an ancient Indian form of meditation that means to see things as they really are. It was taught in India more than 2,500 years ago. The mindfulness meditation movement in the United States has roots in this tradition.

The goal of vipassana meditation is self-transformation through self-observation. This is accomplished through disciplined attention to physical sensations in the body, to establish a deep connection between the mind and body. The continuous interconnectedness results in a balanced mind full of love and compassion, teachers of the practice claim.

Vipassana, in this tradition, is typically taught during a 10-day course, and students are expected to follow a set of rules throughout the entirety of the time, including abstaining from all intoxicants, telling lies, stealing, sexual activity, and killing any species. (2)

5. Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta Meditation)

Metta meditation, also called Loving Kindness Meditation, is the practice of directing well wishes toward others. Those who practice recite specific words and phrases meant to evoke warm-hearted feelings. This is also commonly found in mindfulness and vipassana meditation.

It’s typically practiced while sitting in a comfortable, relaxed position. After a few deep breaths, you repeat the following words slowly and steadily. “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”

After a period of directing this loving kindness toward yourself, you may begin to picture a family member or friend who has helped you and repeat the mantra again, this time replacing “I” with “you.”

As you continue the meditation, you can bring other members of your family, friends, neighbors, or people in your life to mind. Practitioners are also encouraged to visualize people they have difficulty with.

Finally, you end the meditation with the universal mantra: “May all being everywhere be happy.” (4,5)

6. Chakra Meditation

Chakra is an ancient Sanskrit word that translates to “wheel,” and can be traced back to India. Chakras refer to the centers of energy and spiritual power in the body. There are thought to be seven chakras. Each chakra is located at a different part of the body and each has a corresponding color.

Chakra meditation is made up of relaxation techniques focused on bringing balance and well-being to the chakras. Some of these techniques include visually picturing each chakra in the body and its corresponding color. Some people may choose to light incense or use crystals, color coded for each chakra to help them concentrate during the meditation. (6)

7. Yoga Meditation

The practice of yoga dates back to ancient India. There are a wide variety of classes and styles of yoga, but they all involve performing a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises meant to promote flexibility and calm the mind.

The poses require balance and concentration and practitioners are encouraged to focus less on distractions and stay more in the moment. (2)

Which style of meditation you decide to try depends on a number of factors. If you have a health condition and are new to yoga, speak to your doctor about which style may be right for you. (7)

Three Types of Meditation – Monthly Dharma – Article – Spirit Rock

Oct 2, 2021

“Meditation can be thought of as the art of awakening. Through the mastering of this art we can learn new ways to approach our difficulties and bring wisdom and joy alive in our life. Through developing meditation’s tools and practices, we can awaken the best of our spiritual and human capacities. The key to this art is the steadiness of our attention. When the fullness of our attention is cultivated together with a grateful and tender heart, our spiritual life will naturally grow.

For many people some healing of mind and body must take place as we start to sit quietly and meditate. To begin our healing, we must develop a basic level of calm and attention. We must find a way to develop our attention systematically and give ourselves to it quite fully. Otherwise, we will drift like a boat without a rudder. To learn to focus clearly, we must choose a prayer or a meditation practice and follow this path with commitment and steadiness. ..”

— Jack Kornfield, Bringing Home the Dharma

Insight Meditation emphasizes three basic types of meditation: mindfulness, lovingkindness, and concentration. Each of these types includes many different styles of practice. In these Dharma selections, we explore a range of meditation styles, and how they weave into and support each other.

We start with instructions from Margarita Loinaz in the elegant form of mindfulness known as “open awareness,” and then an overview of lovingkindness (mettā) practice from Donald Rothberg. Every form of meditation depends on steadiness of attention, so we include here a comprehensive introduction to concentration from Tina Rasmussen. And we end the set with a conversational talk from Forest Sangha monastic Ajahn Karunadhammo on how concentration can be understood as the quality of “unwavering composure” necessary for all meditation practices.

Open Awareness: Mindfulness Meditation with Instructions

July 04, 2020 – Cultivating the Wisdom of the Heart

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Loving-Kindness: Cultivating the Open and Wise Heart

April 3, 2018 – Loving-Kindness: Cultivating the Open and Wise Heart

“In the classical tradition, loving-kindness is the first of the four brahmavihāra, or “divine abodes,” the four qualities of the open heart, and it expresses a basic warmth and friendliness. When it encounters suffering, it becomes compassion (karuṇā), the second of the divine abodes, understood as the quivering of the heart that is in contact with suffering. When loving-kindness meets beauty or happiness, particularly that of others, it becomes mudita, or joy, especially joy in the joy of others. Equanimity (upekkhā) is the fourth of the brahmavihāra and serves particularly to balance loving-kindness, compassion, and joy with wisdom.”

