Different forms of meditation have been used for thousands of years. Today, people meditate for reasons such as to relax and/or improve concentration. Others consider meditation to be a spiritual experience. Meditation takes practice, but the hope is that it will eventually improve your health and your ability to focus.
What does meditation mean?
Meditation includes several techniques that come from eastern traditions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Chinese Medicine. Similar to yoga, meditation is considered a form of mind-body medicine. Although most types of meditation started as ancient religious and spiritual traditions, today most people who meditate say they do it for their health and well-being.
What are the benefits of meditation?
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), research studies have shown that meditation may improve symptoms of many medical conditions including high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and insomnia (difficulty sleeping). Research has also linked meditation with a variety of other health benefits.
Many people believe that meditation can:
- Help to control pain
- Improve anxiety and depression
- Help improve attention
- Help with quitting smoking
- Enhance self-awarenes
- Decrease stress
- Promote calmness and relaxation
- Improve coping skills
- Increase overall well-being
What are the common types of meditation?
There are actually more than ten different kinds of meditation styles and types. You can read the description of three of the most common types of meditation below.
- Guided Meditation: This form of meditation is guided by an instructor. You may be asked to focus on relaxing a part of your body such as your toes or the instructor may have you focus on a specific object. Beginners: If you’ve never meditated before, this type of meditation is a great place to start. You are less likely to get distracted during guided meditation. Distractions can be things such as a noise, a flickering light, or a random thought. A guided technique basically involves listening to an instructor (or a recorded message) talk you through the relaxation techniques.
- Mindfulness meditation: This form of meditation teaches you how to focus your attention on the flow of your breath. Mindfulness meditation can teach you how to focus on how you feel without any reaction or judgment. Consistency is key: The more experience and more practice, the easier meditation becomes. The skills you develop from mindfulness meditation can easily be used in everyday life. Eventually you may feel more emotionally balanced.
- Transcendental Meditation (TM): This technique teaches you to silently repeat a word, sound, or phrase (a mantra). TM is also called “mantra meditation”. The point of this type of meditation is to clear your mind of distractions. This form of meditation is very similar to guided meditation except that it focuses on just one word, sound, or phrase. Repeat, refocus, repeat: Practicing TM teaches you to remove anything that pulls you away from your goals. If you are distracted you may find yourself struggling to pay attention or trying not to day dream. Either way, the goal of TM is to feel more relaxed and more aware.
What do I need to know before I try to meditate?
- Find a quiet and peaceful place. This will help to decrease noises and other distractions in your environment.
- Get into a comfortable posture. Different types of meditation use different postures, such as sitting upright in comfortable chair with your feet on the floor, sitting on the floor, lying down, standing, or even walking.
- Think of a focal point of attention. Depending on the type of meditation, it may be a single word, the flow of your breath, or the present moment.
- Be open to the entire experience. Try to let go of any expectations you may have before you begin to meditate. If you become distracted – it’s okay, just try to re-focus! This is normal and part of learning how to meditate. With practice, it will get easier.
How do I start to meditate?
Most beginners find it easier to learn how to meditate with some instruction. All types of meditation can be practiced in a class with an instructor or on your own. If you are interested in trying out a class, check your local community center or neighborhood yoga studio. If classes are not for you, don’t worry, there are countless recorded audio and/or video instructions available online or even as apps. Just remember, it’s normal to get distracted or feel so relaxed that you fall asleep.
Similar to yoga, meditation is a practice that takes time to learn. You will find out what meditation techniques work best for you, and there’s always the chance to try different styles.
Although meditation is safe and in many cases helpful, it should not replace traditional medical care. It’s important to tell your health care providers about any complementary or alternative treatments you use to help manage pain, stress, etc. including herbal medicines and dietary supplements, meditation, biofeedback, etc.