While more and more people are warming up to the idea of meditation, choosing the right kind of meditation can be sometimes confusing. With so many different types of meditations to choose from, beginners may find it quite daunting. Meditation is usually put into two broad categories – Focused Attention and Open Monitoring. One is a more insightful technique while the other is more calming. Many different types of meditation practices fall under these categories. From Zen Meditation to Mindfulness Meditation, a larger group of meditation techniques use the method of focusing to reach a higher state of being.
No form of meditation can be classified as ‘the best’ as each style has its own special benefits. What works for one person may not work for another because each one’s needs and bodies are different. However, there is no denying the benefits of daily meditation. Until you’re comfortable with the style that suits your needs, there’s no harm in trying out a variety of styles. With 25 types of meditations to choose from, you’re really spoiled for choice!
1. Beginners’ meditation
If you’ve never done meditation in your life then this is where you should start. For someone who has never attempted to connect with their inner selves by sitting in silence on a yoga mat, meditation can be a bit overwhelming. The first step to beginning a meditation practice is to set aside a regular hour every day and stay committed. Beginners’ meditation generally begins with an easy sequence to initiate yourself to the practice. As you become more comfortable with concentrating on your breath and becoming more aware of various sensations, you can switch to more difficult techniques. Beginner’s meditation is all about being able to sit still with a blank mind for short spells of time. Begin with three or five minutes and then increase the length of time. Also, it’s important to have a clear motivation for meditating, whether it’s for better focus or to deal with stress.
2. Guided Meditation
Guided Meditation is a more modern style of meditating with guidance. It is one of the easiest types of meditation to begin with as the meditator is helped by an instructor or some equipment. In the past, meditation was all about determination and the will power to remain focused. However, not everyone has the ability to rise above distractions and stay focused. Guided Meditation is therefore a great way to start out on your meditation journey until you get more used to it. Guided meditations are generally offered in the form of audio or a podcast. The traditional audio has the voice of the instructor guiding you towards the meditative state with large gaps of silence. The teacher first explains the dynamics of the mind and how it will respond to meditation. An explanation of the techniques and how you integrate them into your daily life, may also follow. You can choose from a wide range of guided meditations to suit your specific needs.
3. Body scan meditation
One of the best types of mediation for beginners is the Body Scan Meditation. As its name suggests, this meditation is all about becoming more aware of your body. It is designed to sync the body and mind by carrying out a mental scan of your body. Beginning with the top of your head, with eyes closed, go over every part of your body taking note of every sensation that you feel. With this method of meditation you become more aware of how your body feels without trying to change anything. During the process if you feel your mind wandering, stop and go back to where you left off. This type of meditation can be practiced three to six times a week for a minimum time of 20 minutes.
Noting is a form of meditation that makes you more aware of distractions. This isn’t a fixed technique but unique to each individual. As you focus on your breath or sit still, you begin to ‘note’ anything that distracts your focus. The reason for taking note of these distractions is to restore awareness. We become more attuned to our thought process. Mental noting helps the mind by giving it something to do rather than being a distraction. The main function of noting is to keep the meditator tuned to the ‘now,’ like an anchor.
5. Focused attention meditation
Like its name suggests, this type of meditation is all about focus. The main focus is on your breath. In Focused attention meditation, the breath is the anchor to attention. Every time the mind wanders, you pull it back by refocusing on your breathing. Although the breath is usually the main focus of this meditation, you can substitute it with tangible objects or even a mantra. Over a period of time the attention to these objects becomes stronger.
6. Open monitoring meditation
Open Monitoring is possibly one of the easier types of meditation to follow. Here the focus is not on one object or intangible but on keeping the mind open to various sensibilities. All aspects of our experiences, thoughts and feelings are monitored without judgment. In this type of meditation we go through each experience from one moment to the next without reacting.
7. Zazen meditation
In Japanese, Zazen translates as ‘seated Zen.’ This seated form of meditation traces its roots to the Chinese Zen Buddhism (Ch’an) tradition. It was traditionally performed in the ‘lotus’ or ‘half-lotus’ position. These days however, most practitioners sit in a more comfortable position with their backs completely straight. The eyes are kept lowered and the gaze fixed on the ground. In this position the mind focuses on the breath that is being inhaled and exhaled. Another method to Zen meditation is to sit in the present with no specific object. To be in the moment, observing the surroundings and thoughts. The aim of this meditation is to nurture alertness and a sense of being in the present. Zen Meditation is usually practiced in Zen Buddhist centers and is often paired with other elements of Buddhism.
