What Are the Different Types of Meditation? How to Decide Which Is Best For You

Woman preparing to meditate with incense and a meditation bowl

There are so many types of meditation. Some of them are very well-known. Others are more obscure.

Chances are pretty good you’ve heard of mindfulness meditation. In fact, mindfulness seems to have really caught the attention of people all around the world. They might be looking to lower their blood pressure, perform better at work, be a kinder partner, or just feel better about themselves and the world. While mindfulness meditation is popular right now, it’s not the only type of meditation out there.

If you have an interest in a spiritual but not religious perspective, you might be familiar with Transcendental Meditation. It’s another famous style. The celebrity guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi founded this modern variety of meditation in the middle part of the last century. Today, David Lynch and a few other celebrities have re-popularized it. The practice itself is shrouded in a kind of mystery, making it difficult to dig into without paying the somewhat high fees for training and a personal secret mantra that a certified TM teacher gives you.

Fortunately, there are many other types of well-known meditation beyond these two. Some are focused on the body and mental clarity, while others have a deeply spiritual foundation. Millions of people around the world, in various walks of life, enjoy enormous benefit from many of them.

It’s fun to explore new ways to relax, get to know yourself better, or even pray. But with so many options, where does a curious newbie begin?

We’ve got you covered. Keep reading below to learn about six types of meditation you can try on your own!

1. Zazen

Zazen—literally meaning “seated meditation”—is one of the types of Buddhist meditation. It’s often shortened to “zen”, and it has a long history as a meditative discipline all throughout Asia.

Zen meditation puts a strong emphasis on posture and its importance in the meditative process. In zen meditation, you sit with their legs crossed and keep your back straight. These days, some people practice zen meditation while seated in a straight-back chair.

The central point is, it’s vital to keep a straight back. The effort put into maintaining one’s posture is an important part of zen meditation.

Zen meditation also revolves around focused breathing. During zen meditation, one breathes through the nose while keeping the mouth closed. Part of the goal is to be aware of your breath, which is often accomplished by counting your inhalations and exhalations.

Along with focused breathing, another crucial element of zen meditation is to allow yourself to be present in the moment. It’s okay to allow thoughts to cross your mind. (This is likely going to happen without your permission, anyway!) However, the goal is to not engage with them and rather let them exist in their mind until they dissipate. In zen practice, witnessing yourself thinking is useful, but the thoughts themselves are not.

2. Chakra

Chakra is a Sanskrit word meaning “wheel”, and the chakras of the body are wheel-like energy centers. Practitioner see the body as having seven main chakras, which have a spiritual presence that connect them to the body. Additionally, the body has many smaller chakras, but most practice stays focused on the main seven.

These seven main chakras are found from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Each chakra has its own name and corresponding color and element.

Each chakra also is responsible for certain qualities or experiences of self and life. For example, the third eye chakra, located behind the forehead, governs intuitive knowing and deep insight. Third eye chakra meditation can help with exploration of these matters, but it can also help with some kind of pain relief (especially headaches).

The goal of chakra meditation is to bring balance to the chakra system. If a chakra is blocked, it can cause issues for not only the individual chakra but the entire body. Rather than addressing the sole chakra, chakra meditation works to restore unity within the entire chakra system.

There are a variety of methods used to practice chakra meditation. You’ll find that many of them revolve around visualization techniques and body/mind/heart awareness.

3. Guided Meditation

Guided meditation encompasses a variety of different types of meditation. By its very nature, it’s well-suited for beginners and those who benefit from the boost to focus, especially over long periods of time.

Guided meditations are often used via video or, more usefully, audio recordings. During these recordings, a narrator will literally guide you through a meditation session. Music is also often used with the intention of relaxing the mind and emotions. If done correctly, it can be a tremendous enhancement to the meditative process.

Some guided meditations focus on visualization. Others walk you through extended counting meditations (often in connection with a focus on breathing). Some place importance on reciting affirmations in order to promote positivity. You’ll even find guided meditations that incorporate other long-established forms of meditation into the session. Guided meditation is a great place to start a new practice, or jump-start a practice that has gotten off track

4. Metta

Metta, another popular form of Buddhist meditation, is useful if you struggle with negative emotions, and is sometimes referred to as loving-kindness meditation. If you’re looking for an alternative to a gratitude journal, metta meditation might be the solution.

Metta meditation challenges one to cultivate kindness for themselves as well as the people and animals around them. Of course, you’re intended to cultivate kindness for your loved ones, but metta meditation also encourages you to extend kindness to people you don’t know well, or even people you dislike. It’s also a wonderful form of meditation to help with self-compassion, which is the first substantial step in extending unattached kindness to others.

Metta is practiced in a common meditative form – legs crossed and back straight. Focus on your breathing for several minutes to enter a more balanced headspace before beginning.

During metta meditation, practicers recite positive phrases directed at themselves and others. The act helps the practicer develop a stronger sense of positivity.

Mindfulness during practice is also crucial. If you aren’t aware of the mantras and phrases you’re reciting, their intended purpose will be lost. Rather than rattling off the mantras because you’ve memorized them, approach metta practice as a careful recitation of meaningful words and phrases. Further, It’s encouraged to envision the recipient of your goodwill while reciting your positive wishes.

5. Qigong Meditation

Qigong is an ancient Chinese practice that combines practiced breath with slow body movements. It revolves around allowing the qi, which is considered the life force circulating within the body, to move freely through the practicer.

Qigong is ideal for individuals who struggle with the types of meditation that are practiced in a sitting position. By contrast, Qigong uses slow and purposeful movements during the meditation.

It combines movement and intention and is a great way to build awareness. Additionally, it’s a useful exercise alternative for those who struggle with strenuous physical activities.

6. Vipassana

Vipassana meditation is another type of Buddhist meditation, and it’s also known as insight meditation. Vipassana meditation encourages practicers to focus both on breath and physical sensations. The modern mindfulness movement has its roots in vipassana meditation.

During vipassana meditation, cross the legs and keep the back straight. The breath should come naturally. It will be used as an anchor during the meditation.

While meditating, focus on the rise and fall of your abdomen and chest as you breathe. If distractions arise, return to focusing on your breathing. Then proceed to focus once again on the physical sensations that accompany your breathing.

This is where mindfulness comes into play. By focusing solely on the way your body responds to the simple act of breathing, you’re building your awareness skills. This is relaxing and can sometimes lead to life-changing insights into yourself and your interactions with others.

Choosing the Best Types of Meditation for Yourself

As you can see, meditation isn’t solely about mindfulness. And it’s not solely about spiritual focus. It’s a varied practice that allows one to become more in tune with the body, the mind, the heart and, sometimes, even the soul. In fact, some meditation practices can involve deeply spiritual techniques to expand your awareness of your place in the cosmos.

There are countless types of meditation, but the list above will give you a great jumping-off point. It may take some trial and error, but you’ll eventually find the perfect meditative technique for yourself! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Need help with your meditation journey? Subscribe to QuietSelf to start your 7-Day Free Trial to our audio Library of guided cosmic energy meditations and calming meditation music.

Comments are closed.