Meditation is one of the best ways to promote mindfulness and a heightened sense of awareness. It provides the opportunity to deeply connect with oneself and to truly relax while improving overall focus. Many mental health experts recommend using meditation techniques to relieve stress and tension and improve both physical and mental wellbeing. There is no right or wrong way to meditate, and different methods work better for different people.
Zen meditation is also known as zazen meditation or “seated meditation.” This ancient practice is an important part of Buddhist culture and involves several specific steps, postures, and breathing techniques. Because of the intricacies involved in Zen meditation, many choose to practice under an instructor.
Transcendental meditation is practiced in a seated position and involves deep breathing and chanting mantras. The mantra is generally specific to the practitioner and may involve life or spiritual goals. For example, a person may chant a mantra such as “I will lose weight” or “I am aware and enlightened.” Those who prefer to practice a more traditional form of transcendental meditation may choose to work with a teacher who will choose a mantra for them. These mantras are generally based on more complex factors and are less goal-oriented.
Kundalini yoga is a form of meditation that combines movement with deep breathing exercises and mantras. In a Kundalini yoga practice, practitioners typically hold deep yoga poses and often experience improved physical fitness and wellbeing. While it is possible to practice this form of meditation at home, many prefer to learn in a class setting or one-on-one with a certified instructor.
Vipassana or “clear sight” is a meditation technique that dates back to the 6th century B.C. This Buddhist technique focuses primarily on deep breathing and concentration. Vipassana meditation is practiced in a seated position with an unsupported back. The practitioner will focus on a single object while partaking in deep breathing exercises. This form of meditation can be done in a class setting or alone at home.
Mindfulness meditation is an adaptation of Vipassana meditation that employs similar techniques. To practice mindfulness meditation, one takes a seated position on a cushion on the floor and practices deep breathing techniques. Instead of concentrating 100 percent of one’s focus on a single object, the practitioner focuses on emotions and sensations, accepting each thought as it arises, without judgment or concern. After acknowledging each thought, it is immediately dismissed to allow new thoughts and sensations to arise.
Metta, or loving-kindness, meditation, entails deep relaxation through deep breathing in a seated position on the floor. While sitting in silence with eyes closed, the person will attempt to conjure up thoughts and feelings of love, kindness, and compassion. Typically, one begins by directing these feelings towards themselves and then focuses their meditation on other beings in the following order:
- A dear friend
- A “neutral” person or acquaintance
- A difficult person
- All four above persons equally
- The entire universe
Breath Awareness Meditation
Breath awareness meditation is one of the simplest forms of meditation and quite possibly the most relaxing. While practicing breath awareness meditation, one focuses only on breathing and typically counts their breath. A common technique is counting each inhale and exhaling individually up to ten and then returning to one and starting again. If the person gets distracted during their count and feels their mind wander, it’s advised to start again at one and try again to focus only on counting breaths.
An ancient Hindu practice, om meditation is a form of mantra meditation that involves coordinating deep breathing along with an “om” mantra or something similar. Traditionally, the person repeats their mantra either 108 or 1,008 times during a single practice. Many who practice this form of meditation report entering a trancelike state in which the chanting begins to come with little to no effort.
In chakra meditation, one focuses their energies on a single chakra or energy zone within the body. Each chakra has its own specific mantra, which the practitioner chants throughout. Most commonly, individuals focus on the heart, third eye, or crown chakra. In many cases, chakra meditation encompasses a wider yoga practice.
Progressive meditation is one of the best forms of meditation to relieve physical tension throughout the body. Also known as body scan meditation, this technique encourages individuals to scan their body from head to toe for areas of tension and perform breathing techniques that relieve tension in each specific area of the body.