Meditation is the practice of focusing one’s mind for a period of time, noticing but not engaging with thoughts. This can be done in silence or with the help of chanting, and is done for a number of reasons, ranging from religious or spiritual purposes to a method for evoking relaxation.
In our modern, hectic world, meditation has gained traction in recent years as a way to manage stress. Scientific evidence has also emerged that shows meditation can be a helpful tool in fighting chronic illnesses, including depression, heart disease, and chronic pain. (1,2,3)
There are many different forms of this ancient practice.
If you’re interested in trying meditation, but do not know where to start, here’s a list of seven types of meditation practice:
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is the process of being fully present with your awareness. Being mindful means being aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not being overly reactive to what’s going on around us.
Mindful meditation can be done anywhere. Some people prefer to sit in a quiet place, close their eyes, and focus on their breathing. But you can choose to be mindful at any point of the day, including while you’re commuting to work or doing chores.
When practicing mindfulness meditation, you observe your thoughts and emotions but let them pass without judgement. (4)
2. Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental meditation may sound lofty, but it’s actually a basic technique: You choose a mantra — a word, a phrase, or a sound — and repeat it for 20 minutes twice a day. It’s best to do this seated, with your eyes closed.
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, according to Mindworks.org.
4. Vipassana Meditation (Sayagyi U Ba Khin Tradition)
An ancient Indian form of meditation, vipassana means to see things as they really are. It dates back more than 2,500 years and is credited for the mindfulness meditation movement in the United States.
Vipassana meditation aims for self-transformation through self-observation. By focusing your attention on physical sensations in the body, you establish a deep connection between mind and body. This interconnectedness, teachers of the practice say, helps balance your mind and promotes love and compassion.
Traditionally, vipassana is taught during a 10-day course, during which students must abstain from a number of things, including intoxicants and sexual activity. (7)
5. Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta Meditation)
Metta meditation, also called loving kindness meditation, is the practice of directing well-wishes toward others. Practitioners 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 words slowly and steadily. These could include: “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 beings everywhere be happy.” (7,8)
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 along the spine, 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. (9)
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. (5)
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. (9)