With the new year around the corner and resolutions on our mind, many of us are thinking about meditation. After all, the ancient tradition has been scientifically proven to improve memory, prevent certain diseases, reduce blood pressure and, in some cases, be even more effective than sleep. So, why aren’t we all already doing it?
The answer is this: most of us don’t know how. Though we know meditation can be done anywhere and for any amount of time, most of us are still confused by it.
Are we meant to be clearing our mind? Or rather, should we be controlling our thoughts? Or directing them somewhere else? It’s no wonder that after continued practice without seeing results, many of us become frustrated and give up. (For the record, there is no right or wrong way to meditate – it’s merely a training in awareness. Or, in other words, it’s a watching of our thoughts.)
But, with meditation’s aforementioned benefits, not to mention it being an extremely effective way to relieve stress and anxiety, it’s definitely worth understanding. And one of the best places to start is with an overview of its different styles. Because, with each meditation style requiring varying skills and mindsets, it’s likely one will resonate more with you than others – and there’s a good chance you might not have found it yet.
Ahead, we share five of the most common meditation styles.
If you’ve tried a meditation class at a gym or work event, it’s likely it involved mindfulness meditation.
Originating from Buddhist teachings, this form of meditation is the most popular technique in the West and is all about becoming aware of the present moment – instead of living in the past or future.
The benefit of this type of meditation is that it can be done almost anywhere at any time.
Try it the next time you find yourself frustrated waiting in traffic, nervous before a job interview, angry after a heated conversation or simply craving some calm. Bring your attention back to your breath and then consciously take in your surroundings, noticing the sights, sounds and smells.
Find it hard to focus on your breath? Or not a fan of dead silence? Try mantra meditation.
With roots in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, mantra meditation involves using a repetitive sound like a word, phrase or noise to clear the mind. The most commonly-used sound is “Om.”
The idea is that after chanting it – softly or loudly, it doesn’t matter – you’ll then be more alert to what’s happening around you, which will eventually allow you to access deeper levels of awareness.
If you frequently find yourself holding feelings of anger or resentment directed at others, you might want to try loving-kindness meditation.
Loving-kindness meditation, also known as metta meditation, works to cultivate an attitude of love and kindness towards everything – yourself included.
The idea is that by breathing deeply while opening your mind to receiving love and kindness and sending it back out, you’ll then be able to strengthen feelings of compassion and acceptance.
Try it out by breathing deliberately and then thinking and saying, repeatedly, “May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be safe.”
If you find it hard to sit still and are actually calmer when moving around, movement meditation could be for you.
The best example of it is yoga, though it could also be taking a walk or hike, or even gardening. While doing the activity, notice each action and focus on your body’s physical sensations as it moves. You should feel more grounded as a result.
Body-scan meditation, also called progressive relaxation, is a meditation that encourages you to scan your body for areas of tension. The idea is that, once you realise where you’re holding it, you’ll then be able to release it.
To try this meditation, start at one end of your body and then work your way through it. This style is said to help with chronic pain and is often used for better sleep.
The bottom line
Again, these are just a few of the most popular types of meditation. There are of course many others – including spiritual meditation, focused meditation and transcendental meditation – not to mention subtypes within each style.
The only way to determine which style will work best for you is by trying a few and seeing which make you feel most comfortable and encouraged to practice.