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Introduction to Concentration Meditation

January 17, 2015 – Part 1 – Introduction to Concentration Meditation

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January 17, 2015 – Part 2 – Introduction to Concentration Meditation

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January 17, 2015 – Part 3 – Introduction to Concentration Meditation

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January 17, 2015 – Part 4 – Introduction to Concentration Meditation

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Unwavering Composure

What Type of Meditation Is Best for You?

As citizens of the 21st century, we face many problems that come with an industrialized and globalized world. We’re confronting climate change and poverty in the midst of plenty; wars and political instability are driving millions of people to leave their homes and seek refuge. At the same time, we’re witnessing increases in stress-related diseases, depression, and narcissism. Skillful solutions to these problems will require new forms of global cooperation, mutual understanding, and compassion across nationalities and cultures.

I’m not a lawyer or a politician, but a psychologist and neuroscientist. So research on how to train helpful mental and social capacities is my way to contribute to a more healthy, communal, and cooperative civilization.

For the past five years, that research has taken the form of the ReSource Project, one of the longest and most comprehensive studies on the effects of meditation-based mental training to date. Lots of research treats the concept of meditation as a single practice, when in fact meditation encompasses a diversity of mental practices that train different skills and different parts of the brain. Our goal was to study the specific effects of some major types of mental practices and distinguish their effects on well-being, the brain, behavior, and health—and, in particular, discover which practices could help build a more compassionate and interconnected world.

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Our findings are still emerging, as my team and I continue to analyze a multitude of data. The results so far have been mostly encouraging, sometimes surprising, and crucial to understand for meditation practitioners and teachers.

Three types of mental training

In the ReSource Project, we asked over 300 German adults ages 20-55 to attend a two-hour class every week and practice for 30 minutes a day at home. The lessons and practices were designed by myself together with an expert team of meditation teachers and psychologists over the course of several years. They include a multitude of secularized meditations derived from various Buddhist traditions, as well as practices from Western psychology. Over the course of the study, participants moved through three different training modules, which each began with a three-day retreat: 


  • Presence (3 months). This module focuses on training attention and internal body awareness. The exercises include scanning your body, focusing on the breath and bringing your attention to the present moment whenever your mind wanders, and bringing attention to the sensations of hearing and seeing.
  • Affect (3 months). This module focuses on training positive social emotions like loving-kindness, compassion, and gratitude, as well as accepting difficult emotions and increasing our motivation to be kind and helpful toward others. In the Affect and Perspective modules, there are two daily core practices: one classic meditation and one 10-minute partner exercise, with participants assigned to a new partner every week on our mobile application. In the Affect module, partners take turns sharing their feelings and body sensations while recalling difficult or gratitude-inducing experiences in their lives, and practicing empathic listening.
  • Perspective (3 months). This module focuses on meta-cognitive skills (becoming aware of your thinking), gaining perspective on aspects of your own personality, and taking the perspective of others. In this module, the partner exercise includes taking turns talking about a recent experience from the perspective of one aspect of your personality—for example, as if you were fully identified with your “inner judge” or “loving mother”—while the other partner listens carefully and tries to infer the perspective being taken.

Three cohorts moved through these modules in different orders, allowing us to discern the effects of a specific training module and compare it to the other modules. In other words, the cohorts acted as “active control groups” for each other. Another group of participants didn’t do any training but was still tested: Every three months, we measured how participants were doing with a barrage of more than 90 questionnaires, behavioral tests, hormonal markers, and brain scans, to see what (if anything) improved after each module.

When I first launched this study, some of my colleagues thought a year-long mental training course was crazy, that participants would drop out right and left. But that’s not what happened: In fact, less than 8 percent of people dropped out in total. Long after the study ended, we witnessed people logging on to our app and practicing; to this day, I know of people who still self-organize to practice the 10-minute daily partner exercises together—presumably because they found the practices so transformational.

Different benefits for different practices

Ultimately, we found that the three training modules had very different effects on participants’ emotional and cognitive skills, well-being, and brains—which means that you can expect different benefits depending on the type of meditation practice you engage in.

Attention. According to our study, attention already improved after just three months of training, whether it was mindfulness-based or compassion-based. Participants who completed the Presence or Affect modules significantly improved their scores on a classic attention task. Surprisingly, no further benefit was observed after six or nine months of training, maybe due to the attention task we used (a “cue-flanker” test). It seems, therefore, that attention can be cultivated not only by attention-focused mindfulness practices but also by social-emotional practices such as the loving-kindness meditation.

Compassion. Are basic mindfulness practices such as paying attention to the breath or body scan enough to make you a kinder, more compassionate person? Or do you explicitly need to focus on these qualities of the heart in your meditation practice? This question is the source of a big debate in mindfulness research.

In our study, one of the ways we measured compassion was by showing participants videos of people sharing stories of suffering from their life and asking them to report how they felt after watching. Ultimately, three months of attention-based Presence training didn’t increase compassion at all. Only participants who had taken the Affect module—which explicitly focuses on care-based social and emotional qualities—became more compassionate.

