Working out the different types of meditation can be confusing and a little overwhelming – which is not ideal when it comes to a practise that is supposed to help you de-stress! Like yoga, meditation and mindfulness methods come in all shapes and sizes. Here is list of different kinds of meditation for you to discover which kind of meditation is best for you and your lifestyle!
Firstly, nearly all meditations fit into one of three areas, and it's best to understand these before breaking it down into different practises:
1. Mindfulness (Open Monitoring)
Probably the most well-known and most talked about type of meditation, mindfulness is known as 'open monitoring'. With this, you let your mind wander freely, observe and are ‘mindful’ of your experience.
2. Effortless Transcending
Popularized by the Beatles and the Beach Boys in the 1970s, it is effortless meditation because you are allowing your mind to go blank, with the end goal of accessing your pure self by achieving different levels of consciousness. Think of it like giving your brain a massage, so it can relax!
3. Focused Attention (Concentration)
This is focusing attention a specific object to enhance concentration and increase focus. The idea is to increase your ability to focus 100% on specific objects for longer and longer periods of time.
Whereas most meditations fit into one of these categories, there are so many practises to choose, that we have also put together a list of the most common types of meditation and what they can help you with – making sure you find the one that works best for you:
Guided Meditations (Non-Religious)
These meditations essentially guide people through the proper technique, whether that is increased concentration or deeper relaxation. The best known app for guided meditations is Headspace, which is mainly used to combat stress.
Within guided meditations, there are also different techniques to focus on different parts or needs your body may have. Some of these could include:
Uses affirmations to get a particular type of thinking into your mind. When you are relaxed when meditating, your mind is more open to suggestion, making this the perfect way to encourage positive thinking or give you a little confidence boost. It even works for changing bad habits, like teeth grinding in your sleep!
This allows you to focus on a particular part of your body and notice the stress or tension. Whole body scans are useful for reconnecting with yourself and noticing and aches and pains. In yoga, this is also called yoga nidra.
Good for: Beginners, relaxation and increased awareness.
Zen Meditation (Zazen)
Zazen means seated meditation or seated zen in Japanese, but this technique has its roots in Chinese Buddism. Generally practised seated on the floor with your legs crossed in lotus position, or on a chair, this meditation incorporates a focus of breathing and remaining in the present moment, so a mixture of concentration and mindfulness.
Good for: Relaxation and stress reduction.
Vipassana means 'insight' or 'clear seeing'. Although there are several ways to practise Vipassana, most start with a ‘focused attention’ approach to breathing. After picking a 'primary object' of concentration (if you are focusing on breathing, this would be your abdomen) you would bring your mind gently back to the primary object when it wanders away to ‘secondary’ distractions. Although there have been no conclusive studies on the benefits of Vipassana, it has been credited with helping de-stress and even getting rid of migraines!
Good for: Beginners, grounding yourself and relaxation.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
An adaption of Vipassana technique to combat stress and anxiety is used in many Western hospitals for stress reduction and even trauma programs. With the same technique as Vipassana (concentration on the present moment, observing thoughts in a non judgemental way), but with a little more flexibility into how it is practised, means this works wonders for Westerners with busy lives.
It does not even need to be done sitting down, even when running to the metro, the practise can help you become aware of and non-reactive to your consciousness. Some even swear by it as a method for weight loss.
Good for: Busy people with stress and anxiety problems.
Primordial Sound Meditation (PSM)
Rooted in the Vedic tradition of India and developed by the Chopra Center in California, PSM allows you to experience inner calm and deep relaxation. It aims to promote 'restful awareness', where your body is physically relaxed and your mind is quiet but alert. It encourages you to use silence and experience inner calm – perfect for dealing with the stresses of the modern day world and calming you down for sleeping.
Good for: Stress and anxiety reduction and insomnia.
Metta Meditation (Loving Kindness)
This comes from the Theravada Buddist tradition and is also sometimes called ‘compassion meditation’. Metta is translated as ‘love’ without any sort of attraction and so metta meditation involves cultivating unconditional love and kindness towards other human beings. To do this, you must first generate feelings of unconditional love for yourself, and then expand it to others.
Good for: Increasing happiness, positive feelings and letting go of anger.
‘Kundalini’ translates into English as ‘serpent’ or snake. Also a type of yoga, this meditation technique focuses on releasing the ‘kundalini’ energy at the base of the spine. Using techniques like breathing through alternate nostrils, the idea is to clean specific energy channels to allow the ‘serpent’ energy from the lower energy centres in your body to rise to the ‘higher’ centres.
Good for: Increasing energy levels and good for fibromyalgia.
‘Chakra’ translates as wheel or disk, and in yoga, meditation and Ayurveda, this refers to wheels of energy throughout the body. Chakra meditation uses specific mantras for each of the 7 chakra centres in your body to open them up and expand energy flow to that area. Each chakra has a special mantra, for example, heart = Yam.
Good for: Whole body awareness and increased energy.
This type of meditation helps you combat negative thinking to avoid hurtful consequences. Tonglen meditation uses deep breathing techniques to access negative emotions and replace them with clear thinking and compassion. For example, by breathing in and allowing all negative feelings and emotions to come to the surface, then breathing them all out, you can fill the empty space with compassion.
Good for: Combatting negative thinking and loneliness, and promoting compassion.
Mantra Meditation (OM)
In the Hindu tradition, mantra meditation is repeating a single sound, word or syllable to focus the mind. The most well-known sound is ‘om’, although a lot of people get an advanced meditation teacher to come up with a mantra specific to them. Mantra meditation is preferred by some over breath meditation because it's easier to focus on a repeated sound. There are lots of apps that offer pre-prepared mantra to make it easy to start, like Saagara.
Good for: Focus and relaxation.
Self Enquiry & ‘”I am” Meditation
This technique has been around in India for thousands of years and now has a lot of contemporary followers. It involves asking yourself, “Who Am I?” and using that question to go deeper into your true self and bring attention to your individual perception and experience the, 'I'.
Good for: Self awareness.
Qigong (Chi Gong)
Qigong is a Chinese word that also means 'life energy cultivation' and involves using both the body and the mind. Typically, it uses slow, controlled body movements combined with inner focus and concentration on breathing to circulate energy. The combination of movement and meditation also makes it great for people who suffer from anxiety.
Good for: Increasing energy (and for people who find it hard to sit still!)
As you can see, meditation comes in many shapes and sizes, however by breaking down the jargon, we hope you find the type that fits your lifestyle and needs the best. Happy meditating!