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7 Types of Meditation Techniques + When to Use Each

By Devan Ciccarelli

Google “types of meditation,” and you’ll find dozens of articles sharing 15 or more different meditation styles.

But if you’re new to the world of meditation, all the meditation styles start to sound the same.

So how are you supposed to know which one to begin with or which is best for the goals you’re trying to achieve?

We’ll go over a few different meditation categories in this guide. Then we’ll take a deeper dive into the best types of meditation for mindfulness and self-awareness specifically. 

You’ll be able to find the right one for you and get started as early as today.

Common Meditation Categories

Meditation practices and subtypes are often grouped into categories based on similar traits, such as:

Spiritual meditation. From Buddhism and Hinduism to Christianity, spiritual meditation aims to better connect you and your faith.

Movement meditation. Walking meditation, Kundalini yoga, Tantra, tai chi, and more encourage an active approach to meditation as opposed to remaining seated and still.

Chanting meditation. By repeating a chant (such as “om”), mantra, or phrase (“I am energized” or “I am at peace”), your mind focuses on embodying that while eliminating all other distractions. Transcendental meditation falls in this category.

Body scan meditation. Also known as progressive relaxation, scanning your body from head to toe for feelings, aches, and tension allows you to tune into, sync, and relax your body and mind together.

Sound bath meditation. With the aid of gongs, singing bowls, peaceful music, etc., your body and mind will be immersed in sound vibrations, which may help you unwind and relax.

Visualization meditation: By imagining yourself reaching a specific goal or in a particularly beautiful setting, you may increase feelings of motivation or relaxation.

As you can see, these types of meditation all utilize different methods to reach specific goals. So rather than throwing a million different types your way, let’s focus on the top practices and who they’re best for next.

7 Popular Types of Meditation (+ Who/What They’re Best For)

Here’s everything you need to know about the most popular types of meditation you can choose from:

#1. Guided Meditation: Best for Beginners

The most common style of meditation, especially for beginners, is called guided meditation.

As its name implies, meditation instructors or yogis will walk people through (or guide) each session using vocal cues. They may also use background music and singing bowls to help put you in a relaxed yet mindful state of awareness.

Though there may be brief moments of silence, meditators are typically instructed throughout the practice. This helps you stay on track and reel in wandering thoughts that may distract you.

That’s why guided meditation is excellent for beginners who are just learning how to sit in quiet focus. But it’s also helpful for meditators who have trouble staying focused during a session.

However, some meditators find guided sessions with vocal prompts and background noise too distracting and cause their thoughts and mind to wander more. If that sounds like you, this next type of meditation may be a better fit.

#2. Silent Meditation: Best for Challenging Yourself

Attend a silent meditation, and you won’t hear the voice of an instructor, music, or sound vibrations throughout the practice. That’s why this type of meditation is also known as unguided.

Instructors may greet you with an intention to kick off the session, but from there, practitioners simply sit in silence and focus inward on their breathing and bodily sensations that surface.

Semi-guided silent meditation practices are available to beginners. So instructors may pop in every so often with insight and guidance, but the majority of the session will be practiced in complete silence.

This type of meditation is generally practiced in longer durations. While you could technically practice in short 10-minute bursts, most sessions span several to 10 hours or more.

Silent meditation offers a fantastic way for beginners to challenge themselves and take their practice to the next level. It’s also a favorite of intermediate and advanced practitioners.

No matter where you fall on the expertise scale, silent meditation is also best if you find background noises and instructions too distracting. If you’re just starting out, you may find that 10 minutes of silent meditation is all you can take, while advanced practitioners may crave hours of quiet meditation.

#3. Vipassana Meditation: Best for Anxiety Relief

Vipassana meditation is one of the most ancient forms of meditation, dating back to Gotama the Buddha roughly 2,500 years ago. The goal is to release tense feelings so you can live more fully in the present.

It combines two styles of meditation: Samatha (mindfulness) and Vipassana (self-awareness). This unique combination creates sessions that help people see things for how they really are (which is the literal translation of Vipassana) and improve concentration.

Vipassana also helps people discover whether they’re holding onto past experiences and building anxious thoughts, making it one of the best meditations for people dealing with anxiety.

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You can learn more about how to practice this type by visiting our in-depth guide on Vipassana meditation next.

#4. Mindfulness Meditation: Best for Stress Relief

Mindfulness meditation, also called Samatha, is all about concentrating on the present moment and accepting it without any judgment.

So when certain thoughts, feelings, and senses pop up, you’ll learn to simply acknowledge their presence, accept them, and let them go and float away -- no matter if they’re negative or positive.

Mindfulness meditation is believed to have originated as early as 3,000 BCE. It’s recently experienced a resurgence as people living stressful, busy lives seek guidance on how to remain at peace.

The goal is to practice mindfulness during your actual meditation session and carry this approach throughout your daily life.

