TREND: MEDITATION GOES PLURAL
From New Breeds to Meditation Studios with Deep, Diverse Menus
One unique thing about the wellness world is the constant importing and exporting of established practices, and out of Europe now comes sophrology—or “dynamic meditation.” Sophrology is an emerging stress-management technique that marries components from Eastern meditation practices and Western relaxation concepts—and it’s gaining serious interest worldwide. The practice was created by Spanish neuropsychiatrist Alfonso Caycedo in the 1960s as a structured method for conquering anxiety and building consciousness, and it’s a technique (there are 12 levels of study) that combines components of mindful meditation (Tibetan Buddhist and Japanese Zen); breathwork; guided visualization; phenomenology; and gentle, mindful movement, such as yoga.
It’s been popular across Europe for decades (where there are thousands of practitioners): used in the medical world, in schools to help students manage stress, to help women prepare for birth, in the corporate world to prevent burnout, and with sports stars to get in the right mind for big events. In places such as France and Switzerland, it’s routinely covered by health insurance. And now this 50-years-young practice is gaining traction in the UK, Asia and the US. It’s particularly on the rise in the UK, with the shining example being the three BeSophro clinics in London, run by Dominique Antiglio, author of the best seller The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology. And now, there’s a new Online from BeSophro platform launching so the rest of the world can train. You can now practice sophrology at a wellness resort, such as Spain’s SHA Wellness Clinic; at numerous studios in Hong Kong, such as the Integrated Medicine Institute; via many French apps, such as Sophrologie Avec Petit BamBou; or at the American Sophrology center in Scottsdale, Arizona. (It’s just picking up in the US, but celeb fans include Arianna Huffington.)
Practitioners agree that it’s a powerful way to reach calm and self-awareness for those who may struggle with meditation. No complex thinking or postures required, it only involves 20–30 minutes a day, and, because it has 50 years of solid use in Europe and its roots are medical, it may appeal to skeptics or those put off by the spiritual vibe of some meditation classes.
Of all the breeds of yoga, the most meditation-heavy, Kundalini yoga, has got to be the hottest right now. And moving from sophrology to it, we’re definitely moving from the secular to the spiritual. It has an air of mystery about it, as ancient Hindu Kundalini yoga teachings were kept secret (and reserved for nobility) for thousands of years until Yogi Bhajan brought it to the West, you guessed it, in the 60s. It’s a millennia-old mash-up of most of the yoga tools, both spiritual and physical, and incorporates chanted mantra, dynamic breathing techniques, movement and asanas, and many mindfulness-based meditations. (Each sequence is called a kriya and has a sequence of these components, with classes ending with a meditation.) Practitioners wear all flowing white, the teacher wears a turban, and with gong baths and group chanting, walking into a class feels like witnessing the uber-trend of once New Age practices going mainstream before your very eyes. Kate Hudson and Alicia Keys are just two of the celeb devotees.
It may also be trending because it meets people’s new desire for a personalized plurality of meditations, as the founder Bhajan passed on thousands of very specific meditations designed for specific goals: whether to boost beauty or energy or to fight stress and addictions. The practice is very prescriptive: You perform meditations for a specific challenge a certain number of times with precise gestures.
People credit Guru Jagat, a young American practitioner, with bringing Kundalini yoga to the millennial generation and making it very cool. Her RA MA TV, dubbed the “Netflix of Kundalini yoga,” broadcasts her virtual classes to thousands of subscribers in 180 countries. More Kundalini yoga classes are now popping up in cities everywhere—from Singapore (Kundalini Yoga with Akashakyi) to Santa Monica (Kundalini Yoga by the Sea).
“Shaking meditation” is shaking
A practice called Tension and Trauma Release Exercise (TRE) —that’s being called “shaking meditation”—is on the rise. And while it’s not a meditation practice per se, its effects could be called meditative. It involves a series of controlled exercises that take you to that place where your muscles start to tremble, to unlock the body’s tension and trauma of getting stuck in protective patterns (tense muscles, clenched jaws, shallow breathing, etc.). The goal is to reduce stress, shut down the fight-or-flight instinct, and rest your mind. (Yes, you will be shaking on the floor.)
Classes are being offered at more yoga and wellness studios. It’s big in the UK, with at least 100 TRE providers, and it’s where TRE guru Steve Haines teaches at the chic Triyoga studios in London. Learning how to shake off your trauma has been taught everywhere from Sacred Space in Miami to the new TRE for Life studio in Uganda. There’s also a phone app (Stress Less TRE), and soon there will be a UK TRE Association, where trainers will share their tips and expertise.
More drop-in meditation studios—with deep, diverse menus
As much as we hate the phrase “X is the new Y,” the boom in drop-in meditation studios worldwide indicates that meditation is very much the new yoga. There are so many examples, including pioneers such as NYC’s MNDFL (now with three locations) and L.A.’s The DEN Meditation (now with two). So many more cool, around-the-corner meditation places are opening all the time, such as Inhere meditation studio in London (founded by a neuroscientist); Re:Mind in London; Meditation Bar in Austin, Texas; Enhale in Hong Kong; and MINDSET Brain Gym in Toronto (where they use brain wave-sensing tech to chart your progress). In New York, you don’t even need to “drop in” to do your mindfulness meditation because the Be Time meditation studio on wheels drops right in on you.
What’s so striking when you peruse these studios’ all-day programming is just how many types of meditation are on offer. And it’s nice to see a studio, such as NYC’s suave INSCAPE, offer guided meditations that follow the logic of the core types based on evidence for brain changes: mindfulness meditation, focused attention, mantra-based meditation, etc.
Another major trend in the wellness world is new wellness center and club concepts that put incredibly comprehensive wellness offerings (doctors, coaches, yoga, meditation, fitness, stress-reduction treatments, healthy nutrition, etc.) all under one roof—such as the new THE WELL in Manhattan. And these new wellness clubs and studios are rolling out extraordinary and “plural” meditation menus. HealHaus, the headline-grabbing wellness studio in Brooklyn (which is all about healing mental wellness approaches that recognize that life can sometimes be pretty tough) features an amazing lineup of meditation classes—with (as we count) 14 different meditation classes every day, from transcendence meditation to loving kindness meditation to mindful breath meditation—and that doesn’t even include their workshop menu. (They plan to open in cities such as L.A., Washington D.C. and Atlanta.)
When Six Senses opens its first urban wellness resort in NYC in 2019, it will feature the ahead-of-the-curve Six Senses Place, a wellness club open to both hotel guests and local members. It’s hard to even wrap your mind around all their planned wellness programming (for a wellness lover, it will be like being in a healthy candy store). And their menu around meditation and other neuroplasticity-driving brain boosters will be wildly creative: from multiple meditation and mindfulness classes to breathwork to chanting to conscious movement to meditative visual healing to nootropics to binaural beats to neurofeedback to expertly delivered Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS), where low levels of neurostimulation are targeted at different areas of the brain and used to drive meditative brain states.
As more people get used to these rich meditation menus, the idea of the old, generic “meditation class” will feel almost quaint.
Forecasting the Future
- Meditation is now clocking the meteoric growth yoga did 20 years ago. Think of the head-spinning number of yoga and boutique fitness concepts that now exist. That same evolutionary force will hit the meditation market.
- In the recent meditation boom, mindfulness meditation has dominated. The future is exploring other meditation types (offering different benefits) and seeing different breeds as a personal toolbox for wellbeing.
- New wellness center and club concepts that put incredibly comprehensive wellness offerings under one roof will continue to roll out all-day, very “plural” meditation programming.
This is an excerpt from the “Meditation Goes Plural ” trend in the 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report.