Ross Rayburn practicing meditation

7 Types of Meditation—Because There's Something for Everyone

From mindfulness to transcendentalism, there are many ways to experience meditation. The type you choose depends on your personal goals.

By Alyssa Sybertz Updated March 27, 2024

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When most people make the decision to prioritize their health, they typically start by focusing on the “big two”: diet and exercise. The choices you make in the kitchen or at the gym can certainly contribute towards transforming your physical health, but these decisions can sometimes come at the expense of your mental health, which is just as important. That’s why setting aside time to nurture your mind is crucial—and one of the easiest and most effective ways to do so is by establishing a consistent meditation practice.

“Meditation can be an oasis for the mind, almost like taking a mini vacation,” says Peloton yoga and meditation instructor Ross Rayburn. “Once you’ve found a way to turn inward, even for a moment, it can be like re-fueling or re-sourcing what you’re missing. In fitness and wellness, that might be a lack of enthusiasm or a lack of challenge or even a lack of desire. Going inside can be a magical source of inspiration that kick-starts or re-engages your fitness journey.”

Here, we’re breaking down all the different kinds of meditation, as well as those that you can find in the Peloton App, to help you discover the science-backed benefits, plus which one might be best for you.

Types of Meditation

Meditation Types

Meditation is definitely not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are multiple techniques and philosophical approaches, and the one you choose will depend on what you’re trying to get out of your practice. These are some of the more common meditation types.

Mindfulness Meditation

One of the most popular forms of meditation today, as well as one of the most researched for health and wellness benefits, is mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation practice, which can be done solo or as a guided practice with an instructor, has no set practice time requirement. It starts with sitting quietly and comfortably and breathing deeply. From there, when thoughts pass through your mind or your senses pick up on something in your environment, you merely acknowledge that the thought or feeling exists and then let it pass without engaging with it or judging it in any way.

Benefits and Studies

According to the National Institutes of Health, a consistent mindfulness meditation practice has been found to be effective at improving symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, lowering high blood pressure, reducing chronic pain, improving sleep, and more. It may even change the way your brain works for the better: A study in the journal Neural Plasticity found that just 10 hours of mindfulness meditation induced changes to gray matter in the brain in areas associated with self-awareness, emotion, and cognition.

Visualization Meditation

Visualization is a type of meditation meant to promote calm and peace in your mind. In this type of meditation, you will sit quietly and visualize a scene or an image that makes you feel calm or peaceful, such as a beach at sunrise or sitting before a fire with a loved one. From there, you use all of your senses to imagine the scene, thinking about the feel of the sand beneath your feet or the sound of the firewood gently crackling. Mentally spending time in a scene that brings you peace can help you feel calmer and happier as you go about your day.

Techniques and Benefits

There are several approaches to visualization meditation. There is no “right” technique—whichever method works for you is the one you should stick with. One visualization technique involves imagining a light within your body, usually emanating from your heart. Visualize this warm light glowing inside you as you breathe deeply and relax. Another technique involves visualizing yourself in a place that brings you peace. It might be at the beach, or walking through a forest—any spot that you associate with calm. Inhale and exhale deeply as you imagine yourself in your peaceful place.

The benefits of visualization meditation are many: In one small study of 60 participants, just 20 minutes of guided imagery meditation induced a physiological response that lowered stress levels in the body. Other research in the journal Pain Medicine found that people living with chronic pain who regularly practiced visualization meditation reported less depression and more positive feelings of well-being compared with those who did not engage in visualization.

Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness meditation is typically practiced as a guided meditation with a teacher who leads you through different positive and affirming phrases and recitations to repeat in your head or out loud. The idea is that, instead of viewing yourself as inadequate and the world around you as something of which to be wary and fearful, you learn to see yourself and everyone else as worthy of love and kindness. This approach has been shown to enhance well-being, curb self-criticism, and improve resilience.

Practice and Impact

A practice that comes from the Buddhist tradition, loving-kindness meditation is meant to help you cultivate compassion for yourself and for others. One way in which it may do that is by helping you find a balanced approach to managing emotional highs and lows. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that people who practiced this form of meditation for six weeks reported fewer ups and downs in their social interactions with others, resulting in feelings of greater overall connectivity with their community.

There may also be a connection between loving-kindness meditation and longevity: A study in Psychoneuroendocrinology found that people who practiced six weeks of this meditation style were better able to preserve aspects of the brain associated with aging, compared with non-meditators or those who practiced a different form of meditation.

