Ready to get Zen? Meditation can do way more than people think — and it’s not just for hippies. Practicing meditation regularly has legitimate health advantages, especially for the brain. Studies suggest meditation can reduce anxiety and sensitivity to pain, plus it may even make us smarter. If carving out an hour to sit on a cushion doesn’t float your boat, there are many unexpected ways to meditate every day. Get the benefits of meditation by trying out an alternative style from the list below.
1. Standing Meditation: Standing instead of sitting to meditate can relieve lower back pain and promote a greater sense of internal stability. As with any form of meditation, begin with a short period of time — start with five minutes only. Stand in a comfortable, straight posture with the feet pointing straight forward, about shoulder width apart. After settling into the position, do a quick full-body “scan,” releasing tension and bringing awareness to every part of the body.
2. Walking Meditation: In walking meditation, called kinhin in the Zen tradition, practitioners move slowly and continuously while staying aware of the body and mind. For this form of meditation, use good posture (just like seated meditation), take deep breaths, and experience the motions of the body. The walking movement should be continuous, so pick a safe place with space to roam around, like a large park or field.
3. Dance Meditation: Get ready to boogie — meditation just got a soundtrack! Most people, at one time or another, have put on some tunes and cut the rug to chill out after a tough day. Dance or kundalini meditation takes that release one step farther by asking participants to let go of the ego and surrender to the rhythms and ecstasies of movement. Some classes encourage yelling, jumping, and even hooting like an owl! Dance meditation may not be for the faint of heart — or arm or leg — but it can be a great way to release tension and get in touch with our instincts.
4. Daily Life Practice Meditation: Does high-energy dance sound a bit too wacky? Bring meditation back to a more reasonable pace with daily life practice meditation, which is also called Samu work meditation in the Buddhist Zen tradition. In this style of meditation, practitioners slow down daily activities to half-speed and use the extra time to be mindful and focus on thoughts. There’s no need to sign up for a class when it’s possible to meditate while washing dishes, taking a shower, walking down the subway steps…
5. Hand Movement Meditation: For many people, the toughest part of meditation is sitting without moving for an extended period of time. It’s so hard to resist the urge to pick at an itchy spot because scratching activates areas of the brain that control pain and compulsive behavior. What’s the best solution to this conundrum? Try hand movement meditation, in which participants focus on moving the hands slowly and mindfully.
6. Gazing Meditation: If staring into space or spacing out is your jam, try Trataka or fixed-gazing meditation. This unusual style of meditation encourages participants to focus inward by staring at a fixed object while sitting or standing. Trataka has many alleged benefits, from physical plusses like eye health and headache relief to mental advantages such as lower stress levels and better focus. If outdoors, fix the gaze on a natural object like a stone, tree, or even the moon (just avoid staring at the sun). Indoors, try looking at the center of a lit candle or an interactive computer graphic. Trataka can be pretty intense, so start very slowly — stare for just 15 to 20 seconds, with plenty of rest time. Eventually work up to 10 or 15 minutes.
7. Breathing Meditation: This technique takes those pre-yoga class “Oms” to the next level. Also called yogic breathing or Pranayama, this meditation style is all about controlling the inhales and exhales. Greatist Expert Dr. Jeffrey Rubin explains, “Longer exhales tend to be calming, while longer inhales are energizing. For meditative purposes either the ratio of exhale to inhale is even or the exhale is longer than the inhale for a calming effect.” This type of meditation can be done anywhere, anytime (except underwater, for obvious reasons).
Read more Unexpected Ways to Meditate Everyday at Greatist.com. Special thanks to Greatist Expert Dr. Jeffrey Rubin for his contributions to this article!
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