8 types of meditation and how to practice them
What are the most common types of meditation? How many meditation techniques are there? What are the benefits of meditation and what type of meditation suits you the best? In this article, we want to give you the answer to all of your burning questions.
Meditation and its benefits
The list of benefits of meditation is almost endless. Every year new studies are published that prove the numerous benefits of meditation. These include:
- Stress relief
- Higher work efficiency
- Better school performance
- Healthy blood pressure
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Healthier relationships
- Improved intelligence
- … and many more.
For more info take a look at an overview of the most important studies on meditation.
Different types of meditation
To find out which meditation technique suits you best, we will introduce the most important types of meditation below.
Mindfulness meditation helps you to slow down your thoughts so that your mind can come to rest. During meditation, you let go of negative feelings and concentrate fully on your breath. The aim is to develop awareness of your body and mind.
How to practice mindfulness
To practice mindfulness, all you need is yourself, a comfortable and quiet place to sit and some time to practice. If you want to do a mindfulness meditation, follow these 4 steps.
1. Get comfortable
Find a place where you can do your meditation exercises in peace. It does not matter if you meditate on the floor or on a chair, just make sure that your back stays straight and you still sit comfortably. Loose clothing and meditation cushions can help you to adopt a comfortable position.
2. Set a timer
To be able to concentrate fully on the meditation, it is useful to set a timer in advance. Why? Many people lose track of time while meditating and cannot relax because they constantly have to check the clock. This can be prevented by setting a timer. However, make sure that the alarm sound is not too loud or too intrusive, otherwise your stress level will rise again immediately after the mediation.
3. Focus on your breathing
All of us breathe automatically all day long. But meditation is about consciously controlling your respiration, inhaling deeper than usual and concentrating on the airflow. Breathe into your abdomen and feel your tummy rise as you breathe in. Draw in the air through your nose and let it slowly flow out of your mouth. If you do it well, you will notice that every breath is different.
4. Stay in the moment
Whenever your thoughts stray, you should direct them back to your breath. Do not evaluate your other thoughts, but gently push them aside to focus on what is important at that moment: your breathing and how it makes you feel.
The essence of transcendental meditation is the mantra that you repeat during a meditation session. This involves a positive affirmation to calm your mind, strengthen your wellbeing and allow you to fully focus your attention. By concentrating exclusively on the Mantra, you should reach a state of complete relaxation and clarity.
Examples of such mantras are:
- Everything I need is within me
- I am free from sadness
- I give myself permission to slow down
How to practice transcendental meditation
1. Find a comfortable place to meditate. It is best to sit on a chair and place your hands loosely on your lap. Your legs should touch the floor and should not be crossed, just like your arms.
2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Relax, look around the room one last time and then close your eyes. Your eyes remain closed during the entire mantra meditation.
3. Now slowly repeat your chosen mantra. You can say it out loud or only in your mind. It is important that you do not let yourself be distracted by other thoughts and that you keep returning to the mantra.
4. Start moving again after about 20 minutes. Start with your toes and work your way slowly up to your arms and legs. Prepare to return to the physical world.
5. Open your eyes and pay attention to how you feel. Be aware of this feeling before you continue your daily life.
Different types of Buddhist meditation
Did you know that mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism? So it’s no wonder that Buddhist meditation methods are still very popular today. Some of the most common meditation techniques are Loving Kindness Mediation, Vipassana Meditation and Chakra Meditation.
Loving kindness meditation
Also called Metta Meditation, Loving Kindness Meditation is suitable for strengthening our own well-being and directing our goodness towards ourselves and our fellow human beings. This form of meditation is about feeling love and benevolence towards all living beings. As in Transcendental Meditation, you can repeat a sentence over and over again. It is important that your mantra radiates love and benevolence.
Some examples of loving kindness mantras:
“May my love for myself and others flow freely.”
“May all living things be happy and peaceful.”
“May all beings find happiness and be free from suffering.”
Different types of meditation: Vipassana
Vipassana is the oldest Buddhist meditation practice in which the meditator’s attention is focused on certain aspects of his or her own existence. The meditator practices to become increasingly aware of his own life. Vipassana belongs to one of two main types of meditation in Buddhism and can be translated as “insight” because the meditator develops a sense of what is happening around him.
Did you know?
