Meditation is an ancient art many cultures have used for hundreds of years. While some people primarily practice yoga for the physical aspect of strengthening and flexibility, yoga is a holistic practice made up of eight limbs that nurture your mind, body, and spirit. Dhanya, meditation and contemplation, is the seventh limb of yoga. This limb is made up of various types of meditation practices that will enable you to clear and nourish your mind, leaving your brain feeling happier and healthier.
Essential Types of Meditation You Need to Know
Knowing some of the different types of meditation is a great place to start your meditation journey. Here is an introduction to some common types of meditation you may want to try!
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is one of many types of meditation that emphasizes clearing your mind and bringing your focus inward. Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware of the moment you are living and the world around you. Practicing this type of meditation offers a number of benefits including:
- Focusing on the present rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future
- Lowering stress and decreasing rumination
- Reducing anxiety, lowering blood pressure, increasing connection with those around us and a number of other scientific benefits!
You can do this practice seated or while walking. To get started, take a few deep breaths and bring your attention inward. Then, bring your focus to your immediate circumstances. This can be as simple as bringing your attention to your feet on the ground or taking 5 minutes to relax into the feeling of the wind on your face. If you would like to give mindfulness meditation a try, start with this 5-minute mindfulness meditation you can do anywhere!
2. Movement Meditation
Mediation is not only a stationary activity! Movement meditation can be a good option for practitioners who have trouble slowing down and quieting their minds and bodies in a seated position. This type of meditation, as the name suggests, refers to any type of meditation you do while moving and typically incorporates elements of motion synced with your breath. Some common types of meditation while moving include:
- Slower types of yoga such that focus on gentle movements and breathing. Many people will focus on their breath and bring their full attention to the current moment to do this type of moving meditation through yoga.
- Tai Chi, a mind-body practice that includes slow body movement, breathing, and focus on the energy in and around your body
- Qigong, a martial art that combines breathing, meditation and elements of dance and other movements.
- Other activities that combine breathing and rhythm such as walking, swimming, or dance. Focusing on your breath while floating in water or while walking through the park are simple ways to reap the benefit of meditation while moving.
When you shape a meditation around a series of images or mental pictures, it becomes a visualization. Meditating through visualization is a powerful tool. This type of meditation can enable your brain to go through the motions of an action before you actually do it, help you manifest things you would like to accomplish, and more. Plus, it is a meditation practice you can take anywhere! This practice can reduce anxiety, improve performance, and more. Some common types of meditative visualization include:
- Running through various parts of the task at hand in this meditative state. These are often tangible tasks or physical activities. This may mean running each step of a race, mentally performing a dance sequence, going through a presentation before doing it.
- Using mental imagery of peaceful places to feel calm and centered. This may mean mentally picturing a serene beach, calm forest, or in front of a warm crackling fireplace to bring yourself to a place that makes you feel comfortable and safe.
- Visualizing the best possible outcomes for your goals and aspirations
4. Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditation is a practice rooted in ancient Buddhism and Hinduism. This practice entails repeating a mantra, a word or phrase, during meditation. People do mantra meditation for a number of reasons: some may be as simple as setting a positive intention on your way to work, while others may have complex meanings and religious intention. Practicing mantra meditation can help you gain confidence in the activity at hand and create language surrounding an intention.
People from many different religions and cultures have practiced this type of meditation over the centuries and embraced the power of affirmations. From spiritual and religious texts across denominations to the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi, there are many historic mantras to explore. Today, some people may choose in-depth mantras to for spiritual connection, while others will choose some simple words they wish to live by. Some examples of mantras from the latter category you may wish to explore include:
- I am grateful for all that is unfolding in my life and all there is to come
- I am fulfilled, I am fearless
- Less is more
- Today, you are perfect
5. Loving-Kindness Or Metta Meditation
If you would like to use meditation to share your positive energy with the world rather than turning your focus inward, Loving-Kindness meditations should be on your go-to list of types of meditation to explore. The goal of this practice is to not only feel more connected with yourself but also with those around you. Dr. Emma Seppala of the Stanford Center For Compassion and Altruism Research and Education conducted in-depth research on this type of meditation and found the following benefits:
- Feeling closer to the people around you, even if they are strangers.
- Increased feelings of positivity and happiness
- Higher levels of empathy and lower levels of self-interest
People typically practice Loving-Kindness meditations with a mantra or an audio-guided soundtrack. Practitioners are typically in a seated position focusing on their breath. Then, they either bring their energy to a certain person or relationship in their life, or repeat a mantra (or both!). Common themes within this type of meditation include:
- Receiving love and kindness
- Sending love and kindness to important people in our lives
- Focusing positive energy on neutral people in our lives
- Bringing your attention to sending positive energy to all living things
Now that you know a few basic types of meditation, consider starting your own meditation journey through guided meditation! To read more on practicing meditation, check out these unusual forms of meditation and these tips for meditating in a distracting environment.