There are many benefits of meditation, including stress relief, clarity, reduced depression, and improved concentration. The art of meditation has been around 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 corporate CEOs. A study conducted by UCLA found that long-term meditators showed better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged.
Derived from the Latin word meditari, meditation translates to “think, contemplate, conceive, contemplate”. With over 23 types of meditation styles, how does a beginner get started? 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 working all the way down to your toes. Ask yourself how each part of your body feels as you breathe in and out slowly, noticing any sensations in the body. This method is great for people who have trouble concentrating and is an excellent way to relieve stressful thoughts.
Uses repetitive sound to remove thoughts from the mind. A word or short phrase is chosen, which is then repeated in your head or spoken aloud. A popular one is the sound of ‘om’, which appears in many Hindu and Buddhist teachings. If you find it difficult to focus only on your breathing without thoughts flooding your mind, a mantra meditation can help create deeper levels of awareness.
Meditation using visualization
Allows you to sharpen positive images to enhance feelings of relaxation and harmony. This practice is also popular for manifesting goals and success. Let your imagination run wild and try to be as specific as possible while using the five senses to create the environment you want.
There is a misconception that all mediation is done cross-legged. A walking meditation asks you to focus on each step while creating awareness that you are fully present. In our busy lives, we usually walk to a destination with things to do. Instead, find a park or just use the street where you live and become aware of the movement of each foot, notice the feeling when your feet touch the ground and when you lift your leg with each step. For those who work in stressful environments, a 10-minute walking meditation during your break can help reduce stress and cultivate mind-body awareness.
How to Meditate
- Start by creating a quiet and safe space without any distractions – that means no cell phones ringing or pets barking or meowing.
- Sit on a pillow or cushion, relax and place your hands on your lap. You can sit on the floor in a cross-legged position or on a chair with your feet on the floor. There is no need to force yourself into a lotus position if you are not used to it. When doing a body scan meditation, you may find the most comfortable position lying down. (For walking meditation, find a place in nature where you can walk safely.)
- Close your eyes and begin to breathe slowly and deeply. Start with a few breaths – inhale through your nose and exhale gently through your mouth. Don’t force your breathing, just keep going, slowly and deeply. (For walking meditation, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled!)
- Become aware of your breathing. Become aware of every breath you inhale through your nose and pay attention to every breath you exhale through your mouth. If you find your mind wandering from your breath, 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 will find that you can concentrate more easily.
- Meditation doesn’t have to be long – when you’re ready to end the session, gently open your eyes and take a few deep breaths before slowly standing up. As a beginner you want to set yourself up for success and start with short periods and build up over time slowly.
For more information, americanmeditationssociety.org; meditation-initiative.org; sahajayogame editioncincinnati.org; cincinnatidharma.org.