Theory of mind. If we want to resolve conflicts across cultures, theory of mind—the ability to understand other people’s mental states and put ourselves in their shoes—is a crucial skill.

We measured theory of mind with the same video stories, but this time we asked participants to answer questions about the person’s thoughts, intentions, and goals. It turned out that only one module—the Perspective module—helped participants improve their theory of mind at all (though these effects were not strong). Practicing attention or compassion in the Presence or Affect modules didn’t help people take the perspective of others. Interestingly, people who got better at theory of mind also showed better self-understanding: They were able to identify more and more parts of their own personality, like that “inner judge” or “loving mother.

Brain plasticity. These different behavioral changes were also reflected in the brain. Using magnetic resonance imaging, my colleagues and I analyzed the volume of gray matter in different areas of participants’ brains.

Typically, gray matter thins over time as people age. But after three months of attention-based Presence training, participants actually showed a higher volume of gray matter in their prefrontal regions, areas related to attention, monitoring, and higher-level awareness.

After three months of compassion-based Affect training, however, other regions became thicker: areas that are involved in empathy and emotion regulation, such as the supramarginal gyrus. Most importantly, this thickening in insular regions of the brain predicted increases in compassionate behavior.

Finally, we observed specific thickening in another set of brain regions after the Perspective module. Gray matter in the temporo-parietal junction, an area that supports our perspective-taking abilities, became thicker in people who also improved at theory of mind tests. This is the first study to show training-related structural changes in the social brains of healthy adults and to reveal that it really matters what you practice—the observed brain changes were specific to different types of training and coincided with improvements in emotional and cognitive skills.

Social stress. To measure social stress, we gave participants a notoriously stressful task: delivering a speech and then performing math calculations to an audience trained to roll their eyes, look bored, and point out errors. This makes people feel socially rejected and out of control, like something is wrong with them; it stimulates most people’s bodies to produce a lot more of the stress-related hormone cortisol, which we measured in saliva.

Surprisingly, three months of mindfulness-based attention and internal body awareness training didn’t help people cope better with this stressful task. But those who practiced the two social modules, Affect and Perspective, did reduce their cortisol stress response by up to half compared to the control group. We suspect that the daily partner practices in these modules helped ease people’s fear of being evaluated. We face potential evaluation by others every day, and learning to listen non-judgmentally and to be less reactive probably allows us to approach those socially stressful situations more calmly.

The fact that the mindfulness-based Presence module did not reduce stress at the hormonal level was surprising at first, since previous research has shown that mindful attention training can reduce stress. But much of this earlier research asks people about their stress levels with questionnaires, rather than measuring biological markers of stress. When using questionnaires, we found the same thing: After three months of Presence practice, people said they felt less stressed, as they did after all the other modules. Even though it certainly matters how stressed people subjectively feel, cortisol is considered the hallmark of a stress response and is linked to important health outcomes. Given that this was not reduced by mindfulness attention training alone, we should be wary of generalized claims about its stress-reducing effects.

Social connection. The partner practices, which were part of the Affect and Perspective modules, helped participants feel closer to each other. In fact, they felt closer and closer each week of practice, even in the moments just before doing a partner practice and even when they were going to meet a partner for the first time. Thus, their general feelings of interdependence and interconnection with others seemed to increase over time.

Not only did people boost their feelings of social closeness, but they also disclosed more and more personal information about themselves. Earlier in the module, partners were timid and shared less; maybe they’d talk about the difficult experience of missing the bus on the way to work. But after three months, they went much deeper, sometimes sharing about parental conflicts or lifelong personal issues. This is the kind of vulnerability that’s needed for people in diverse groups to cultivate a sense of interconnection and common humanity.

Body awareness. One of the most common ways to measure how aware people are of their body signals is through a heartbeat perception task. In this task, people are asked to sit quietly and tap out the rhythm of their hearts, while we’re recording their actual heartbeat. The higher the correlation between such objective and subjective measures, the higher your body awareness. 

Why does body awareness matter? Research suggests that it’s related to our emotional understanding and our health. We found that the more accurate people are at perceiving their heartbeat, the more they’re able to notice and label their emotions; they score lower in alexithymia, a diminished capacity to recognize your emotions that is common among many psychological disorders like autism and depression. Learning how to become less alexithymic could be a very powerful tool to help patients with emotional disorders.

Surprisingly, people who practiced three months of present-moment-focused body awareness through practices like body scans didn’t get significantly better at heartbeat perception. Why? The simple answer is that three months of practice is too short. Only after six months of contemplative practice did participants’ body awareness improve to a significant level, and after nine months it improved even further. I suspect it would improve even more after another year of practice.

Some effects take time to develop—something we should remember whenever we sign up for a weekend meditation course or download a new meditation app promising us big results in just a few minutes or days! 