Mindfulness is the ability of a person to be totally aware of their thoughts and actions without overreacting to them. It means being present and fully engaged in the moment without any distractions or preconceived notions. Adapted from traditional Buddhist meditation practices like Vipassana, it is not a temporary action. Instead, it is a way of life. Unlike other meditation forms, mindfulness does not eliminate stress. It just makes you more aware of your thoughts and emotions, giving you an opportunity to handle them better. In fact, mindfulness rewires the brain towards more positive thoughts and emotions. The first step to mindfulness is meditation. When we learn to be mindful of ourselves and our surroundings, it eventually becomes another part of our lives.
9. Metta (loving kindness)
Metta is a word from the ancient Pali language that stands for kindness. This form of Buddhist meditation is all about compassion and selfless love towards ourselves and others. By promoting empathy towards yourself and others it fosters better relationships and also builds a positive mindset. When you’re able to empathize with others, you let go of negative emotions which in turn leads to less stress. This type of meditation is extremely flexible and can be practiced at anytime, anywhere.
Another Buddhist form of meditation, Vipassana dates back to the 6th century BC. The modern form of Vipassana, however, originated in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. It is one of the more popular types of meditations practiced in the West. Vipassana makes you use your concentration to examine certain aspects of your life through an imaginary lens. Very similar to focused attention meditation, the practice helps in getting a clear insight into the mind and body. Sensations and thoughts are observed without any attachment. Vipassana usually begins with breathing awareness with the attention focused on your breath.
Mantras are generally syllables or words that are used to help the mind focus through repetition. These words or syllables do not have any real meaning and are not affirmations. The main purpose of using mantras during meditation is to be able to focus the mind. However, some teachers insist on using the correct pronunciation of the word to feel the vibration associated with the sound. The belief is that the subtle vibrations produced with repeating a mantra can bring about a positive change. It also helps the mind move into a deeper state of meditation. One of the most common mantras is ‘Om.’ However, there are thousands of other mantras from both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Many people find that it is easier to focus when using a mantra rather than focusing on the breath.
A widely practiced type of meditation worldwide is Transcendental Meditation. Introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the guru to the Beatles, this form of meditation has found many takers. Unlike other forms of meditation, Transcendental Meditation is taught one-on-one by a trained instructor and cannot be learned by yourself. The meditation session is for 20 minutes, twice a day. Many research papers extoll this form of meditation due to its numerous health benefits. A study published in Military Medicine showed that this form of meditation had a profound effect on veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). TM has also been shown to benefit prisoners and patients with cardiovascular diseases.
Yogic meditation is not narrowed down to one form of meditation but encompasses all the types of meditations that are taught by the different types of yoga. This form of meditation is one of the oldest types of meditation to be practiced and has a wide variety of practices. Yoga is often referred to as ‘moving meditation’ and many different styles of yoga, incorporate meditation into their sessions. Shavasana, the relaxed pose at the end of a yoga practice is said to be the bridge between yoga and meditation. With so many different styles of yoga to choose from, finding a style of yogic meditation that suits you will not be too difficult.
This is a Hindu meditative form which is generally a part of a yoga session. It deals with the various energy centers (chakras) in the body. There are seven chakras in all, that run down the body from the top of the head to the base of the spine. Chakras that are blocked or out of balance can result in negative repercussions for the body. The aim of Chakra Meditation is to bring about a balance in these chakras by keeping them fluid, open, and aligned.
15. Qigong (chi kung)
A Chinese word, meaning ‘life energy cultivation,’ Qigong is often confused with Tai Chi because of its movements. However, although they share many characteristics the two are both distinct practices. Similar to Tai Chi, this form of meditation involves inner focus, regulated breathing and slow body movements. It harnesses the bodily energy through pathways called ‘meridians.’ During meditation, when the energy is directed inward it can heal the body. Likewise, directing the energy outward can help with another person’s healing. Qigong has a wide variety of exercises that involve over 80 kinds of breathing. This body-mind exercise was once shrouded in secrecy and only taught to a select few.
Tao is another Chinese word that means ‘living in harmony.’ It traces its roots to the ancient Chinese religion and philosophy of Daoism. Buddhist meditation practices brought from India gradually melded into Taoism. Circulation and transformation of the inner energy is one of the main characteristics of Taoist meditation. This generation and circulation of the inner energy brings about a quietness of body and mind. Taoist meditation is generally categorized into three groups. Visualization, insight and concentration are the three broad categories of this type of meditation.
