Meditation is a hot topic today at the height of a global pandemic. With so many resources on the internet describing the benefits of meditation, it can be overwhelming to decide which type of meditation is right for you. There are 7 main types of meditation forms that all bring about an abundance of positive benefits for both your mental and physical health. Whether it is improving your attention span, your relationships, or your breathing, the positive effects of meditation are nearly endless. Although these different types of meditation may vary in form, they do share a wealth of common benefits on your health:
Improving focus and attention span
Reducing impulsive reactions
Lowering symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress
Reducing blood pressure
Promoting feelings of love and empathy
Reducing anger, conflict, and frustration
Let us take a deeper dive at these 7 meditation techniques to see which type may be the right fit for you.
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness is the act of being present (aka mindful) and remaining in the moment. Do you ever walk in a room and wonder why you went there? Or park the car at home and have trouble recalling the drive? This is due to mindlessly going through the motions.
The Simple Technique of Mindfulness Meditation
Mind-full-ness. As the name suggests, is simply the art of being mindful of one’s thoughts. The idea is to try and ignore all thoughts in your head and focus on specific, intricate details in a positive manner. One suggested method to accomplish this is to play an instrumental song in the background and focus solely on the drum beat. The most popular way involves focusing solely on your breathing. Whether good or bad- ignore all thoughts, emotions or sensations as your meditation session continues.
2. Metta Meditation (Loving Kindness)
Metta meditation is the practice of wishing good for yourself, other people and other aspects of your life. The first step is attempting to love yourself as much as possible. As the saying goes: love yourself before you love others. With regular practice, the ability to find love within yourself will make it easier to love other people, opinions, and even other sources of stress.
How to Practice Metta Meditation
The process begins by first placing yourself in a happy place, and then repeating to yourself, something along the lines of: “May I be loved”, “May I be happy”. Eventually, when you feel you have successfully instilled a sense of self-love, replace “I” with the name of someone you love. For some, this is easier than loving themselves. After some time, try adding peoples’ names who you are not so fond of. This may seem difficult, but faking it until you make (or mean) it should do the trick.
Finally, try to envision sources of sadness or stress, as the thing you are sending love and warm wishes to. It may seem weird to tell yourself that you love the excessive reports your boss is making you do, but having a loving and positive attitude towards it can drastically increase your productivity in completing it.
3. Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation (TM) aims to allow the practitioner to transcend, or rise above, their current state of being. It allows you to see the bigger picture and readjust your priorities by “placing” you above it all. TM relies solely on the effortless repetition of a mantra, silently in your mind. Contrary to Mindfulness meditation, TM differs in that we do not try to empty the mind of thoughts but actually let thoughts flow, observing them without judgement and gradually transitioning back to the mantra.
How to Start Practicing Transcendental Meditation
Although receiving TM instruction is traditionally done with a certified TM instructor at a whopping fee of an average $2,500, we can definitely come up with a do-it-yourself step by step for you to try at home for free!
It is best to set yourself no more than 20 minutes before breakfast and 20 minutes the supper to start your sessions. Moreover, regularity is the key; try to meditate each day at the same times so that your mind can get used to transitioning into a meditative state.
To start, pick a mantra or meaningless word such as OM that you will silently repeat in your mind. It is better to go with a meaningless word here as to not promote thoughts. For example, repeating ‘’pizza’’ for 20 minutes might lead your mind and body to believe that you are hungry and thus disrupting your meditation session.
Once you decided on a mantra, you are 50% on your way to being fully ready to begin.
Find a comfortable chair to sit on, hands on your laps and feet on the floor
Sit up straight with your back against your chair
Wait roughly 30 seconds and begin silently repeating your mantra in your mind, effortlessly
When thoughts come, which they will, simply go back to your mantra
Repeat this process for 20 minutes.
At the end of your meditation session, do not open your eyes abruptly as this can shock your nervous system. Once your 20 minute session is over, relax in that comfortable position and keep your eyes closed for roughly 2 minutes to give your nervous system time to adjust
4. Guided Meditation
Typically practiced with an instructor, guided meditation involves visualizing scenarios or mental pictures that one finds relaxing. Typically, the instructor or even a voice-over will guide you through the visualization process. Alternatively, there are apps and online instructors one can turn to as well.
How to Practice Guided Meditation
It is recommended to reach out to an instructor for guidance, or alternatively on your own or with an app. Once you find yourself seated into a comfortable position, picture a scenario or an image that relaxes you and envision yourself there. Aim to first properly visualize the image or scenario, by gradually adding smaller details as your session continue. Eventually, picture yourself in this scenario and remain aware of your feelings.
5. Zen Meditation
Arguably the hardest meditation type to practice, Zen Meditation involves many steps and postures and should be practiced with a certified instructor. However, it can be done without an instructor with a lot of practice. It involves observing one’s thoughts without judgement, in order to transfer someone to their ~zen~. (Defined by Merriam-Webster as a state of calm attentiveness in which one's actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort)
How to Practice Zen Meditation
Sit upright in a quiet room and disregard your surroundings. Focus solely on your breathing. Observe the thoughts that come into your head, and simply acknowledge them. However again, it is strongly recommended to practice Zen Meditation with an instructor in order to properly succeed at reaching your zen.
6. Yoga Meditation
One of the more popular forms of meditation, yoga involves performing a series of postures while focusing on breathing and, typically, repeating a mantra or series of mantras. This method has increased so much in popularity that the yoga clothing industry (not required to properly practice yoga meditation) had a valuation of USD $31.3 billion in 2018. Lululemon anyone?
How to Practice Yoga
It is recommended to reach out to a yoga instructor or join an online class to follow along throughout the session. Alternatively, some may feel comfortable performing yoga on their own, depending on their experience or flexibility. Go through the poses and focus on your breathing, ignoring all other thoughts and worries. Depending on the pose and your preference, repeat a mantra to yourself.
7. Progressive Relaxation Meditation (Vipassana)
Vipassana, as it’s more commonly known, involves going through the different parts of your body and releasing tension in areas where it is found. When one starts successfully practicing Vipassana, they will essentially have the ability to physically alter their health with the power of their mind. It is one of the harder types of meditations and involves intense concentration and willpower. However, the effects will benefit both your mental and physical health.
Starting with Vipassana Meditation
There are multiple methods, however the easiest method involves starting with concentrating on your feet and working your way up. At each part of your body, focus on that area and release tension. Alternatively, one may envision waves of relaxation rushing over their body and release tension in a more fluid manner. It is imperative to solely focus on releasing tension in the area you are focusing on and avoid getting distracted by emotions, no matter how strong they may be.