Towards a more compassionate world

To summarize, mindfulness and meditation are incredibly broad concepts, and our research suggests that they should be differentiated more. It really matters what type of mental practice you engage in. Different types of mental training elicit changes in very different domains of functioning, such as attention, compassion, and higher-level cognitive abilities.

Every practice has its specific benefits, but looking at the overall pattern of findings in the ReSource Project, it seems that compassion-based social and emotional practices are powerful ways to develop many beneficial skills, including (self-)acceptance, well-being, attention, compassion and altruism, and lower social stress.

The good news is that with only about 30 minutes of practice a day, you can significantly change your behavior and the very structure of your brain. However, some improvements, like your capacity to perceive signals from your body, take time to develop. Even nine months is just a start.

Our research also showed how objective measures of people’s biology or behavior can diverge from what they believe about themselves on psychological trait questionnaires. When we’re talking about benefits like lower stress or greater kindness, people may think they’re improving while their actions or their bodies don’t actually change.

The story about meditation and mindfulness will become more complex over the years. Besides looking at the different effects of different types of mental practices, researchers are also exploring individual differences and how certain genes or certain personality traits influence how much you benefit from different practices. All of this research is moving us to a point where we don’t necessarily advocate mindfulness for all, but can suggest specific practices with specific benefits for specific people.

In an increasingly complex world, one of today’s most urgent questions is how we can cultivate greater global compassion and a better understanding of each other across cultural and religious divides. Our findings cast doubt on the notion that simple mindfulness-based mental training aimed only at improving attention and optimizing your own mind will have far-reaching consequences for global cooperation and responsibility. Instead, training that focuses on the interdependence of human beings, on ethical as well as social qualities—from feelings such as compassion to cognitive skills like perspective taking—may be important not only for individual health but also for communal flourishing.

This essay is adapted from a talk by Tania Singer, “Plasticity of the Social Brain: Effects of a One-Year Mental Training Study on Brain Plasticity, Social Cognition and Attention, Stress, and Prosocial Behavior,” given at the International Positive Psychology Association’s 5th World Congress in 2017.

10 Types of Meditation and How to Get Started With Each Technique

Ask ten people what meditation is, and you might get ten answers—but they could all be right. It’s a practice that dates back thousands of years and has been part of so many cultures that there are now dozens of ways to do it. Still, they share an underlying similarity: “It’s a practice that cultivates inward investigation,” says Diana Winston, director of Mindfulness Education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.

What accounts for meditation’s lasting and widespread appeal? The answer may lie in a growing body of research that confirms what many practitioners have claimed for years: Meditation has been shown to be helpful taming stress and anxiety, reducing cardiovascular risk factors, managing chronic pain, and improving sleep

To get these benefits, you may worry you have to dedicate hours each week and aim to clear your mind completely. But experts say that’s not exactly true. “That’s too intimidating for most of us,” says Rashi Aggarwal, M.D., director of the residency training program and associate professor of psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark.

Early research is finding that even mini-meditations of just 10 minutes may be beneficial. And as for emptying your mind? “It’s not about attaining perfection,” Dr. Aggarwal says. “What meditation can do is help us train our brains to wander less and ruminate less so that we can distance ourselves from our worries.”

So, which form of meditation is the best? “The best type for you is the one you’ll actually do,” says Winston. “Try a few different kinds, even if they’re outside your comfort zone. If you feel more focused and calmer afterwards, then it’s working. Trust your gut. If it feels alien, then don’t do it. See what makes sense to you.”

Ahead, experts explain the common types of meditation and how to get started to cultivate your own practice.

1. Mindfulness meditation

What it is: Mindfulness meditation is drawn from Buddhist contemplative traditions; it incorporates breathing sensations and teaches how to turn one’s attention back to the experience when distractions arise. It’s a method of paying attention to your present moment experiences with a curiosity, openness, and willingness to be in that specific time without judgment. “It’s both a meditative practice and a quality of attention for any given moment, no matter what you’re doing,” says Winston.

How to get started: Try free meditations from the UCLA Mindful Research Center or the free app Smiling Mind. Or start with this super-simple mindfulness exercise: Instead of rushing through your shower, pay attention to the temperature and feel of the water droplets, the smell of the soap, and the sound of the water.

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2. Transcendental meditation

What it is: You’ll connect with a teacher who gives you a mantra, a word you’ll repeat over and over to concentrate your mind and go beyond (or “transcend”) your surface level of awareness. The goal is to unlock joy, creativity, and calm.

How to get started: Find a certified TM teacher for one-one-one instruction here, but you’ll have to pay a fee. Or try this exercise, which is similar to TM: Set aside 20 minutes, sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, take deep breaths, and focus exclusively on your mantra to settle your mind.

