If you are new to the practice of meditation, you may be wondering if guided meditation is safe and healthy. Are there any potential risks associated with guided meditation?
Is guided meditation safe and healthy? Guided meditation can be a great way to experience meditation whether you are a complete beginner or an experienced practitioner. The key to a healthy and safe guided meditation is finding a guide who is experienced and knowledgeable and who matches your personal meditation goals.
Guided meditation is safe and healthy if led by an experienced teacher. There are no known health risks associated with guided meditation.
There are no known risks specifically associated with guided meditation, but there are a number of potential benefits that we will discuss below. If you are trying to determine between guided or unguided meditation, the choice usually comes down to personal preference but we’ve assembled some information here to help you decide which method is best for you.
If you’re considering guided meditation, read on below to find out more about why this mindfulness practice is so popular and what benefits it may hold in store for you.
What Is Guided Meditation?
If you are considering practicing meditation, one of the first few things you need to decide is whether you want your meditation to be guided or unguided. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of meditation, so often the choice simply comes down to personal preference.
Guided meditation is when an expert helps you navigate through the meditation process. This can be either in person, by an audio recording, or by a video. The same way a teacher or skilled craftsman can help you learn a new technique, having an expert guide you through the meditation process can be very helpful if you are just starting to meditate and need some guidance.
Guided meditation can help you understand the process that occurs while you meditate, how to meditate better, and how to apply the benefits of meditation to everyday life.
What Are the Benefits of Guided Meditation Compared to Unguided Meditation?
Guided meditation is great for anyone who is wanting to start a mindfulness practice but just doesn’t know how to get started. It can be intimidating to try to meditate on your own for the first time, so a guided meditation can help make the process more comfortable. Usually, those leading guided meditation sessions also offer encouragement and help you recognize ways to integrate the benefits of meditation into daily life.
The main benefit of guided meditation, therefore, is that you need absolutely no meditation experience in order to feel the benefits. All you need to be able to do is listen and follow directions.
Guided meditation can help you stay focused during your meditation, especially if you are someone who is easily distracted. In unguided meditation, you are responsible for keeping yourself on task and navigating the entire session, so if you have difficulty remaining focused it can be challenging to reap the full benefits of the meditation session.
Sometimes, in unguided meditation, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with negative thoughts or to hit a wall in your session that you simply cannot overcome. Guided meditation can be useful because it helps to keep you from dwelling on negativity, with instructors keeping you centered and pursuing a balanced calm.
Why Should I Meditate?
Guided or unguided, there are numerous benefits to meditation. First of all, studies have shown that meditation programs help reduce psychological stress. Those who engage in mindfulness meditation exercises tend to have fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. A three-year study demonstrated the long term benefits of meditation, with participants showing lower anxiety and depression rates overall.
Some studies have also shown that meditation can help reduce inflammation, especially inflammation that results as a byproduct of stress. In another study, meditation lowered risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Meditation can also help you promote a more positive self-image and optimistic outlook. One study even indicated that the positive mental boost associated with meditation may even help promote better immune function.
If you find yourself struggling with a short attention span, meditation can help you get better at focusing. Just as you might practice shooting layups to get better at basketball, you can get better at paying attention by practicing mindfulness exercises. Those who undergo mindfulness training show improved levels of attentiveness, so meditation can help you learn how to maintain your focus in daily life.
Meditation is a relatively simple, easy practice that doesn’t require any specific equipment or location. As such, you can enjoy the health benefits associated with meditation without significantly altering your life.
Are There Any Risks to Guided Meditation?
While guided meditation is generally safe and healthy, there are some important features to keep in mind if you are deciding to undergo mindfulness training. In one study it was shown that those practicing Buddhist-derived meditation practices reported feeling distressed and challenging emotions as a consequence. However, the meditation in this study was intense, sometimes lasting more than 10 hours a day. This is generally not applicable to generic meditation.
