Different Types Of Meditation
Meditation is a practice that uses various techniques to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. It’s been around for centuries and meditation methods have altered with the times; new formats are popular amongst celebrities, splashed across glossy magazines and suggested by health experts, with an estimated 18 million people in the US having taken part in meditative approaches, at least once.
Meditation is highly beneficial at reducing stress and developing concentration. People often use the practice to dispel attention deficit disorder, insomnia and procrastination in front of difficult tasks, with meditative benefits factoring towards a more positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and, at times, increased pain tolerance.
Let’s face it, we know meditation is good for us and for those thinking of getting into it the lines can be blurred on where to start – fear not, we’ve got your back! Whilst meditation via an app is probably a sure-fire way for beginners to learn, here’s a breakdown of some of the more mainstream and popular forms:
Perhaps the most charming sounding mediation of the bunch, loving-kindness meditation – also referred to as metta – is the highly popular choice that lets you give yourself a whole lotta loving, and that can never be a bad thing.
In turn, you’ll increase your capacity for forgiveness, connection to others, self-acceptance and more, allowing for an increased positivity towards you, you and more you! Like its namesake, the practice develops your state of happiness, resurfacing feelings of warmth and loving kindness too.
Mindful magazine highlights that “loving-kindness is meant to be done in the easiest way possible so that the experience springs forth most gently.” There are traditional phrases that participants repeat, such as asking for avoidance of danger; ‘may I be free from danger, may I know safety.’ In short, set aside 15-20 minutes, put your body at ease, soften the belly and chest, recall feelings of love and kindness and do the recitation. Ah, what a simple and cosy way to self-loving!
It’s the meditation described by Vogue as “Hollywood’s favourite pathway to inner peace,” but what exactly is transcendental meditation? Well aside from being a celeb favourite, this style of meditation that has scooped up millions of practitioners is actually a bit of an old school favourite that rose up during the buzz of the late-60s.
Yet as a result of its celebrity following it appears the practice has gained a second wind, as a technique practiced in two 20-minute sessions per day. The main principle is the use of a personal word with no meaning that you then repeat, silently.
Despite sounding crazily straightforward – and perhaps verging on the bizarre – this style of meditation actually requires four hours of one-on-one instruction with a trained teacher. Suffice to say it may be a bombshell for anxiety but it’s also a little on the pricey and complex side. Worth it though? We think so!
Mindfulness is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment, akin to avocado, unicorns and “Instagrammable!” Yet mindful meditation is undeniably beneficial as the process of being fully present within your thoughts. Mindful does just what it says on the tin; practitioners should be fully aware of their surroundings, illuminating where they are and what they’re doing, this thus gives it the advantage of the ability to practice anywhere, from your lounge to your commute.
It’s crucial to concentrate on your breathing which, in turns, allows for an observation of your deeper thoughts and emotions. The practice can be enjoyed in abundance via various apps including Headspace and Buddhify. You can find more mindful apps here (links back to the meditation apps piece)
“Close your eyes,” is often ushered in the same breath as the word meditation, yet gazing meditation – also known as Trāṭaka in Sanskrit – subverts this, illuminating a kind of meditative state where the eyes remain open throughout.
Participants focus their vision on something like a spot on the wall or a flame in a style that is championed by apps such as Mindfi which solely uses the newfangled technique of open-eye meditation.
Trāṭaka is a word that translates, in Sanskrit, “to gaze,” and so this style of meditation provokes you to naturally relax as inner chatter begins to cease and the mind becomes quiet. This is a very straightforward way of meditating due to the main instruction being to focus your attention on a preferred marker point, and you can even sit, lotus like, to immerse yourself fully into the practice. So, whether your gaze meets a plain object, a candle flame or that chocolate bar you’re dying to eat, there’s a focal point for everyone!
Body Scan Relaxation
With the ebbs and flows of the everyday, it’s easy for tension to build in our bodies like wildfire (ever sat at the desk wishing a masseuse was on hand for all your aches and pains?) Well, Body Scan Relaxation, which is also known as Progressive Relaxation, allows the participant to notice tension and thus allow it to release.
You work through your entire body, beginning at the feet, with some forms requiring people to tense and then relax. More calmer methods incorporate visualising waves drifting over your body which, in turn, allows you to release tension – hurrah! For those with chronic pain or those who struggle to sleep, this form of meditation is perhaps best as it encourages feelings of total calmness.
Researching this form of meditation often conjures the same phrase “the anxiety slammer,” and about it UCLA psychology clinic director Danielle Keenan-Miller, Ph.D said to Vogue: “grounding exercises like body scan mediation (being aware of each body part, sequentially) is a good option because it’s “physiologically relaxing and boring.” We’re sold!
Brainwave Entrainment Meditation
A very modern form of meditation, Brainwave Entrainment uses pulses of sound, as a process that synchronises two different beats to become harmonious. In essence, you’ll have one different sound in each ear which stimulates your brain into altered states of consciousness. Whilst this sounds pretty freaky it’s actually a very simple meditation that helps with focus and sleep, and can be achieved by donning some headphones and zoning out for a while!