Last Update: August 15, 2023
Our lives might look a bit different right now—and that can be stressful. But starting a meditation practice (or deepening an existing one) can help you find peace with the challenges caused by quarantining, reduce your stress, and manage fluctuating anxiety levels. Just think of this post as your meditation starter kit—we’re looking at some of the best online meditation courses and apps, so that whether you’re a novice or already have a regular routine, there’s an online tool that’s perfect for you.
Starting a meditation practice is easier than you might think, and you don’t need any special equipment or tools. Simply put, meditation is an act of pondering or contemplation. The sage believed to have written the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali, describes meditation as an act where the mind becomes quiet. This mental stillness is what helps relax the nervous system, which studies have shown to offer numerous benefits for our mind and body. Modern definitions emphasize training the mind to practice awareness—it’s less about turning off your thoughts, a common misconception, but instead learning to observe them without passing judgement. There are several different ways to meditate, using techniques such as breath, sound, or imagery, but Mindful Magazine suggests three simple areas of focus to get started.
There are thousands of resources to choose from, but this list of the best mindfulness meditation apps to try is a great place to start—especially because it has personal recommendations from yoga and meditation teacher Hitomi Mochizuki. If you’re intimidated by meditation, don’t be. “I like to describe it as simply saying ‘Hello’ to yourself and watching as the stories unfold. It’s the practice of refining your awareness, which only helps make this human stuff a little bit easier,” she says. “There’s truly no such thing as a bad meditation, for they all reveal to us where the inner work must be done.”
Headspace was one of the first apps designed to help you better understand meditation and build a consistent habit. One of the ways Headspace sets itself apart is in the clinical research on meditation it conducts with national institutions (65 studies on Headspace’s approach are currently in process). Mochizuki loves the fun app design, which reminds her meditation doesn’t have to be serious. “The most helpful feature is keeping track of your consistency with meditating, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day,” she says. “Mindful awareness is something that easily ripples out and setting small goals makes a huge difference over time. I think this is the ideal app for beginner meditators because of how accessible it is.” You can subscribe for access to the full library, or enjoy some of the free sessions to get started.
Cost: $7.99 to $12.99 per month after free trial
Calm provides guided sessions that take anywhere from three to 25 minutes, so you can pick what you need to suit the day. “Are you looking to reduce anxiety, get better sleep, feel happier or increase performance? Choose your adventure!” Mochizuki says. “There are a variety of different teachers to try and it feels like you can choose the exact medicine you need day to day.” Topics range from mindfulness at work to sleep sounds and more. You also have access to masterclass audio programs taught by experts, video lessons on mindful movement, and more.
Cost: Free; in-app purchases
In addition to daily meditations, Aura is known for offering personalized music, nature sounds, and life coaching, depending on the mood you pick when opening the app. You can also use the tool to track your moods and observe patterns from week to week.
Cost: Free; in-app purchases
From managing stress to improving your sleep, Insight Timer is an easy app to build your daily meditation practice. The free version gives you access to 45,000 meditations—plenty to get you started! Topics include meditation for kids, coping with anxiety, and even a COVID-19 toolkit.
Cost: Free or $60/year after 30-day trial
To share practical yoga, meditation, and breathwork with people struggling with anxiety and depression, Mochizuki designed her own app. “Having healed so much of my sadness with these holistic practices, I realized how much power we give away to fear, and how easy it is to reclaim our sovereignty. It all starts with one breath,” she says. Videos can be downloaded to watch offline, and you can also listen to podcasts and customize how much time you’d like to spend practicing.
Chopra is one of the world’s most renowned meditation teachers. Ideal for beginners eager to get started, this course covers all the basics and includes 12 audio teachings, tips on creating a daily practice, six guided meditations, and more.
Created by meditation teachers Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach, this free online meditation course from Sounds True is a 40-day program designed to help you build a strong foundation. Each day offers a 10- to 15-minute lesson featuring a short talk and a guided meditation. The content can be downloaded, viewed online, or accessed in a new app.
Also from Tara Brach, this timely program helps you use meditation techniques to transform anger and anxiety into creative energy and resilience. The course includes two hours of online training combining practical teachings with scientifically backed exercises to help you learn to relate to stress differently.
This popular lifestyle magazine has a robust online component offering guided meditations and visualizations for everything from self-compassion to cultivating peace in your life.
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