So instead of a stressful commute getting the best of you, you can acknowledge the emotions that arise and switch gears to focus on the positives (such as having a job to commute to and good health to get there).

People love mindfulness meditation because you can practice each session for as little as 10 to 30 minutes a day and still reap its benefits.

#5. Zazen or Zen Meditation: Best for Advanced Meditators

Zen meditation is similar to silent meditation in that it’s completely stripped of extraneous distractions. It’s also known as Zazen (i.e., sitting meditation in Chinese) and Dhyan (which translates to “concentration” in Hindu). 

With this form of meditation, practitioners simply show up, sit down in a comfortable position, focus on their breathing, and let the natural meditative state take over. When a thought or feeling pops up, you casually let them float in and out of your consciousness without focusing on them or judging them too closely.

You won’t hear instructions or music with zen meditation, and you don’t need any extra tools to help you reach your focused state.

Zen meditation may require a bit more discipline to “get right,” which is why it’s not often the first choice for beginners. However, it can be just as rewarding for newbies as long as you let go of the idea of needing to be perfect. If your thoughts wander in a zen session, it’s okay as long as you return back to your focused breathing.

For advanced practitioners, zen meditation may be the perfect remedy to tap into a deeper subconscious without being distracted by some of the extras that often come with high-level meditation sessions.

Similar to Vipassana meditation, zen meditation can help people struggling with anxiety or depression, since it’s all about letting go of negative emotions.

So if you can show up, settle in, and breathe deeply on your own for a few minutes, zen meditation may be the right choice for you.

#6. Loving-Kindness Meditation: Best for Banishing Negativity

Loving-Kindness meditation (also called Metta Bhavana or Metta for short) is a type of meditation derived from Theravada Buddhism.

As the name suggests, this meditative style encourages love and kindness towards yourself and those around you.

It’s a gentler, softer approach that helps people shift their attention so they can love on a deeper level and show more empathy for themselves and for others.

Loving-Kindness meditation sessions are usually guided. An instructor typically sets an intention at the beginning of the practice so you can easily direct your focus to the positive feelings and emotions you’re trying to build. 

Many Loving-Kindness sessions also use repetitive mantras and phrases to help keep the attention moving in a positive direction. These may include affirmations such as: I am worthy, I am loved, I am a light of positivity for others.

For people suffering from depression, poor self-worth, or even anger towards others, Loving-Kindness meditation can help you break free from these negative thoughts so you can see yourself and the world in a more positive light.

#7. Chakra Meditation and Qigong: Best for Personal Growth

Chakra meditation and Qigong meditation are very similar in how they’re practiced, which is why we grouped them together. Both of them focus on moving energy throughout your body.

Chakra meditation is based on the seven chakras or focal points of energy that exist between the crown and root of your body. Each chakra has a different responsibility. Your throat chakra controls self-expression, for example, while your heart chakra covers love and self-acceptance.

Third Eye meditation is a specific type of chakra meditation that encourages practitioners to focus exclusively on the Ajna chakra, or your third eye. This chakra sits on your forehead between your eyebrows and governs your intuition and sense of purpose.

With chakra meditation, you’ll imagine a shining light moving through each of your seven chakras as you bring a greater sense of awareness to each one.

Qigong meditation, a Chinese-derived style, is similar in that the focus remains on the energy flowing through your body. It’s often practiced while moving, so you’re also able to feel the energy as it circulates throughout your system.

No matter which version you choose, this type of energy work may help you identify blocks holding you back from reaching mindfulness, enlightenment, or self-awareness. Stagnant energy may be sitting in one area of your body and need to be released in order to manifest externally in your life.

Final Thoughts on the Different Types of Meditation

Before getting overwhelmed with how many different types of meditation styles actually exist, look at all your options as a chance to try out as many as you like.

There may not be one “perfect” meditation type to suit your needs. In fact, you’ll likely find that some days call for the guidance of an experienced practitioner, while other days you may crave silence.

There’s no right or wrong way to meditate, and your preferences may change as you get more practice under your belt, which is a good thing!

We encourage you to look at this list as an opportunity to explore new meditation styles and enjoy the process as you do so.

Trying out all your options is easy when you sign up for a meditation retreat. You can really experience each style as it should be and learn which types are right for you.

Visit this link now to browse our current meditation retreats, and discover new styles you may not have tried before.

That’s one of the beauties of meditation: it’s constantly evolving to suit your needs and deliver the exact remedy you need at any given moment in time.

So have fun exploring all these different types of meditation, and be open to all the possibilities. We promise, you won’t regret it!

Tags: Meditation

Posted by Devan Ciccarelli

Devan is a freelance health and wellness writer with a passion for meditation. When she’s not at her desk or on an adventure, she likes to tune out and turn inward by sitting quietly on her meditation pillow outdoors in the sun. Visit her website, Be Happy Not Hangry, for her latest exercise, clean eating, and mental health tips.

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