What Are the Different Types of Meditation?

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on February 20, 2024
3 min read

Meditation has been practiced by cultures and communities around the world for thousands of years as a way to understand life. Modern people use it as a tool to sharpen focus, reduce stress, and even improve physical health. There are several types of meditation. Learn more about which one is right for you.

Meditation is a powerful way to reduce stress, calm the mind, and give a sense of balance. So it has many emotional and health benefits.

Emotional and mental benefits. Meditation can help your emotional well-being by:

  • Improving imagination, creativity, patience, tolerance, and self-awareness
  • Managing negative feelings
  • Developing tools for managing stress

Physical benefits. Meditation can help control symptoms of:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Insomnia

You don’t have to do it alone. Instructional apps, videos, and tracks can help lead you through guided meditations. They give you instructions on the meditation style of your choice. Many websites have free instructional programs to get you started.

This type of popular meditation is based on Buddhist teachings. Mindfulness meditation opens you up so you experience your thoughts and emotions honestly, without judgment. This type of meditation improves awareness of yourself and the world around you.

Here’s how to practice mindfulness meditation:

  • Sit comfortably on the floor with your back straight.
  • Close your eyes or unfocus your gaze.
  • Breathe naturally with your full diaphragm.
  • Note each breath by counting or by thinking “in” and “out”
  • When your mind drifts or you find your attention on something else, acknowledge it and return to your breath.

This type of meditation helps you look at your emotions honestly. It helps you manage negative emotions and pay more attention to positive emotions. Mindfulness meditation is often recommended for symptoms of depression and anxiety.

This practice is diverse and good for beginners. It can be a challenge to sit still for several minutes, so movement meditation can serve as an introduction to meditation.

Movement meditation comes in several forms and can work with almost any physical activity. Some of the more common practices are:

Movement meditation focuses on your posture, the movement of your body, the interaction of your body and the ground, and your breathing. This can be done through a formal practice such as yoga or through everyday activities like gardening, cooking dinner, or folding laundry.

Focused meditation (or concentration meditation) shares some practices with mindfulness meditation. It often involves focusing on something external, such as a flame, running water, sipping tea, reciting a mantra, or humming an “om” syllable.

Like mindfulness meditation, as your mind begins to wander, you can refocus your attention. Rather than opening yourself to your thoughts and feelings, the aim of focused meditation is to strengthen your ability to concentrate.

A body scan is one popular type of focus meditation. It’s especially good for managing pain and discomfort. It involves visualizing each part of your body and scanning from top to bottom.

Another type of focused meditation is called reflective meditation. Like a body scan, you go into meditation to develop discipline in your thinking. Pick a question or topic to focus your attention on, and let your thoughts explore that topic. When your mind wanders, return to your topic.

Similar to loving-kindness meditation, this practice focuses on emotions rather than the mind. You can take a few approaches when practicing a heart-centered meditation.

Bring your awareness to your heart. As with focus or mindfulness meditations, center your focus in your chest. Feel your chest as the center for emotion, where all your feelings and energy are generated.

Focus on the love and care your heart holds. Feel the love you have for someone close to you. Slowly increase the expanse of your love to others in your life, your communities, yourself, and the world.

Release negative feelings and fill your heart with love. It takes time for your heart to heal when it hurts. Focus your meditation on releasing sadness, fear, and grief from your heart and replacing them with compassion and love. This will help you open your heart to others.