What are the best types of yoga meditation techniques and practices?
As a meditation teacher, I’m often asked by yogis how to combine meditation and yoga. The good news is that there are many ways to merge meditation and yoga, and myriad benefits of doing so.
I love yoga meditation techniques. I mean I’m bound to, right? Being a yoga practitioner and meditation teacher it’s kind of obvious I’d love all the types of meditation in yoga—especially given that I wrote basically the world’s best guide to techniques.
Thing is, you can’t be a proper yogini without meditative exercises. Take a look at the Eight Limbs of Yoga by Patanjali. Only one limb is to do with physical poses (asanas). Most of the rest (Dharana, Samadhi, Dhyana, Pratyahara) are about the mind. And there is a good reason for that. Yogic meditative exercises are powerful.
Methods like Trataka, Kundalini, Chakra Dhyana, Bhakti and the Sadhguru Isha Kriya method can genuinely transform your mind and your life. They can help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, and can sharpen your mind so you are more productive, happy, and creative.
Many people ask me, “Is meditation a form of yoga.” Technically the answer is no, they both appear in the same text, the Upanishads, and though they are definitely related, meditation is also its own thing. However, it’s best to combine yoga and meditation anyway.
The great thing about yoga meditation techniques is that they have so many different benefits, especially if you combine them with my list of breathing exercises!
My 11 Best Types Of Yoga Meditation Techniques & Practices
Here is my selection of the best yoga meditation exercises in the world. If you’ve ever wondered how to meditate like a yogi, you are about to find out!
Just a heads-up: I’m going to start with a primary method and then share some more serious yoga meditation exercises, so you can choose which you want to do based on whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or total yogini.
1. Do meditation while doing yoga
Which one of the 28 styles of yoga is your favourite? Whichever one it is, meditate while you’re doing it.
There are all different types of yogic meditation, like mantras, mudras, kundalini, Nada yoga, and more. Still, if you’re new to the practice you might like to simply start being more mindful while you are actually doing your yoga workout. This is a great entry point and as easy way how to meditate with yoga.
This is not a proper yoga meditation practice. I’m not impressing Patanjali here, not at all. But if you want to get started with yoga meditation techniques, practise basic mindfulness while you are in various asanas.
For a naturally meditative yoga sequence I recommend looking at Iyengar or Yin. These are slower yogic systems that give you plenty of time to mindfully reflect. They are the best yoga for meditation.
You can learn about how to meditate during yoga by reading the “Breathing Exercises” article I linked to above.
2. Nada Yoga
All right, time for the first traditional method and one of the best yoga meditation technique in this list: Nada yoga. I love this method.
Nada yoga is sound meditation. [Wiki]
Here’s the long and short of it:
- Start playing some relaxing healing sounds, like a Tibetan singing bowl or some Kundalini Yoga music.
- Take a comfortable position with good posture. The easiest way is while doing Shavasana. Lie on the ground on your back. Make sure your spine is comfortable (place a blanket under the small of your spine for extra comfort). Rotate your ankles out a little. Let your neck relax and elongate. Close your eyes.
- Focus your mind on the sound of the music you are listening to. Let your mind rest on the music. If thoughts enter your mind simply label them like you would in Vipassana and then continue meditating on the sound. Your mind will begin to calm and you will start to feel like you are one with the music. Continue to meditate on the music.
- Once you feel like you are one with the music, begin to tune in to your inner sound. Listen to the sounds of your mind and body. Meditate on these sounds. Aim to be one with these sounds. Keep meditating on this sound until you hear the ultimate sound that is “Para Nada”, the universal sound manifesting in “Om”.
If you would like to learn more about nada yoga I highly recommend the book The Law of attention, Nada yoga and the way of inner vigilance. Inner Tradition by Michael Edward Salim.
Mantras are all over religion and spirituality. And they are a yogic practice too. Some people think mantras started in yoga, although this is definitely not the case. Mantras are another form of sound meditation. You meditate on sacred vocal sounds, such as “Om”.
This is one of the best meditations in yoga for sheer relaxation and inner-stillness. It is a prevalent method used in Kundalini Yoga. So if you are looking for ways to activate Kundalini energy, you might like to start chanting various mantras such as “Sa Ta Na Ma” and “Wahe Guru.”