Mindful Movement Meditation

If you’ve ever found your mind moving towards a place of calm, peace, or self-awareness during a ride on your Peloton Bike, a yoga class, or a walk on the beach, you’ve done a moving meditation. Mindfulness movement meditation is the process of using movement to help you make the connection between your mind and your body. The idea: Some people struggle to clear their mind of stress and to-dos if they are sitting still in a quiet room; gentle movements such as yoga, walking, tai chi, and qi gong function as a conduit to achieving a meditative state, requiring just enough focus to silence all the mental noise. Once that quiet arrives and the body starts to flow, you are able to focus on your breathing and let your thoughts come and go just as you would during a traditional mindfulness meditation.

Connecting Mind and Body

There is no right or wrong way to develop the connection between a mindful mental state and your physical movement. You can explore the path that works best for you by taking 20 minutes at the end of a moderate intensity workout to focus on the here and now. Whether you’re walking on a treadmill, doing a cool down on the Peloton Bike, or taking a leisurely jog in the park, turn your attention to your breathing. Notice how many steps you breathe in for, and then how many you exhale for. Be aware of any areas in your neck or shoulders holding tension and think about helping them relax.

Mantra Meditation

This might be the form of meditation that pops into your head when you hear the word meditation. Mantra meditation is the practice of using a single word, phrase, or sound, repeated over and over again, to clear your mind of stress and clutter and promote deeper levels of calm and body awareness. If you find your mind wandering or snagging on to-dos and responsibilities during other forms of meditation, using a mantra gives you something to focus on that doesn’t allow space for those other thoughts. Since the repetition of the mantra is the only requirement, this is also one of the easiest forms of meditation to adopt and practice. You can choose any position that’s comfortable and begin your meditation. And according to research, it can ease stress and anxiety, reduce hypertension, and improve immunity.

How to Choose Your Mantra

A mantra can be a sound, like om (a Sanskrit mantra meant to help you connect to the divine), or a word or phrase that inspires your practice, such as “move,” “act,” “listen,” “I choose to be happy,” “I am worthy of love”, and “I am strong and powerful.”

The mantra you choose is highly personal. If you’re looking to instill feelings or calm and happiness, you might choose a word like “peace.” If your main goal is to help yourself focus better during the meditation, you might choose words that correspond with your breathing, such as  “inhale” and “exhale.” Affirming mantras, like the ones above, can help set a positive tone for your meditation. The most important factors in choosing a mantra are finding words that have meaning for you while also being short and easy to repeat.

Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation, or TM, is a form of mantra meditation that was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi over 50 years ago. What sets it apart is that the technique is taught over four one-on-one courses with a certified TM teacher, during which you are given a mantra that you will use. For your practice to be considered true transcendental meditation—and not simply mantra meditation—you must practice on your own twice a day for 20 minutes.

Understanding the Practice

Transcendental meditation is designed to promote calm and self-awareness and has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance brain function, and even improve cardiovascular health. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that three months of practicing this form of yoga significantly reduced feelings of chronic stress and burnout in participants. A possible reason for this? Other research in the journal Brain and Cognition found that transcendental meditation triggered physical changes in people’s brain structures, improving connectivity in areas associated with the regulation of emotions.

Body Scan Meditation

Just as mantra meditation gives you a word or phrase to focus on, body scan meditation has you focus on your body. This practice, which can be done in the morning or at night (the best time to meditate depends on your lifestyle and needs), is designed to reduce physical and subsequently mental tension and promote relaxation, is often used as a way to unwind and prepare for bed in the evening. 

Technique for Relaxation

To do a body scan meditation, sit or lie comfortably on the floor; you can even do it in bed. Then, starting at either the top of your head or your toes, focus on one muscle group at a time, slowly tightening those muscles and then relaxing them before moving on to the next group. Starting with your head? Think about furrowing your forehead, then relaxing. Move on to scrunching your eyebrows together, then release and relax. Hold both the tension pose and the relaxation response for three counts. Keep going until you’ve worked through your entire body—or you’ve fallen asleep!

Peloton Meditation Class Types

Peloton Meditation Classes

Ready to get started with meditation? Peloton’s meditation classes, available through the Peloton App, draw from different types of meditation and are designed to target a variety of needs. You’ll find eight different types of classes to choose from. Here, discover a little bit about each.

Meditation Basics

If you’re just getting started with meditation, this is a great place to begin. In Meditation Basics, you’ll find 5- and 10-minute meditations that will introduce you to all the formats available on the app.

Breath Focus

Learning how to focus on your breathing and how to breathe deeply has far-reaching benefits, from reduced stress to better physical health. In Breath meditation classes, many of which are audio classes, you’ll practice breathing deeply as the central component of your practice.

