There are many benefits of meditation including stress reduction, clarity, decreased depression and improved concentration. The art of meditating has existed for over 2,500 years and is practiced by many people from all walks of life – from the dalai lama, Oprah Winfrey and celebrities to athletes and business CEOs. A study done by UCLA found long term meditators displayed better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged.
Derived from the Latin word meditari, meditation translates to "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder.” With over 23 types of meditation styles, how does a beginner start? Here are four popular and easy meditation types:
Body scan meditation
Focuses on tuning into different parts of the body. You can easily do this by starting at the crown of your head and going down all the way to your toes. Ask yourself how each part of your body feels as you slowly breathe in and exhale, noticing any sensations within the body. This method is great for people who find it hard to concentrate and is an excellent way to relieve stressful thoughts.
Utilizes repetitive sound to clear thoughts from the mind. A word or short phrase is chosen, which is then repeated either in your head or spoken aloud. A popular one is the sound of “om,” which is found in many Hindu and Buddhist teachings. If you find it difficult to focus solely on your breath without thoughts flooding your mind, a mantra meditation can help create deeper levels of awareness.
Meditation using visualization
Enables you to hone in on positive images to enhance feelings of relaxation and harmony. This practice is also popular for manifesting goals and success. Allowing your imagination to take hold, try to be as specific as possible as you use the five senses to create the environment you want.
There is a misconception that all mediation is done sitting in a cross-legged position. A walking meditation asks you to concentrate on each step as you create awareness of being fully present. In our busy lives, we’re mostly walking to a destination with things to do. Instead, find a park or even just use the street you live on and become aware of the movement of each foot, noting the sensation as your feet touch the ground and as you lift your leg with each step. For those who work in stressful environments, perhaps a 10-minute walking meditation during your break will help in stress reduction and cultivate mind-body awareness.
How to meditate
- Start by creating a quiet and safe space free from any distractions – that means no cell phones ringing or pets barking or meowing.
- Sit down on a pillow or cushion, relax and rest your hands on your lap. You can sit on the floor cross-legged or on any chair with your feet resting on the ground. It’s not necessary to force yourself into a lotus position if you’re not used to it. If you’re doing a body scan meditation, you might find the most comfortable position is lying down. (For walking meditation, find a space in nature where you can safely walk.)
- Close your eyes and begin to breathe slowly and deeply. Begin by taking a few breaths – inhaling with your nose and exhaling gently from your mouth. Don’t force your breathing, just keep continuing, slow and deep. (For walking meditation, you’ll want to keep your eyes open!)
- Become aware of your breathing. Become aware of each breath that you take in through your nose and be mindful of each breath that you exhale with your mouth. If you find your mind straying away from your breaths, gently bring it back. Don’t beat yourself up if your mind wanders – what’s important is to realize and bring your attention back to where it should be. As you meditate more, you’ll find it easier to concentrate.
- Meditation does not need to last for a long time – when you’re ready to end the session, open your eyes gently and breathe several long deep breaths before slowly standing up. As a beginner, you’ll want to set yourself up for success and start with short periods and slowly build up the time.