Over the last few years, a lot of people have gravitated towards the ancient eastern practice of meditation. It has proven to be a gateway for the mind to relax and attain a feeling of calm. People who meditate regularly credit the practice to have helped them achieve a more balanced state of mind and have found it to be the cure for many mental health as well as physical health related issues.
There are many, many different types of meditation, which means that regardless of personality or lifestyle – there is some kind of meditation out there for everybody. An everyday practice of meditation helps in improving and strengthening the mind, body and soul, and when it comes to practices that holistically align and strengthen us – there is no one way to do it, you have to explore which one works best for you.
Kinds of Meditation
Here are some of the best ways to meditate. Every kind has many sub-kinds as well. Find the one that speaks to you the most.
1. Loving-kindness Meditation
Also called Metta meditation, loving-kindness meditation’s aim is to improve and elevate love and kindness towards everything. The idea is that these feelings should be extended to oneself first and then to others, even to a person’s enemies and to the people or things that cause them stress.
How does this kind of meditation help in changing your attitude? While taking deep breaths, practitioners open themselves up to achieving a state of equanimity, and further focus on transcending to a state of mind where they can receive love and kindness and send it back out. To successfully practice all forms of this meditation, one must say a message of love and kindness over and over again, until the feeling is truly felt. This kind of meditation has been known to increase positive emotions and reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD.
Loving-kindness meditation is best suited for those who suffer from anger, frustration, resentment and interpersonal conflict.
2. Body Scan or Progressive Relaxation
Body scan meditation or progressive relaxation motivates you to search deep within your physical body for areas of tension. Its aim is to get you to concentrate and find the point of tension in order to allow it to be released. Like the name suggests, during a body scan meditation, the entire body is worked through, starting from the feet to the head.
Several forms of this kind of meditation exist. Some require people to tense and then relax their muscles, while others require its practitioners to imagine that a wave is rolling over their bodies to release the tension.
Progressive relaxation allows you to be enveloped with feelings of calmness and relaxation and has been known to significantly help with chronic pain. People also use this type of meditation to help them sleep because of its slow relaxation techniques.
3. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation implores you to be aware of the here and now, and live in the present. Instead of being consumed with thoughts from the past or stressing about the future, it asks you to pay attention to your present surroundings. This is done through paying attention to your breathing, like drawing your focus to where you feel the breath the most, and noticing when your mind wanders from focusing on your breathing.
Studies show that mindfulness can reduce paying extra attention to negative thoughts and emotions and enable you to control those emotions instead. It also improves focus, memory and relationship satisfaction. One study conducted on African-american men who have chronic kidney disease proved that meditation can lower blood pressure.
4. Breath Awareness Meditation
In breath awareness meditation, you have to breathe slowly and deeply and while doing so, count your breaths or focus on them. The aim is to only focus on that and to not acknowledge any thoughts that drift through the mind. This is a form of mindfulness meditation and therefore many of the outcomes are the same.
5. Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini yoga is a form of meditation that requires physical movement that merges with deep breathing and mantras. This isn’t usually done at home alone, but rather in a class or under the guidance of a teacher. Like other types of yoga, kundalini yoga improves body strength and reduces pain.
It not only helps the body but also helps the mind by reducing anxiety and depression. A 2008 study found that veterans who suffer from chronic lower-back pain were significantly aided by practicing yoga; it reduced their pain, increased their energy levels and also helped in improving their mental health.
6. Zen Meditation
Otherwise known as Zazen, zen meditation is a part of Buddhist practice. As this form of meditation has specific steps and postures, it is usually only studied under the guidance of a professional. The aim is to get comfortable, pay attention to breathing and consciously observe one’s thoughts without judgement. This too is very much like mindfulness meditation but is a little harder because it needs more discipline and practice to master and often takes one on a spiritual journey.
7. Transcendental Meditation
The goal of transcendental meditation is to rise above your present state of being. It is a highly spiritual form of meditation, and like most other forms of meditation requires one to be seated and take deep and slow breaths. While practicing transcendental meditation, one must focus on either a mantra or a repeated set of words or a word.
The guru (teacher) usually lays out the mantra after taking into account a series of factors about the individual including their birth year. The aim is to guide one through their spiritual experiences and give them increased mindfulness. In other cases, people can choose their own mantra too. However, this is a newer version and even though it may be similar, it is not transcendental meditation.