Mindfulness

We touched on the perks of mindfulness meditation above; all the classes in this category are designed to help you feel present in your body and your mind. They include meditations meant to be done in the morning to help you set an intention for the day, body scan meditations that help you tune into how your body is feeling, and others that use visualization to help you achieve a calm and welcoming perspective.

Fitness Focus

If you’re using your Peloton Bike, Bike+, Tread, or Row to train for a race or competition, the meditation classes in the Fitness Focus section can be a great complement to your training. They will help put you in the right mindset to take your performance to the next level and smash your PRs.

Relaxation Focus

Ross thinks of these as “space-creating classes” that are focused on calming and relaxing your mind and body. These meditations give you permission to spend a few minutes resting—the go-go-go nature of modern life rarely gives people a chance to stop and recharge, but these meditations create that space in your day, plus improve your ability to wind down quickly when it’s finally time to hit the hay.

Sleep Focus

Though they may sound similar, relaxation and sleep-focused meditation classes are not the same. Sleep meditation aims to bring your focus to the present through an emphasis on breathing. This, in turn, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing down your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure in an effort to induce sleep.

Emotions

“These are integrating classes,” explains Ross. “They help shift perspective particularly related to emotions and how we integrate the fruits of meditation into our daily lives.” Each class is focused on a specific emotion or feeling, including patience, grief, kindness, gratitude, peace, acceptance, empathy, courage, energy, happiness, and healing, with the practice designed to help you cultivate the skills to integrate these emotions into your daily life in a conscious and constructive way.

Theme-Based Meditations

Whether you’re trying to find gratitude in a stressful holiday season, or you’re looking for a way to align your mental state with the changing of the seasons, these classes bring a specific moment into clearer focus. This is where you’ll find the meditations themed to different holidays, seasons, artists, and more.

Family & Pre/Postnatal

Designed for pregnant and postpartum people and parents, these meditation classes focus on the unique experiences of carrying and/or caring for children and the skills you can develop to help you on this challenging and rewarding journey.

How to Choose the Right Type of Meditation For You

Peloton releases new meditation classes on a daily basis, so there’s something for everyone. These tips can help you determine the best classes for you and figure out how to integrate a meditation practice into your daily or weekly fitness regimen.

  • Try a meditation moment. Ross recommends doing some “practice” meditation before jumping right into guided meditations like the ones on the Peloton App. “Practice pausing for a few breaths or a few moments before you do something in your daily routine like brushing your teeth,” he suggests. “Just pausing can be a doorway to sensing the benefits of meditation.” In fact, you are likely already doing this and haven’t noticed that it’s meditation. “We all have an innate instinct to shift our attention away from its normal direction,” Ross says. “There are tons of ways to shift our attention and meditation is one of them. Once you start to realize your capacity to change your attention, doing it in meditation will be less of a challenge.”

  • Go with something universal. Instead of jumping right into an emotion-focused meditation, start with a format with a slightly more general focus. “The shorter, 5- and 10-minute breathing or body scan meditations are a great way to start,” says Ross. Sleep meditations are a good entry point as well, since who couldn’t use a little help falling asleep?

  • Wait for the urge or opportunity. As much as you may be tempted to schedule your meditation sessions, Ross suggests refraining at first. “Try it whenever you get the urge or opportunity,” he says. Since you only need a few minutes to meditate, having those first few sessions at a time when you feel relaxed, focused, and open to it gives you the best chance of getting the perks and of coming back to the practice. “Once you get into a bit of a habit, then you can start to ritualize it, like always meditating after you shower in the morning and before coffee,” Ross adds. “The ritual can be an accelerant to a consistent practice.”

  • Get comfortable. “Comfort will increase your enjoyment and thus the likelihood that you’ll come back to meditation,” says Ross. Whether that means lying in bed, sitting on the couch, or strolling around the block, try to meditate in a position that makes you feel good—you’ll feel that much better once your practice is complete.

  • Give yourself grace. If a class doesn’t leave you feeling refreshed and empowered, try a different one the next time. If you have a crazy day and you just can’t find the time and space to meditate, that’s okay. Your practice will be there for you when you need it. “The mind might judge before you go into meditation, saying you need to be doing it more,” notes Ross. “But your deeper self will say ‘I’m so happy you’re here’ every time!”

The Takeaway

There are multiple types of meditation, ranging from mindfulness to visualization to transcendentalism. Each form of meditation has unique benefits to it, but the underlying goal is the same: to better connect your mind and body. There is no right or wrong way to explore meditation—the best approach is the one you enjoy and will stick with. “There is no way to meditate incorrectly,” promises Ross. “And no matter how frequently or consistently you meditate, your practice will welcome you back with zero judgment.” 

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