Best meditation apps for beginners so you can nama-stay sane
Because Valium needs a prescription and punching people is frowned upon
Asking me to calm down when I’m in the throes of a temper tantrum is like spraying cheap deodorant onto sweaty gym socks: it will definitely make the situation worse. My general demeanour tends to be more Arnab Goswami than Dalai Lama. I live via to-do lists, because even after a lifetime of badams, my memory is only as good as Aamir Khan’s in Ghaijni. From my grandmother trying to coax me into joining what can only be described as her meditation cult to strategic ‘meditation apps for beginners’ sponsored posts popping up everywhere, and my physician advising me to ‘maybe try some breathing exercises’, the M word was haunting me.
Meditation can be loosely defined as a practice where an individual uses a technique to train attention, and achieve a mentally clear, calm and engaged state. Benefits include spiritual development, physical wellbeing and better mental health (and better ZZZs). All it takes is one deep (conscious) breath to start. I scoured the marketplace for the best meditation apps for a newbie, and here’s what I found:
Best meditation apps for your frantic brain
The app includes a range of problem-solution led techniques (i.e for anxiety, for sleep), guided meditation sessions and expert-led masterclasses along with a number of sleep and relaxation aids. I used the 7-day programme as my initiation; narrated in soothing tones, it invites you to focus on conscious breathing to make you less reactive, and more relaxed and alert—in between 10-12 minutes. The fact that Stephen Fry and Matthew McConaughey’s soothing baritones have been used to narrate their sleep stories was a happy plus. Calm.com, paid app
Describing meditation as being about ‘training in awareness and getting a healthier sense of perspective’, Headspace aims to help you improve your perspective and become more mindful in your actions. ‘Everyday headspace’ offers a new meditation every 24 hours, the Library tab curates techniques for each of your concerns at the time (life challenges, personal growth…) and Meditation Essentials is designed for beginners. Users can track day-to-day progress and even buddy up with a friend to stay accountable. Plus, they have meditation for kids, so if you have fidgety offspring, try this before you decide to give the Indian technique of one-tight slap a go. Headspace.com, Free with in-app purchases
The methodical design of the app works as a precursor to calming you down, especially if you’re a Type A like I am. The meditation sessions are handily divided into:
Collections: These offer a range of meditations based on your needs (i.e sleep, stress, anxiety, pain, and even one on fertility)
Courses: These offer a deeper dive into specific meditation techniques — from a Starter Series for Beginners, to Meditation Essentials and even a course on Uncovering Happiness—making your pursuit that much simpler.
Teachers: As the title suggests, you can pick your expert and allow them to lead you to meditation. Meditationstudioapp.com, paid app
The app offers more than 8,000 free meditations that are guided by professional teachers (Sadhguru and Moby among others)—and you can use their categories to search for popular meditations or via keywords. Like most meditation apps, their popular topics include focus, anxiety, deep sleep and more. The best part of the app is that it allows you to create custom meditation with your choice of sounds and music — you can even search for meditations based on the time you have. So, if you feel the need to squeeze in a 5-minute session between bheja frying meetings at work, all you need to do is a find a quiet cubicle in the restroom and hit search. Insighttimer.com, free, annual fee for premium membership
While this is primarily a yoga app with a library of over 250 poses along with videos for instruction, they have introduced a Guided Meditation section, which includes mindfulness sessions. This section focuses on love and acceptance, simplification and diminishing anxiety and fear. If you’re already a fan of Yoga Studio, these sessions will ease you into the practice of meditation. Yogastudioapp.com, paid app
Created by Rohan Gunatillake, and categorised by how you’re feeling or what you’re doing — walking, waking up, going to sleep, work break and more, the USP is that it aims to make meditation work for you as and when you need it, as opposed to slotting a session in your already packed schedule. With sessions lasting from 4 to 30 minutes, it focuses on on-the-go or mobile meditations — urging you to give a positive spin to all that time you spend on your phone anyway. Buddhify.com, free, annual fee for premium membership
What’s better than an app that promises to calm you down? A completely free app that promises to calm you down. Created by psychologists and educators, this features a range of dedicated programmes for everyone, from 7-year-olds- to grown-ups — broadly divided into ‘Adult’, ‘Youth’, ‘Classroom’ and ‘Workplace’ categories. Smilingmind.com.au, free
It’s unlikely that these meditation apps will instil you with Ma Sheela-explaining-her-decision-to-poison-an-entire-town levels of chill. If you actively practice their techniques, you can learn how to be more mindful in your thoughts and interactions. Like getting rid of the politically charged-yoga teacher trying to induct you into his party of choice, or cancelling a Zumba class that only plays Bollywood bhangra, you’ll need to explore to find the app that best calms your chakras. Reach out to fellow users via the apps to get a sense of what to expect.
I squeezed in sessions during traffic-ridden car rides, started breath-led body scans at bedtime and even got a momentary wink of Zen in the middle of a chaotic shoot (read: fell asleep). I progressed from 7 days to 21 days of Calm, and while initial sessions had me hyper aware of lights, noise and even tendrils of hair floating around my nose — eventually it became easier and easier to stay still during those designated minutes.
There’s a long way to go before I can proclaim that meditation apps have changed my life, but for now, I can agree that 10 stolen minutes of calm in a day can help put a lid on that constant stream of thoughts, reign in violent tendencies, and help you press the reset button when you find yourself overwhelmed. Just make sure you don’t fall asleep in that toilet cubicle…