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12 Types Of Meditation: A Breakdown Of The Major Styles

Lily Silverton
May 1, 2020
Lily Silverton
By Lily Silverton
Lily is a yoga and meditation teacher and writer whose coverage of technology, mental health, and spirituality has appeared in Vogue, Refinery29, DOSE, Women’s Health, and The Guardian.
May 1, 2020

Meditation is the practice of focusing the mind and developing awareness to help achieve clarity and calm. It is widely recognized for its incredible benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep and concentration, and increasing overall happiness.

There are many styles of meditation that offer different ways to redirect your focus and attention. There's not one universally accepted "best" type; it's about finding what works for you. Here are 12 key types of meditation to start exploring:


Guided meditation

In guided meditation a teacher leads you through the practice, either in person or via an app or course. This type of meditation is perfect for beginners, as the teacher's expert guidance can help you get the most out of a new experience.

How to practice:

The main thing here is to find a teacher you like and connect with. You can also tailor your search based on a desired result and try guided meditations focused on sleep, stress relief, or acceptance.


Mantra meditation

In mantra meditation you focus your attention on a mantra: a word, phrase, or syllable. This is a good approach for those days when the thoughts and feelings seem completely overwhelming, as it gives your brain something else to focus on. It's also thought to increase the vibrations associated with the mantra, helping you enter a more positive and deep state of being.

How to practice:

Choose a mantra that resonates with you. It may be a self-affirmation (such as "I am worthy"), or it may be a simple chant (such as "om"). Repeat that mantra over and over again for a few minutes. Each time you get distracted, don't worry about it. Just draw your focus back once more to the mantra.


Spiritual meditation

Spiritual meditation is the mindful practice of believing in and connecting to something that is greater, vaster, and deeper than the individual self. In this meditation you are trusting that there is something bigger out there and that everything happens for a reason.

How to practice:

Sit in silence with the awareness on the breath and repeat affirmations focused on surrender and trust, such as: "I am conscious and aware," "I let everything simply be as it is in this moment," or "I live in my Creator and my Creator lives in me."


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Present-moment meditation

Present moment (or mindfulness) meditation trains us to move from thinking to sensing. Rather than dwelling on the past or dreading the future, this meditation encourages you to become aware of your immediate surroundings or experience, crucially without any judgment. It urges us not to get attached to our thoughts but rather just allow them to be.

How to practice:

Mindfulness meditation is something you can do almost anywhere. Bring your awareness to the physical sensations of the breath and the body: the rising and falling of the abdomen and chest or the feeling of the breath as it travels in and out the nostrils or mouth. You could also bring focus to any sounds or smells around you. Once you feel settled, bring your awareness to the thoughts and emotions, letting them come and then letting them go. Imagine each thought is like a cloud moving across a clear blue sky, always changing.


Transcendental meditation

Transcendental meditation involves sitting with your eyes closed for 20 minutes twice a day repeating a specific and personal mantra (or set of words) given to you by a Transcendental Meditation teacher. The ultimate goal is to transcend or rise above the person's current state of being.

How to practice:

Find a qualified Transcendental Meditation teacher to initiate you into the meditation technique with a mantra. This mantra is decided by a complex set of factors, including the year the practitioner was born, and the year the teacher was trained. Sit twice a day for 20 minutes repeating this mantra.


Vipassana meditation

This meditation technique, also called "Insight Meditation," involves sitting in silence, focusing on the breath and noting any and all physical or mental sensations that arise. The idea is to find "insight" into the true nature of reality (which vipassana teaches is suffering), by examining all aspects of your existence. Multiday vipassana retreats are a popular way to dive deeper into this practice.

How to practice:

Sit quietly and concentrate on the breath as it moves through the body. Let all emotions, sensations, thoughts, and sounds arise without getting attached to them. Label any distraction, for example, "a bird chirping" and return your focus to the breath.