3. Cultivation practices

What it is: There are many different types of cultivation practices, which are derived from a secularization of Buddhist traditions and focus on generating feelings of good will toward yourself and others. Typically, you’ll get into a comfortable position on a chair or cushion and focus on breath and sending affirming feelings and repeating positive phrases. The goal is to nurture states such as loving-kindness, compassion, joy, or balance, as well as a gentle attitude toward ourselves and others.

“These practices come out of the mindfulness movement but focus on cultivating a specific positive state of heart or mind,” says Winston.

How to get started: Check out the free meditations at UCLA’s site, the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, or the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Family Medicine.

4. Guided imagery

What it is: This type of meditation typically is more goal-directed, that is, you’re focused on a specific intent such as healing, relaxation, or sleep preparation. You’ll be guided through a series of instructions with the creative use of imagery, such as visiting your favorite beach, feeling the sand under your toes, sensing the water lapping at your feet, and so on. Because of the step-by-step directions you’ll be given, it’s often one of the easiest types for beginners, says Dr. Aggarwal.

How to get started: Listen to the free meditations focused on specific goals, including physical healing from illness through the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, relaxation through Dartmouth’s Health Service, forgiveness through Ohio State University, or preparing for sleep at MIT Medical.

5. Prayer

What it is: Prayer is a type of communion that connects one with God or a higher power you personally understand. While many people don’t equate prayer with meditation, it’s essentially a way of focusing your attention away from the moment to center one’s heart and mind.

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“People use prayer in different ways,” says Winston. “Sometimes it’s about asking for what you want, such as good health. Sometimes it’s about a deep listening, and sometimes it’s about bringing your mind to a higher power and feeling supported or giving thanks.

How to get started: It’s performed by most religious traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many others. It can be done using a faith’s established prayers, or it can be as simple as speaking directly to God about your thoughts, hopes, fears, and needs.

6. Movement meditation

What it is: This type of meditation utilizes movement to help focus the mind. This may include specific forms such walking meditations, such as walking a labyrinth, yoga, or tai chi. Your attention is focused on the specific movements, usually accompanied by certain breathing techniques. This type of meditation overlaps with mindfulness.

How to get started: Try a walking meditation from Rutgers Student Health Center, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center or the University of Michigan, or search for a local yoga or tai chi class near you.

Brooke Schaal PhotographyGetty Images

7. Future visualization meditation

What it is: This technique evolves from the practice of guided imagery, but it’s about imagining your future and identifying goals for your health, relationships, home, and career.

“You look ahead and think about having a perfect day tomorrow, six months from now, and five years from now. This helps you get attuned to what you actually value versus what you say you value, as well as provides focus on what skills you’ll need to achieve these goals,” says Dr. Aggarwal.

How to get started: Check out this best-possible-self/optimism meditation through Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

8. Gratitude meditation

What it is: This practice promotes a positive mood, hope, and resilience. It can be as simple as sitting quietly, breathing deeply in and out, and thinking of all the people for whom you are grateful, but guided visualizations also may be helpful.

How to get started: Try this gratefulness meditation from Ohio State University.

9. Forest bathing

What it is: In the 80s, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture created the term “forest bathing” which means to absorb the forest atmosphere. The practice encourages people to spend time connecting with nature, whether it’s walking quietly, sitting in a peaceful setting and focusing on your breathing, or gardening. In fact, an increasing amount of research has found that being in nature is good for us, including improved mental health, better sleep, and boosting feelings of connection during times of social isolation.

How to get started: Spend at least 20 minutes in nature every day. If you don’t have that much time, even a few minutes is better than nothing. Forestry England has good suggestions for how to practice forest bathing.

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10. Body scan meditation

What it is: Also called progressive relaxation, this type of meditation systematically guides you to focus on different parts of your body from your toes to your face. It’s designed to make you aware of your bodily sensations and to relieve tension. You can do this seated, sitting, or lying down and it is often suggested to be practiced before bed.

How to get started: Try this body scan meditation from UCLA’s Greater Good in Action.


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Arricca Elin SanSone
Arricca SanSone writes for CountryLiving.com, WomansDay.com, Family Circle, MarthaStewart.com, Cooking Light, Parents.com, and many others.

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Beyond Mindfulness: Pick the Best Meditation Type For You

What are different types of meditation techniques?

Spiritual masters and now mental health experts have come up with several types, techniques, and forms of meditation for you to explore. Some have their roots in the Buddhist traditions, some in the yoga tradition from India, some in Christianity, or the Zen tradition.  In recent times, many meditation teachers, practitioners, and modern research have attempted to classify all these wonderful activities as some type of meditation like closed or focused attention, open monitoring, and automatic self-transcending (mantra meditation), etc. All these are different approaches to meditation and offer their own set of benefits.

Valuable lesson

But for a beginner, all these different types of meditation can be quite confusing and can disturb your inner equilibrium if you try them on your own. So it is very important to learn from a qualified teacher who can help you guide you on your journey to inner bliss. Though you have plenty of varieties to choose from, it is good to stick to whatever works for you and go deeply into it. The important thing is making time every day to practice: sit quietly, eyes closed, breathe, let go, and connect with the Self.

