The Beginner's Guide to Meditation MusicSep 8, 2020
The same way a chart-topping playlist can help you power through a cardio class or strength session, meditation music can help guide your mind to a clearer and more relaxed place. By sparking mindfulness, music activates our brains in fascinating ways, from the well-known Mozart effect to reducing stress.
This beginner’s guide to meditation music will tell you everything you need to know to find the perfect tune for your next practice.
How Music Can Help With Meditation
At any moment, there are endless distractions at our fingertips, from work emails to adorable puppy pics on Instagram. Too much input though, can make our minds run nonstop and lose focus.
“Listening to music can aid in meditation as a method of concentrating the mind,” explains Richard Wolf, who teaches music and mindfulness at University of Southern California and is the author of In Tune: Music as the Bridge to Mindfulness. “We live in a time of mass distraction. Music can ‘unbreak my heart’ and it can also ‘unbreak fragmented mental focus.'”
“When we tune into music, we are tuning out everything else — the chaos, the turbulence, the noise,” he says. “That can help us settle in and compose ourselves.”
On a physiological level, music has a powerful mind-body influence. The brainstem (the part of your noggin connected to your spinal cord) processes sound and also regulates the heart and respiration. As a result, researchers have found music can actually slow down breathing and decrease blood pressure.
In contrast, a booty-shaking pop song can kick up your energy level, so save the Dua Lipa for the dance floor and stick with relaxing meditation music.
According to Wolf, who’s also an Emmy-winning composter, meditation music can:
- Help calm your mind and focus your attention on the changing quality of sound.
- Guide you to observe sound as it emerges from silence and follow it.
- Navigate a changing soundscape cultivating an awareness of overtones, resonances, and other vibrations.
Is Meditation Better With Music?
Music and meditation are both mindful — and highly personal — experiences. “Music is essential to nearly everything I do, including meditation,” explains Chip Hall, a certified Jivamukti yoga instructor based in Brooklyn, New York. “For many people, having some form of music is a huge help, especially when you’re just starting out.”
Like mastering an instrument, meditation takes practice (but fortunately, meditating is way easier than playing Bach).
While there is an overall connection between music and mindfulness, the meditation music you choose is important. “Mindfulness means being present to your experience without judgment and reactivity,” says Allen Weiss, a meditation teacher and the director of the Mindful USC program. “If you are listening to music and judging it, for example ‘I like this, I don’t like this,’ then you are not meditating.”
Kinds of Meditation Music
There are different styles of meditation that each offer a range of benefits, including combatting stress and improving concentration. Depending on your meditation practice, you might explore different kinds, spanning from morning meditation music to start your day to sleep meditation music to end it. Nursing a broken heart or grieving? You might try healing meditation music.
“When I’m leading meditation, I like ambient music,” says Hall. “I find lyrics distracting regardless of the language. Nature sounds like ocean waves and rain are also good for meditation. Ocean sounds help give rhythm to your breathing.”
For starting out with meditation music, there are a few basics to keep in mind. “Generally, slow tempos are best because they slow down the physiology, which slows down the sympathetic nervous system, which slows down your fight-or-flight responses and helps your relaxation response,” explains Wolf.
When it comes to fostering concentration, researchers have found that music activates the areas of the mind governing attention. Brain activity actually peaks during the short periods of silence between musical movements.
“Music that can serve as a non-verbal guided meditation usually contains very little harmonic movement, is simple, sometimes relies on circular repetition, and yet can evolve subtly in a linear fashion,” says Wolf. “It has overtones or sympathetic vibrations or uses silence as an integral part of the composition.”
How Openfit Sound Meditation Works
Now streaming in the Openfit app, Openfit Sound Meditation is a series of meditation music designed by Scarlett de la Torre to help with different wellness needs, including reducing stress and anxiety; increasing productivity; creating balance; and promoting better sleep. The 10- to 45-minute sessions feature soothing frequencies to guide meditation.
Achieving a meditative state is challenging when your brain is racing or pulled in different directions. Having trouble focusing can feel like someone jumping between radio stations on a long road trip (sometimes your brain is saying “please, just pick a station”). Meditation music can tune you into immersive harmonics and vibrations that make it easy to find the concentration necessary for focusing your mind.
“Music is so much more than something that sounds nice,” says Scarlett de la Torre. “It’s a meditative device, something that helps us to heal, manifest, unite, and it is the universal language. Take a moment to amplify your intentions through sound.”
Launching with a sleep series, Openfit Sound Meditation provides an accessible way to explore meditation music. Working with singing bowls, a harp, a didgeridoo, and gongs, among other instruments, including chimes and drums, Scarlett produces a soundscape for shifting your brain into relaxation mode, along with other physical and emotional benefits.