3 Types of Meditation to Try If You Can’t Sit Still

published May 4, 2022
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Mindful mom with cute kid daughter doing yoga exercise at home

When you hear the word “meditation,” you typically picture someone sitting with their eyes closed, hands on thighs or joined in a prayer pose, taking deep breaths. This type of meditation is beneficial in a dozen different ways, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you’re someone who struggles to sit still and focus on your breath, the typical idea of meditation might seem too rigid and intimidating. 

When I first started meditating, I could never sit in one place and concentrate on my breath or keep counting for more than a few seconds without feeling a strong urge to move an arm, scratch something, or just change my posture continuously. No matter how much I tried to “discipline” myself, I just couldn’t sit still in a way most guided meditations recommended. 

After weeks of struggling to “properly” meditate, I quit, believing it just wasn’t for me. But I was wrong. Everyone can meditate, just not in the same way. Not everyone can go from having an overactive internal monologue to immediately sitting quietly and focusing on nothing but their breath. 

“Moving towards a state of non-doing (as opposed to having a go-go-go attitude) is fairly rare for many of us and we shouldn’t be surprised that our mind fights back,” says Karen Stone, a yoga teacher and co-founder of Peaceful Way Retreats, a yoga, meditation, and martial arts center. “We have programmed our mind to ‘perform’ many varied and complex tasks … with many of us continuing to cram as much as possible into each day, each hour, each moment,” she explains.

So how do you go from trying to do it all at once to pressing the hard breaks on your mental activity? You don’t have to. There’s more to meditation than sitting perfectly still with your legs crossed. You can ease into it with movement-based practices so the activity doesn’t feel as daunting. Here are three different types of meditations experts recommend you try if you’re struggling to sit still. 

Credit: Jose Campos & Oliver Herbert

Movement meditation

If you’re really craving some movement during meditation, don’t resist it. You can find mindful movement as a part of your practice. 

“Spending all your day rushing from point A to point B creates tension in the body,” says Libby Stevenson, a women’s yoga instructor and meditation teacher. “We can’t sit still in meditation because our body feels the need to release this contained tension and that’s where movement mediation can help.”

Movement meditation comes in many forms: slow dancing, transitioning between yoga poses, or just freestyling it based on what your body wants. 

A simple exercise to get started: Start in a cat-cow pose, then transition to child’s pose and repeat. The repetitive, rhythmic nature of such movements can be meditative, Stevenson says. 

Credit: Oliver Hewett/Shutterstock

Walking meditation

Have you ever heard someone say walking can help you calm your mind? Well, that’s because it’s a form of meditative practice. 

Similar to movement meditation, walking is a repetitive, rhythmic activity that activates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping you release anxiety and feel relaxed. 

This is simple: The next time you walk, make an effort to slow down, take mindful steps, notice the sights and sounds around and be in tune with your body as you move. 

If this sounds a bit vague as a beginner, you can also use a guided walking meditation to lead you through the practice. 

Credit: Getty Images/ 10'000 Hours

Chanting meditation

We have up to more than 6,000 thoughts a day, 80 percent of which are negative and repetitive, says Jasmin Harsono, a reiki practitioner, sonic artist, and founder of Emerald and Tiger, a well-being and energy healing platform. “When meditating, we start zoning in on these thoughts as there’s nothing to distract us,” she says. 

That’s where chanting or mantra meditations can help. In this practice, instead of removing your attention from the thoughts and placing it on your breath, you focus on repeating or chanting a mantra that resonates with you. 

“Usually, a mantra is a sacred word rooted in deep wisdom, which is vibrational healing from ancient teachings, but we can also create our own,” Harsono says. This can be anything from a positive word to an affirmation, depending on what feels right. 

Which form of meditation is right for you?

The best part about meditation is that there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. Some may find focus in mindful movement while others may concentrate best when they’re sitting still. All forms of the practice are valid and only you can decide what works best for you. 

Harsono recommends asking yourself what helps you find a state of inner peace. Find your moment of stillness and keep expanding upon that.