The best meditation techniques for beginners

As a yoga and meditation teacher, I’m often asked what the best type and technique of meditation is, the one that is most effective and works for all kinds of people. Some people also want to know if meditation requires a religious connection or a belief in God. 

To me, meditation essentially is a spiritual practice, though some forms of meditation could be attached to some religions.

From my experience of meditating for more than two decades, I have realized that to build a successful meditation routine, meditation needs to be simple, comfortable, and have results that make you want to keep practicing every day. I also learned a few secrets of meditation that made my practice so much fun and something that I look forward to.

I did explore several types of meditation like Vipassana (which involves focusing on the breath), mindfulness (involves paying attention to your physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions without judgment), body scan, chakra meditation, etc in the beginning before I arrived upon my meditation technique for personal everyday practice about a decade ago. These are SKY Breath Meditation and Sahaj Samadhi meditation. The day I learned these techniques, I hit home! There was no turning back then to any other techniques. And that is what helped me establish my practice! Let me briefly explain to you what makes these techniques so powerful and transformative.

SKY Breath Meditation— an easy breathing meditation

SKY is a type of meditation based on a powerful rhythmic breathing technique being practiced by over 450 million worldwide. SKY involves the use of the most potent tool i.e. your own breath, that can always help you in quieting your mind. It uses specific cyclical, rhythmic patterns of breath to bring the mind and body into a relaxed yet wakeful state. Whatever your state of mind is, SKY breathing will help you calm down.

Cognized by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a world-renowned meditation master, and expert, the practice is concluded with an effortless meditative state where practitioners report clarity of mind, prolonged moments of thoughtlessness, slower and steadier heart rate, and calmness of being.

SKY Breath Meditation, an evidence-based technique, with over 100+ independent studies, has helped its practitioners experience better rest and enhanced deep sleep, significantly decreased depression and anxiety, increase in well-being both physically and mentally, reduced stress hormones, measurable impact on quality of life.

In a 2019 research at Yale University, researchers conducted the study, which tested three skill-building training programs (SKY Campus, Emotional Intelligence, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) on 135 undergraduate subjects for eight weeks (30 hours total), and measured results against those of a non-intervention control group.

They found that a training program called SKY Campus Happiness which relies on SKY Breath Meditation, yoga postures, social connection, and service activities, was most beneficial. Following the SKY sessions, students reported improvements in six areas of well-being: depression, stress, mental health, mindfulness, positive affect, and social connectedness. The other two programs showed improvement in just one area.

Sahaj Samadhi meditation—effortless mantra meditation

Sahaj” means effortless, and “Samadhi” means a state of equanimity or bliss. As the name suggests, this is an easy, enjoyable, and effective meditation technique that involves the use of a personalized mantra. This is also founded by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who says,  “In Samadhi, that very deep state of meditation, you are given energy and long-lasting bliss. It carries you higher and higher until your very presence radiates love.

This mantra meditation is a rare combination of simplicity and depth. Each practitioner is given his or her mantra, or sound vibration, and is taught how to use it to go deep into the meditation to experience profound inner peace and bliss. The practitioner learns to let go without making any efforts to stop the chattering mind and comes to a deep state of restful awareness. Though it involves no effort, this ancient and rare type of meditation brings a profound effect. Both your mind and body relax into a state of intense restfulness in which deeply-rooted stresses dissolve, and the experience of one’s infinite potential for peace, joy, and creativity unfolds. 

Award-winning research on this mantra meditation

Research on the effects of Sahaj Samadhi Meditation on cardiovascular health, nervous system, and clinical depression received the award for best research at World Psychiatry Association in 2017. The research paper cited that adding this technique to traditional treatments for patients of late-life depression was five times more effective than traditional treatments. And, in contrast to traditional treatments, this was free and had zero side effects or withdrawal symptoms, unlike medications. 

Sahaj is technically called an ASTM, which is an automatic self-transcending meditation practice that does not require any external control or direction. The effects of Sahaj Samadhi meditation have been striking in the treatment of clinical depression symptoms. Where the remission rate for traditional treatments stood at 10%, the remission rate for patients who added Sahaj Samadhi meditation practice to traditional treatments was as high as 53%.

Sahaj Samadhi is also known to improve heart health. Studies showed a Sahaj practice significantly improved the high-frequency heart-rate variability, a key indicator of heart health in the long term and an overall indicator for longevity.   

How to learn the Sahaj Samadhi Mantra Meditation

The Art of Living Foundation offers this workshop year-round and for a limited time virtually too at a 50% discount. Find out more here. 

In just 6-7 hours of investment spent over a weekend, many practitioners have been able to adopt this as a long-term daily personal meditation technique. It is recommended to do this 20 minutes twice a day. You will also find support groups and trained instructors worldwide. 