Metta meditation

Also known as a "loving-kindness" meditation, in this practice you bring your awareness to the people in your life (both near and far, known and unknown, liked or disliked) and direct positive energy and thoughts toward them. It's a wonderful technique for decreasing anger and increasing understanding, positivity, and compassion.

How to practice:

Find a comfortable position, and with the eyes closed, bring your awareness to the chest, to the heart center. As you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in warmth, compassion, and unconditional love for yourself, and as you breathe out, imagine you are directing that warmth, compassion, and unconditional love to the people around you. Start with close friends or relatives, and move out to directing it to neutral acquaintances and then those you don't particularly like right now.


Chakra meditation

This meditation is used to keep the body's seven chakras, or energy centers, open, aligned, and fluid. It is based on the idea that blocked or unbalanced chakras can cause negative physical or mental ailments and that by meditating on them we can bring the self back into harmony.

How to practice:

Become familiar with the chakras and their corresponding properties and qualities. Spend time resting your awareness on the chakras that you feel you need to bring into balance. Concentrate on the bodily location of each chakra and picture energy flowing through that area that is the color of that chakra. Here are some more details on meditations tailored to the themes of each chakra.


Yoga meditation

Just as there are many different types of meditation, there are many styles of yoga. Some types, such as Kundalini, focus on using meditative techniques to strengthen and relax the nervous system. You can bring a meditative awareness to any yoga style or class simply by focusing on the breath and the present. 

How to practice:

While taking any yoga posture, keep your awareness on the breath and the physical sensations in the present moment. Each time you find the mind wandering to thoughts, gently draw it back once more. Corpse pose (savasana) taken at the end of all yoga classes, is one of the best pathways for meditation.


Candle-gazing meditation

Trataka, or candle gazing, is a type of meditation in which you keep your eyes open and focused on a point or object—frequently, the flame of a lit candle. Objects such as crystals could also be used. This practice helps bring energy to the third-eye chakra and can increase concentration.

How to practice:

Sit comfortably with your gaze focused on a single object, such as a candle, tree, or crystal. With relaxed eyes, try your level best not to blink. Maintain focus until your eyes begin to feel uncomfortable and then close the eyes. Keep the image of the object in your mind's eye, then open your eyes and start again.


Visualization meditation

In a visualization meditation, you picture something or someone in your mind, to the exclusion of everything else. It can feel challenging but is no different really than focusing on the breath or body. Frequent visualization can help you manifest the things you want in life, by staying focused and pouring energy into them.

How to practice:

Closing the eyes and sitting comfortably, bring to mind someone or something you either want or have negative feelings around that you want to let go of. Keep your focus here and keep returning each time the mind wanders. Observe, too, any physical sensations that may arise (such as bodily heat in response to anger). Do not get attached; continue only to observe.


Become the observer meditation

Similar to vipassana, in this meditation you bring your awareness completely but impartially to the self and observe your thoughts, feelings, patterns, and behaviors. Through this focus, you will begin to learn more about yourself and from that awareness be able to effect any change you may need or want to see in your life. 

How to practice:

You can do this meditation anytime, anywhere, simply by bringing the awareness inward. Observe your mind as if from the outside, becoming completely conscious of your thoughts and behaviors but remaining completely impartial and nonjudgmental. Be a witness to your experience.

Whichever meditation style you choose, doing it regularly will lead to the best results. Try a technique every day for 10 days and see how you feel at the end. And remember: You can't meditate wrong, so don't worry if the mind is busy. This is very normal. Meditation is not about forcing the mind into stillness but rather redirecting the focus and attention in order to give yourself a little break.

Lily Silverton author page.
Lily Silverton

Lily is a holistic life coach, yoga and meditation teacher, and writer whose coverage of technology, mental health, and spirituality has appeared in Vogue, Refinery29, DOSE, Women’s Health, and The Guardian. In addition to writing, she currently helps Extinction Rebellion program their yoga and meditation offerings and hosts a monthly self-help book club called Books To Change Your Life.