It is entirely common to encounter challenges when meditating that can be seen as harmful if you are not experienced. Meditation, including guided meditation sessions, often involves acknowledging buried emotions or experiences that can be uncomfortable. These distressing waves of emotion should gradually dissipate as you practice, but if they persist or worsen it may be a sign you need to consult a therapist or psychologist to get to the root of the issue.
Guided meditation also poses a risk if you think it serves as a complete treatment or a replacement for medications or therapy. While meditation has numerous health benefits, it generally is not wise to abandon other treatments or therapies in favor of meditation without first consulting your primary care physician.
Finally, meditation often centers around the concept of non-attachment. Non-attachment refers to the process of letting go of our inherent desire to control all aspects of our life and acknowledge that we cannot control everything. Sometimes, meditation practitioners misinterpret non-attachment to mean avoiding or repressing, which can cause you to become passive or inactive. It is important to practice non-attachment in a healthy, peaceful fashion.
Check out this 15 minute guided mediation video:
How Do I Get Started with Guided Meditation?
If you’ve decided you want to try guided meditation, there are luckily a number of options available to you. Guided meditation sessions can be in person or via audio or video recordings.
Some companies specifically cater to businesses that want to implement guided meditation into the workday. Companies like Within will come to a business and lead guided meditation sessions for employees, no matter what their background or expertise may be.
Depending on where you live, meditation studios offer another in-person option for those seeking guided meditation. These classes are usually held on a regular schedule and can vary in size, so you may need to plan accordingly to find a class that fits your schedule and suits your personal preferences.
If in-person sessions aren’t an option for you, there are plenty of opportunities for guided meditation sessions in the form of audio recordings and videos. Many meditation studios even offer online videos for those who are unable to participate in person.
There are a number of meditation podcasts for all sorts of experience levels, as well as guided meditation sessions on YouTube. If you are seeking out online guided meditation, just make sure the session is being led by a credible and experienced expert. Guided meditation needs to be led by a professional teacher in order to be assured of it being safe and healthy.
Are There Apps for Guided Meditation?
One of the reasons guided meditation may be increasingly popular in modern times is because there are a number of apps that make accessing guided meditation sessions easier than ever. Thanks to these apps, you can meditate anywhere, anytime. Some of our favorites include the following:
- Calm: This app offers numerous types of meditation, including guided meditation sessions. It also offers relaxing audio stories to help you fall to sleep, relaxing music playlists, and classes led by experts to help you find your inner zen.
- Headspace: Another popular meditation app, Headspace offers a number of guided meditation sessions that are quick and effective, perfect for anyone who doesn’t have oodles of free time to devote to mediation. Like Calm, it also offers music and soundscapes designed to help you fall asleep.
- Insight Timer: If cost is your main concern, look no further than Insight Timer. This app delivers many of the offerings of other meditation apps, such as guided meditation sessions, relaxing music playlists, and expert advice, but at the terrific, risk-free cost of absolutely free.
- Smiling Mind: Smiling Mind was developed by psychologists and educators to give you a huge range of exercises to help you navigate the stresses of the modern day. The app is completely free, and also offers a variety of programs that can appeal to meditators of all ages.
- 10% Happier: At $100 for an annual membership, 10% Happier is pricey but it might be worth the splurge for those wanting personalized meditation guidance. You can ask experts questions and get real feedback. It is aimed towards absolute beginners or those who aren’t really sure if meditation can help them.
- Inscape: Inscape offers a plethora of guided meditation sessions of varying lengths, so whether you need a quick three-minute reset or a longer focusing exercise, Inscape has you covered. Inscape also features an awesome assortment of playlists that are tailored to the challenges of modern life, such as addressing fears or dealing with a bad Tinder experience.
Whether you choose a subscription service or a completely free app, there are luckily a number of options available for the tech-savvy meditation practitioner.
In conclusion, guided meditation is a great, safe way for beginners and experts alike to practice meditation. By letting a teacher help you navigate through a meditation session, you can find peace easily and learn how to meditate better.