Guided meditation: a stepping stone 

If you want to get a glimpse of meditation on your own, you may try a guided meditation. My favorite one is Blossoming In Your Smile. Get settled with your eyes closed and try this meditation now. 

Vipassana

Vipassana is considered today one of the most popular meditation techniques among practitioners around the world. As you already know, this Buddhist practice is based on mindful observation.

Despite the fact that information about the very algorithm of Vipassana practice can be found contradictory, most Buddhists divide it into two stages: concentration on the breath and mindful observation itself.

For practice, you will need to set aside at least 20 minutes of free time and find a place where no one will distract.You need to prepare a pillow or rug on which you will sit (if you wish, you can just sit on the floor). You can sit cross-legged, in a “lotus”, “half-lotus” or on a chair (the same recommendation applies to all other techniques that will be discussed in the article).

The back should be straight, hands should be placed on the knees, palms up. The mouth must be closed. It is also advisable to close your eyes so that it is easier to concentrate on the meditation process.

For the first 3-4 days, concentrate on breathing, training your mind and developing attention.Breathe in your belly and focus on how your belly moves during this time. You can also watch how the air passes through the nostrils.

When you concentrate on attention, you will also begin to notice some of these emotions, sensations in the body. All this must be perceived as “background disturbances” and simply recorded, and then returned to breathing.

Remember that the breath is the central or primary object, and whatever you perceive with your five senses is secondary.Depending on what it is (memory, desire, sound, thought, etc.), you mark the presence of this with the appropriate word and continue the practice.

In the following days, one can begin to be aware of bodily sensations and processes occurring in consciousness, thoughts. Those. here you are already concentrating not on the breath, but, for example, first on the body, trying to understand in which part of it what sensation you are experiencing. Practice this approach for a few days and then move on to thinking.

Watch in which direction your consciousness is taking you, but do not rush after your thoughts.Let them “pass by” and wait for what will happen next. Thoughts should disappear as freely as they appear. Long-term practice of vipassana will allow you to become a more focused, aware, peaceful and inwardly free person.

In addition, Vipassana promotes awareness of oneself in the body and an understanding of the laws according to which your thinking works, as well as the establishment of a clear relationship between mental processes and bodily sensations.

Yoga Meditation

As the name implies, the main one here is the yoga tradition, the purpose of which is self-knowledge and spiritual enlightenment.It contains many meditation techniques, but we will consider only a few:

  • Meditation on the chakras. Chakras are the energy centers of the human body, and you focus on one of them. At the same time, it is useful to visualize the image of the chakra and its color. It is quite possible even for a beginner to start the practice of meditation from the chakras, but for this you need to additionally learn about the chakras and understand what they are responsible for.
  • Meditation on sounds. The easiest way is to concentrate on some external sound.You can find special meditation music, such as sounds of nature, the sounds of a singing bowl or hanga, chanting of mantras by monks, and meditate focusing on them. The meaning is still the same – not to allow attention to run randomly, but to try to immerse your consciousness in sound.
  • Meditation on the third eye. In this case, you concentrate on the ajna chakra, which is located in the center of the forehead between the eyebrows and is responsible for intuition and connection with the universe and space. Attention must be constantly directed to this point.With practice, you can achieve an amazing state of inner calmness and a deep understanding of yourself and the events taking place.
  • Meditation on a point (trataka). You focus on a point in front of you. This can be a point drawn on a white sheet, the tip of a candle flame, or some kind of image, such as a mandala or yantra. Initially, you focus on the point with your eyes open, but with practice you will be able to completely recreate it with your eyes closed.
  • Tantra. Many people mistakenly associate this practice with sex, but in reality it includes 108 different techniques. Here are some of them:
  • concentration on the emptiness that arises from the perception of one object;
  • concentration on the space between two thoughts;
  • concentration on reality between pleasure and pain;
  • concentration on the heartbeat;
  • concentration on the moment of disappearance of the sound of a musical instrument;
  • concentration on the idea that the universe does not exist;
  • concentration on the thought that a single consciousness lives in all bodies.

We will not argue that tantric techniques are already more complicated and suitable for advanced practitioners, but you need to know about them. And for a start, the other types of meditation of the yogic tradition considered are quite suitable.

Zen Meditation

This meditation is also called zazen, which in Japanese means “seated meditation” or “seated zen”. This practice comes from the Chinese Zen Buddhist tradition dating back to the 6th century BC. One of the main purposes of the presented practice is to train the mind.

There are two main things to keep in mind:

  • Concentration. The point is to observe the breath. You need to focus on how the air passes through the nose. For convenience, you can keep counting inspirations and exhalations. For example, count the breaths, and after reaching ten, start counting in the opposite direction, and then again to ten, etc.
  • Silent seat. It is possible not to concentrate on breathing or something at all, i.e. there is simply no specific object for meditation.You sit in a meditative position and calmly observe what is happening in your mind at the moment, remaining as conscious and alert as possible.