Deepak Chopra [founder, The Copra Center] states that “mantras serves as a vehicle for the mind to transition from diversity to unity”. When you focus your whole mind on a mantra you achieve unification of the mind.
4. Chakra Dhyana
In the book Chakra Theory And Meditation, yoga teacher Paul Grilley explains that the chakras are energy centres through which prana (life force) flows. The thing is, your chakras can get blocked, and this causes all manner of physical and mental health complications (actually, chakra blockages can make you seriously ill).
Thank Patanjali we can meditate on the chakras to open them and get prana flowing once again. Doing so offers numerous health benefits and is an excellent way to improve general wellbeing.
5. Third Eye (Ajna Chakra)
If you thought, “Third Eye Meditation is just another chakra meditation” then give yourself a cookie because you’re right. The thing is, Third Eye Meditation is so important that it demands its own place in this list of yogic meditation techniques. Sadhguru and Paramahansa Yogananda would throw me under a bus if I didn’t give this technique its place in this list.
In the book The Secret Doctrine vol. II, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky states that thousands of years ago humans had a third eye in the forehead, and that this eye gradually shifted inward. This “Third Eye”, according to Richard Cavendish [Man, Myth and Magic – Volume 19] is the gateway to perception beyond ordinary sight.
To open the third eye we use the yoga meditation technique of Ajna Meditation, which usually combines the Shambhavi Mudra (Eyebrow Gazing) with traditional meditation.
Opening the third eye is said to develop the five siddhis:
- Trikālajñatvam: knowing the past, present and future
- Advandvam: tolerance of heat, cold and other dualities
- Para Citta ādi abhijñatā: knowing the minds of others
- Agni arka ambu viṣa ādīnām pratiṣṭambhaḥ: checking the influence of fire, sun, water, and poison.
- Aparājayah: remaining unconquered by others
I personally find that when I practice Third Eye meditation I gain many insights into my mind and life, some of which have truly helped me to develop as a person.
Here’s how to do Third Eye Meditation.
6. Trataka (“Still Gazing”)
This is one of the best yoga meditation technique for cultivating inner-stillness and concentration, according to the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine [source]. And according to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh [Dynamics of Meditation] it also opens the mind to psychic powers.
For this yoga meditation technique we fix our gaze on one object (often a candle). It’s said that a still gaze equals a quiet mind. So, if you want inner stillness, this is the best type of yogic meditation technique for you.
Here’s how to do Trataka:
- Place a lit candle on a table or shrine about a metre or so in front of you (sit close but, you know, don’t burn your face off on the candle)
- Fix your gaze on the candle
- Meditate on the flame of the candle. Quieten your mind.
- Hold your gaze still and continue to meditate on the flame. Take 25 breaths
- Now close your eyes. You will see the candle in your mind’s eye.
- Meditate on the mental image of the candle for another 25 breaths.
When I practice Trataka I immediately find myself more able to focus on more work on whatever it is I am doing.
7. Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti yoga meditation technique is one of the more spiritual types of meditation in yoga and is one of the trinity of meditations described in the Bhagavad Gita according to Michael C. Brannigan [Striking a Balance: A Primer in Traditional Asian Values] .
Yoga Journal defines Bhakti as “path to self-realization, to having an experience of oneness with everything.” It is all about showing devotion to your deity. It’s an advanced technique that is not ideal for beginners. The idea with Bhakti is to meditate on your deity and then to invite the deity to be with you and to inspire you.
If you’re a spiritual person, you’ll probably find this to be your best type of meditation in yoga. You will definitely have heard Sadhguru and Paramahansa Yogananda discussing this one, and it truly is a marvelous method,
Here’s how to do Bhakti.
8. Dhyana Yoga (Jnana)
Many of my students who have spent years doing asanas but only just gotten into the mental aspects, ask me “What is meditation in yoga”. My go to answer is Jnana.
Dhyana is the earliest form of yoga meditation exercises and was first mentioned in Upanishads. There is a passage in Upanishads (classical Hindu text) when Arjuna talks to Lord Krishna about Dhyana is the root of most of yoga’s philosophy. He says that the yogic path includes devotional service (bhakti), action (karma), meditation (dhyana), and knowledge (jnana). To properly walk the yogic path we must practice all these aspects.