Samatha, the second main type, is more about calmness and concentration and is intended to put the meditator in a state of concentration on only one object, such as a prayer, religious image or candle.
How to practice Vipassana Meditation
- Again, you should first find a quiet place to meditate.
- Sit on the floor or on a cushion with your legs crossed and your back straight and relax.
- Focus your eyes on an object and concentrate on your breathing.
- As soon as you notice that your thoughts are wandering, simply refocus on the object and your breath.
Chakra meditation is one of the most popular forms of meditation and yet many people do not know what chakras are. Tantric Hinduism describes chakras as important energy centres in the human body. The word chakra comes from ancient Indian and means “wheel”.
In the Hindu belief chakras are something like energy vortexes in the body, which similar to wheels continuously turn and receive and process the energy of life. The seven main chakras form a network that connects mind, body and soul. The purpose of the chakras is to bring the different aspects of your consciousness into a harmonious relationship and to fully accept all levels of your being.
For your chakras to work, they must be kept open. This is where chakra meditation comes into play. In doing the chakra meditation you bring all parts of your consciousness into balance.
How to practice Chakra Meditation
- Begin your chakra meditation in an upright, comfortable position and scan every part of your body starting from your feet. Make sure that every muscle of your body is relaxed.
- Concentrate on your breathing and let your breaths become calmer and deeper. Think about the airflow and feel it going through your body. Imagine that you simply exhale your worries and fears.
Now listen deeper into your body and imagine your heart pumping your blood into all the vital organs. Feel your body working like a perfectly oiled clockwork.
- Next, visualize an energy that you absorb together with the air you breathe. Imagine the energy as a yellowish-orange light that floods you and rises from the earth into your body. Allow your own aura to become brighter with each breath.
- Now it is time to supply your chakras with energy. Imagine that you direct the absorbed energy to your back chakra. It should become increasingly brighter in your imagination as well.
Direct the energy gradually to the sacral, solar plexus, heart and throat chakras (in exactly this order).
- Finally, imagine how all your chakras are fed simultaneously by an energy coming from your breath and the earth. With this image in your mind, open your eyes.
A successful chakra meditation should last 15 to 30 minutes.
Different Types of Meditation:
The origin of Zen meditation dates back to the 7th century. In the Chinese Tang Dynasty Zen meditation was an integral part of the Buddhist tradition. From China, this type of meditation spread to other Asian countries and from there to Europe. The Japanese term “Zen” can be translated as “concentration” or “meditation”.
According to the Buddhist tradition, the key to happiness lies within us. Zen meditation aims to develop our consciousness and to appreciate the little things in life. On a spiritual level, Zen meditation is designed to focus on the happiness of others and thus achieve inner peace.
How to practice Zen Meditation
- Sit on a pillow or meditation cushion and take on a meditation pose.
It does not matter whether you keep your eyes open or closed. Beginners often find it easier to close their eyes.
- First concentrate on your breath and start with a few deep breaths through your mouth. Once your breathing is calm and steady, keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose.
- Start counting the breaths. Count both inhalations and exhalations up to 10 and then start again.
- It is normal for your mind to start wandering. If you notice this, simply bring your focus back to your breathing. Do not evaluate your thoughts, just let them come and go.
- Do not jump up immediately after meditation, but take a few minutes to become aware of how you feel.
Mindfulness vs Meditation
If you’re new to Meditation, you could ask yourself the question, what the difference between mindfulness and meditation is.
In short, Meditation is an umbrella term for all the different types of meditation techniques, in which you consciously focus on a specific mantra, image or your breath in order to calm your mind.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a perceptual technique in which you consciously perceive the current moment. It can be practiced in any given situation.
Include mindfulness in everyday life
You do not necessarily have to meditate for 20 to 30 minutes a day to integrate mindfulness into your life. Instead, it is through the little things of everyday life that you can practice mindfulness. For once, concentrate on things that you usually do on autopilot. Such things can be:
- Washing your hands
- Brushing your teeth
- Washing up
- Driving your car to work
- Doing the laundry
In all these activities we switch to autopilot and our thoughts start spiraling. Free yourself from this state by fully concentrating on your sensations during these activities and by breathing consciously.
What Meditation type suits me?
There is only one way to find out what kind of meditation suits you: Just give them all a try. Take your time to explore the different types of meditation to see which one you like best. Whichever type you choose in the end, meditation will help you live a more relaxed life.