Reading about the many forms of meditation available nowadays can be confusing and a little overwhelming – not ideal when it comes to a practice that is supposed to help you overcome stress and reach mindfulness.
What is meditation?
There are different ways to meditate, and since it’s such a personal practice there are lots more kinds of practices than most of us know about. The most popular and wide-spread are focused-attention, or mindful meditation, which is where you focus on one specific thing—it could be your breathing, a sensation in your body or a particular object outside of you. The point of this type of meditation is to focus strongly on one point and continually bring your attention back to that focal point when it wanders.
The other type of meditation that’s often used in research is open-monitoring meditation. This is where you pay attention to all of the things happening around you.
Like yoga, meditation and mindfulness methods come in all shapes and sizes. Here is a list of the different kinds of meditation and their benefits to help you discover which practice is best for you to reach self-love and mindfulness, taking into consideration the best techniques for beginners and your busy lifestyle, of course!
Different types of meditation techniques
Firstly, nearly all meditations fit into one of three areas, and it's best to understand these before breaking it down into the different methods available for you to try:
1. Mindfulness (open monitoring)
Probably the most well-known and most talked about, 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 named effortless meditation because you allow 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 practices to choose. Here is 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.
4. Guided meditation (non-religious)
These meditations essentially guide people through the proper technique, whether that is increased concentration or deeper relaxation. One of the best-known apps for guided meditations is Headspace, which is mainly used to combat stress and sleep issues like insomnia.
Good for: Beginners who want to increase awareness.
5. Affirmation meditation
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!
Good for: Beginners kicking a bad habit.
6. Body scan
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 trying to de-stress and overcome anxiety.
7. Zen meditation (zazen)
Zazen means seated meditation or seated zen in Japanese, but this technique has its roots in Chinese Buddism. Generally practiced 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: Beginners looking to beat stress and learn to breathe.
8. Vipassana meditation
Vipassana means 'insight' or 'clear seeing'. Although there are several ways to practice 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 looking to relax and boost concentration.
9. 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 practiced, 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, this method can help you become aware of and non-reactive to your consciousness.
Good for: Busy people with stress and anxiety problems or overcoming emotional issues.
10. 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: Stressed out people who have trouble with insomnia.
11. 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 and letting go of anger.
12. Kundalini meditation
'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 centers in your body to rise to the 'higher' centers.
Good for: Increasing energy levels and dealing with body issues like fibromyalgia.
13. Chakra meditation
'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 centers 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: Full body and intuition awareness and increased energy.
14. Tonglen meditation
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: Beginners combatting loneliness and promoting compassion.
15. 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: Beginners who want to boost concentration and relaxation.
16. Self-enquiry and "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: Boosting self-love and self-awareness.
17. 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 are suffering from anxiety.
Good for: Increasing energy and fighting fatigue.
As you can see, meditation comes in many shapes and sizes. However, by breaking down the jargon, we hope you find the right type of meditation or mindfulness practice that suits you and your lifestyle and helps you overcome the issues you would like to work on. Namaste!
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