Yoga jnana is about developing more profound oneness by breaking down the gap between consciousness and reality. Deep stuff, right? That’s why I wrote a complete guide to Dhyana meditation for you.
According to the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, there are significant benefits of this method, which you can read about here.
9. Kundalini Yoga Meditation
Oh boy. Kundalini meditation. Everyone likes tossing-out the word “Kundalini” like it were this year’s must-have fashion item. So, what is kundalini meditation? It is a yoga meditation technique brought to the West by Yogi Bhajan.
We use kundalini meditation to awaken kundalini energy (powerful feminine energy dormant at the base of the spine) as part of the journey towards enlightenment.
The thing is, even though everyone tosses around the word “kundalini” like it were a bag of fries. It’s a big deal. There are a lot of risks of doing kundalini meditations. That’s why you should learn it properly (not from Wiki-How, people, come on).
There are different kundalini yoga meditation techniques, but they all revolve around the idea of activating the kundalini energy dormant at the base of the spine. According to Om Swami [Kundalini: An Untold Story], this energy represents the divine feminine energy of the goddess.
10. Kriya Yoga Meditation Techniques
Kriya yoga is a collection of meditative exercises taught by Indian yogi guru Paramahamsa Yogananda. This stuff is deep. Real deep. Probably too deep for your regular yoga-pants enthusiast. But if you’re cool enough to be a proper spiritual yogi, then you’ll love it.
Kriya yoga includes different levels of pranayama, mantra, and mudra practices that are said to rapidly develop an individual’s spirituality, according to Timothy Miller, author of the book America’s Alternative Religions]. Yogananda stated that the Kriya Yogi is dedicated to directing life to the six centres of the spine that relate to the zodiac.”
I know: your mom told you that Tantra is this sexual cult thing that Sting was involved with. Well, your mom only got a tiny bit of the story. Because while Tantra does include some sexual techniques, it’s way deeper than that.
Tantra is about as deep as Marianas Trench—that’s deep, real deep. It involves all kinds of meditative methods and contemplations. There are 108 meditations in the text Vijnanabhairava Tantra alone, and several of them are profound.
I looked online for an excellent guide to Tantra meditations, but I could find one! So, I’ll write one for you guys when I get around to it (subscribe to our newsletter for updates).
Pratyahara is not a strictly meditative yogic practice. It’s more of a yogic mind training system that involves closing off external stimuli to protect your mind. According to Patanjali, Prathyahara is “Withdrawal from the senses).
Essentially it is about removing negative influence from your life. The thing is, if you do this and also meditate, you’ll have the healthiest mind ever. That’s why I wrote this in-depth guide to Pratyahara yoga.
According to Patanjali, yoga meditation begins with Pratyahara, which clears the mind ready for meditative practices. This is stated in the yoga sutras.
I’ve taught everyone from five-year-old kids to the elderly all the different types of meditation in yoga. They all got something out of it. And you will too.
Here’s the funny thing: Everyone knows about the 28 types of yoga that are physical. Everyone even knows about beer yoga and crap like that. Yet next to no one knows about yoga meditation techniques like pratyahara—except yoga teachers and we yogis who are passionate about the yogic philosophy (which probably includes you, right?).
Each of the techniques above has its own benefits. For instance, Trataka is a fabulous way of cultivating inner-stillness and concentration. Nada Yoga, on the other hand, is a profound way of simulating the parasympathetic nervous system to create a deep sense of relaxation. And mantras offer myriad benefits depending on the specific mantra you choose to recite.
Because each of the methods offers its own unique benefits, I highly recommend trying all of them, perhaps one a day for the next-and-a-half, so you can experience what each of them has to offer. So that you remember to do that, you might like to bookmark this page, print it, or get it tattooed on your face… you know, whatever works.
Which of these yoga meditation techniques is your favourite? Which have you tried and how did you find the experience?
Oh and one more thing before I forget, you might also like to try one of the most trendy yogi-methods right now: Breath Of Fire Yoga.
If you would like to know more about yogic meditation techniques exercises, I recommend Light of Life by B.K.S Iyengar, an exploration of the integration of mind, body, soul and emotions to achieve the true yogic lifestyle.
Leave a comment and remember to subscribe to our newsletter.