Zen meditation has earned fame as one of the most effective. Firstly, because it is quite easy to master, and secondly, due to the fact that it is closely related to Buddhism and it is convenient to combine it with reading and chanting mantras, contemplating fire, mandalas and yantras (as well as drawing, painting or knitting the latter).

Mantra Meditation Om

Mantra Om (also pronounced Aum) comes from Vedic and Hindu traditions.It represents a sacred sound or “word of power”, the very first sound that sounded in the universe. That is why it is the mantra Om that is considered one of the most powerful among the hundreds of existing mantras.

In the process of meditation, you mentally or aloud repeat this mantra, focusing your attention on it as much as possible. When it is repeated, a special mental vibration is created, which allows the consciousness to move to new levels. As it is repeated, oddly enough, it seems to “blur” and become abstract.And this happens until the practitioner reaches a state of pure consciousness, where vibration originally appeared.

Along with the repetition of the mantra, it is useful to concentrate on the breath and visualize its image. Together, this allows you to stop the flow of thoughts and achieve this amazing state of inner silence, which gurus and spiritual mentors in various traditions and religions have been talking about all the time and continue to talk about.

As for the number of repetitions of the Om mantra, it is best to follow the rule: traditionally, the mantra is repeated 108 times.108 is a sacred number that has tremendous meaning not only in Hinduism and Buddhism, but also in numerology, astrology and mystical traditions of Europe.

But if you don’t want to get attached to this number (or, for example, there is no time to repeat the mantra 108 times), read the mantra any odd number of times: 3, 5, 7, 9, etc. And to make it easier to keep track, it is recommended to use a rosary. Better, of course, if it is a rosary specifically for meditation, made of wood, rudraksha, amber or some kind of stone.

By the way, many people who practice meditation on the Om mantra note that with practice, even outside of meditation, the mantra itself continues to sound in the head, which creates a feeling of inner peace and tranquility. It is also believed that concentrating on the mantra at the beginning of the practice of meditation is much easier than on the breath.

Mantra is a word. Any thoughts in a person’s head are perceived by him as words. When a person mentally pronounces a word to himself, consciousness itself focuses on what he “says”.Due to this, a huge number of thoughts in the head begin to come in order.

Metta Meditation

Metta meditation is also often called loving-kindness meditation because the word “metta” from the ancient Pali language is translated as “benevolence” or “good”. Hence the Russian-language interpretation of meditation – “kindness meditation” or “compassionate meditation”.

The essence of meditation is that you sit down, close your eyes and begin to evoke feelings of kindness, love and compassion in your consciousness.First, you try to experience these feelings in relation to yourself, then transfer it to loved ones, and then to all living beings in general.

Here is a simple and understandable algorithm for “progress” in this practice – you send goodness and love to:

  • yourself;
  • close people;
  • 90,480 people with whom you have a neutral relationship;

    90,480 people with whom you have a difficult relationship;

    90,480 of all people in general;

    90,480 of all living beings;

  • the whole universe.

In the process of meditation, you must develop and cultivate in yourself a specific feeling – to wish well-being, kindness and love to everyone to whom your attention is directed. Imagine in the minds of people, their worries, difficulties, troubles and sufferings, and from the bottom of your heart send them boundless happiness and good, visualize how good and love comes into their lives.

Of course, there is no guarantee that something will change in the lives of people to whom you mentally address (although, it is not in vain that they say that thoughts are material).But in any case, wishing well to others, you will do better for yourself. You yourself will not notice how after a few sessions of metta meditation, you will begin to feel a surge of joy and positive energy.

By the way, this meditation is perfect for people who are too demanding, serious and strict in relation to themselves or those around them. It is also useful for those who have difficult relationships with other people, self-esteem problems; who are under stress or depression.

Multiple Recommendations

Choose any of the above meditation techniques and just start practicing. As we said, they are all great for beginners (with the exception of some types of yogic meditation, of course) and all of them can be mastered in a relatively short time. You just need to persevere and meditate regularly – every day for at least 20 minutes, 1-2 times.

We also want to warn you that at first it may seem difficult for you to “sit” even for 20 minutes.Thoughts will run aimlessly from side to side, the untrained and undisciplined mind will resist. At times, you may even begin to feel a bit of anxiety or panic.

The same goes for physical condition and sensations. Unaccustomed to, the body may begin to “rebel”, because in ordinary life you are hardly accustomed to purposefully sitting motionless, even for some 5-10 minutes. Legs may become numb, there may be discomfort in the back and lower back, etc.

The important thing to understand here is that this is all normal.One should not indulge the desire to stop the practice or, for example, think that if the leg becomes numb for a long time, this is something terrible (oddly enough, this is one of the reasons for the internal panic of many novice practitioners). Just try to remain an outside observer and keep track of the sensations in the body, as well as thoughts and desires.