17. Sound meditation
Many people are often skeptical about Sound Meditation as they are of the firm belief that meditation is done in silence. Sound Meditation also known as Nada Yoga focuses on sound. It basically means ‘union through sound,’ an inner transformation that is brought about by sound. The meditation begins with hearing, listening to external sounds (ahata) and then gradually moving towards listening to internal sounds (anahata). The external sounds could be a mantra, music, or the Tibetan singing bowl. As the meditator becomes more attuned to listening to the internal sounds of his/her being, the external sounds are gradually turned down. Various spiritual and psychological conditions benefit from the sound vibrations and resonances that Nada Yoga uses. Nada Yoga also helps to relieve stress, insomnia and negative mindsets.
18. Yoga nidra
Yoga Nidra is a combination of yoga and meditation. Also known as dynamic sleep, Yoga Nidra is a kind of antithesis to meditation. While meditation is all about focusing on a tangible or intangible feeling or object, Yoga Nidra withdraws from these active senses. It is the state between wakefulness and sleep, where the body is relaxed but the mind is still lucid. This guided meditation takes the practitioner through the five layers of self. It focuses on cultivating multiple layers of wellbeing.
19. Merkaba meditation
Broken down, Mer means “a light that rotates,” ka is “spirit,” and ba is “physical body.” This energy body meditation technique traces its roots to Egypt. It is a simple yet powerful meditation technique that has immense benefits. The premise of this meditation is that the body is surrounded by energy fields in the form of geometric shapes. These energy fields are in continuous motion around the body and rotate at a fixed speed. However, for people who are stressed out or depressed these fields tend to slow down or come to a complete halt. Merkaba mediation kick starts these fields back into motion. This form of meditation comprises 18 different breathing exercises. Each exercise needs to be mastered before moving on to the next one as each is a step towards balancing the energy fields.
Visualization is all about creating a picture in your mind. Many sports persons and artists use visualization to help them achieve a goal. Visualization Meditation combines visualization with meditation. It is another type of focus meditation but instead of the breath, the focus is on a mental picture of a person, object or even an activity. Although it may seem a little difficult to conjure up an image at first, it doesn’t take long to get used to this form of meditation. It’s quite easy to think about someone or something you like. Conjuring up positive images are fairly easy. Loving kindness meditation is a form of visualization. In Metta meditation you send love and kindness to a person that you conjure up in your mind’s eye.
21. Letting go
One of the best types of meditation for someone carrying excess baggage is Letting Go Meditation. When one is weighed down by extra burdens, there is generally no space for positive or new energy. Releasing attachments to jobs, relationships or people creates space for better energy to flow in. When we allow ourselves to let go, the process of healing begins. This meditation is often performed through breathing and visualization exercises. It is a more guided form of meditation where the teacher guides you past the negatives.
22. Third eye
A form of yogic meditation, Third Eye Meditation focuses on a spot between the eyebrows. This is one of the chakras (energy centers) of the body called the ‘ajna chakra’ or simply the third eye. Yoga believes that the third eye is the seat of wisdom and intuition. It is also the spiritual center of inner knowledge that fosters creativity. Like most forms of meditation, Third Eye Meditation requires you to sit still in a quiet environment as you focus on this chakra. Every time the mind wanders, divert your attention back to this spot to silence the mind.
23. Walking meditation
Walking meditation stems from the Buddhist tradition of mindfulness, of being in the now. As the name suggests, the focus of this meditation is on the act of walking. You become mindful of each step that you take, how your foot connects to the ground and the sensations on your feet. When the mind begins to wander, draw it back to the present by focusing on the next step. The purpose of this meditation is to press the slow down button and bring the mind in sync with the body. Walking meditation is good for beginners and people who don’t like sitting in one place for long periods. Start this meditation for a short duration of 10 minutes until you get more tuned to it.
24. Self enquiry ‘I Am’ meditation
Popularized by the Indian sage Ramana Maharishi in the 20th century, Self-Enquiry Meditation is looking within to find one’s true self. With this kind of meditation the question of “Who am I?” arises. However, answers that just spring to mind are generally rejected to focus on the deeper meaning of “I am.” When you contemplate on the “I” deeply enough you’ll find inner freedom and peace. For someone who is a newbie to meditation, this type of meditation will be a little difficult to follow through. A good idea would be to start off with some guided meditations to get you started.
25. Gratitude (reflection) meditation
The name itself tells you what this form of meditation is all about. As you meditate, the focus is on the feeling of gratitude for your life. It makes you reflect on the things in life that you’re grateful for. The appreciation for different actions, people and events brings about a feeling of contentment. Gratitude helps shift our perspective from negative emotions and opens our minds to a positive state. One of the best things of this meditation is that you can do it at any time, anywhere. However, a good time to practice Gratitude Meditation would be at the end of the day, when you can sit quietly and reflect on all the good parts of the day. Begin with 10 minutes and then move on to a longer meditation time. As you become more familiar with the feeling of appreciation, you become more tuned to the present and your emotions.