When you think of meditation, do you think of sitting still in a dark room with your eyes closed? This is perhaps the most common image that is associated with meditation, but it is in fact only one of at least six physical modes in which meditation may take place, all of which are good to have as tools in your mindbody toolkit. Here they are listed from most inert to most active.
The least physically strenuous mode of meditation is lying down. In certain types of sitting meditation practice instructions are given not to do the practice lying down because it makes you prone to falling asleep, but this actually makes meditating in a lying positon ideal as part of a bedtime ritual; it can be the final thing you do as you fall asleep. It also is a great way to transition from sleep to wakefulness, and as part of a coming awake ritual it can be the first thing you do upon becoming fully conscious in the morning. Lying down can also be a good mode of meditation to facilitate physical or emotional healing.
Sitting meditation is the most commonly recognized physical mode of meditation, and is particularly suited to spiritual exploration.
Meditating while standing in various postures is a staple of martial qigong and has the particular benefit of strengthening the body internally.
Moving while meditating is the foundation of health qigong, and particularly benefits health, wellness, and longevity.
Interacting with objects and the environment while meditating is characteristic of tai chi and other internal martial arts. This mode of meditation has the particular benefit of developing physical acuity.
Interacting with other people is while meditating is also characteristic of tai chi and other internal martial arts, particularly the partnered practice aspects such as push hands. This mode of meditation has the particular benefit of developing relational acuity.
While these modes of meditation are different in their physical expression, there are key commonalities that run through all of them.
Body regulation includes physical relaxation and alignment. All modes of meditation emphasize physical relaxation and minimality of exertion. This means that you should be lying, sitting, standing, moving, interacting, or relating loosely and comfortably, not tensely and awkwardly. All modes of meditation also emphasize alignment, in particular an elongated spine.
All modes of meditation involve some form of breath regulation in the form of conscious breathing, from simple breath awareness to breath control and coordination between body and breath.
All modes of meditation involve mind regulation, which encompasses present moment awareness, mindfulness, and bodily awareness and sensitivity.
If you’d like to learn a complete mindbody practice that includes all six modes of meditation, you are welcome to join our Online Learning Community!