With a wide range of products on the market advertising themselves to improve or enhance your meditation practice, how do you know which tools are worth the hype? And where should you start as a beginner? This article will explore a range of meditation tools and equipment, breaking down how, when, and why to use them, to help you decide exactly what tools may be a helpful addition to your personal meditation practice.
Meditation tools may help to provide support and comfort to your practice, allowing you to more easily receive the many benefits that meditation can provide.
If you are unable to access these meditation tools, there are some simple substitutes that you probably already have in your home.
Some meditation tools offer extra comfort for relaxation, while others provide ways to expand your meditation practice to new levels.
Meditation tools and how to use them
While meditation has been found to slow cellular aging and improve our immune function, enhancing your experience with meditation tools may help you to stay consistent with your practice and further reap these benefits.
Although it is possible to have an effective meditation practice without the need for any equipment, there are a range of tools that may be able to elevate your meditation experience to a new level. For example, props to make seated meditation more comfortable or an eye mask to help you focus and remove distraction, we will look at various meditation tools, plus their benefits and instructions on how to use them.
1. Meditation cushion
A traditional meditation cushion is round and firm, however, you can find a range of different styles on offer, such as crescent-shaped or other more bespoke designs.
How to use:
- Usually, meditators will sit cross-legged with their hips raised on the cushion.
- This position promotes a straight spine and allows more circulation to the legs, lessening the likelihood of discomfort or leg cramping.
- For some people, a kneeling position is more comfortable for the hips, so the cushion will be used to raise the hips between the knees.
Alternatives: If you don’t have a meditation cushion, yoga blocks can also be used as an alternative, or you can stack a few small cushions to create a firm seat.
A bolster is a large rectangular or cylindrical support filled with various materials, such as cotton or buckwheat hulls.
How to use:
- Depending on its size and shape, it may be used to sit similarly to the meditation cushion.
- However, its most popular use is for propping up the knees in a lying down meditation position.
- This can help to calm the nervous system and may be used for a more relaxed style of meditation.
Alternatives: If you don't have a bolster, you may be able to use rolled-up cushions or blankets under your knees as a substitute.
3. Eye mask, or eye pillow
An eye mask can be made of silk or cotton, or any supple material that covers the eye area, fastened around the head with elastic. An eye pillow is a small, slightly weighted rectangular pillow large enough to cover the eyes. Covering the eyes can support meditation by limiting distractions and naturally encouraging an internal focus.
How to use:
- An eye mask may be used for both seated meditation and lying-down meditation.
- A weighted eye pillow can only be used while lying down.
- Adjust the pillow to lie comfortably over the eyes, alternatively, it can also be relaxing to lay the weighted eye pillow on your forehead.
Alternatives: If you don’t have an eye mask to hand, you can substitute by gently tying a scarf around your eyes if seated or lying it across your eyes while lying down.
4. Singing bowl
Meditation singing bowls consist of a bowl and a mallet. The mallet is tapped against the bowl to create a ringing sound and can be gently dragged around the edge of the bowl to accentuate and prolong the healing sound. Singing bowls can be used to bring a calming focus to a meditation practice. The sounds of a singing bowl may be a helpful meditation tool to bring you into the right mindset for a powerful meditation.
How to use:
- Many people like to begin their practice by playing the singing bowl and allowing its soothing and healing frequencies to relax and focus their minds.
- One technique is to begin your meditation by tapping the mallet against the singing bowl and listening intently to the ringing, noticing how long you can hear the sound.
- Alternatively, you may want to experience a more interactive meditation by continuing to play the singing bowl throughout your meditation time.
5. Mala beads
Mala beads are sometimes also known as prayer beads and are often used for meditation using mantra repetition, known as japa. They consist of 108 beads, a sacred number in Hindu traditions, and one large ‘guru’ bead. The beads are usually made of glass or wood.
How to use:
- Hold the mala in your right hand, allowing it to lie between your middle and index fingers.
- Starting from the guru bead, use your thumb and middle finger to count each bead, gently pulling it towards you to the next bead.
- Recite your chosen mantra as you ‘count’ each bead.
- This will mean that you repeat the mantra 108 times until you reach the guru bead again.
If you choose to continue the mantra meditation, reverse the direction of your counting rather than passing over the guru bead.
A timer is perhaps a simple but overlooked tool for meditation. However, the correct timer sound may enhance your practice rather than cause a jarring end to your relaxing meditation experience.
Most of us will use the timers available to us on our phones. If so, take a look at the settings and see if there are other more relaxing sounds for your timer, such as a bell or at least a more gentle alarm sound. This can make a big difference in how you feel when you end your meditation practice.
Additional tools to enhance your meditation space
There are other smaller tools which may help to create an inviting environment to elevate your meditation practice, such as:
- Candles. Lighting a candle can be a ritualistic experience and allow you to get into the mind-frame of meditation. You can also use the candle as a point of focus to begin your meditation by watching the movement and flickering of the small flame.
- Incense. Similarly to the candle, lighting incense can also enhance a meditation practice by creating a ritualistic feeling to prepare your space and your mind to meditate.
- Crystals. If you enjoy crystals, you may want to incorporate them into your meditation space or even hold them during your meditation practice.
- Blankets. Having plenty of blankets to wrap around your shoulders or waist while seated, or to lay over you while lying down can help to keep you warm and comfortable to enjoy your meditation practice.
As a beginner, what meditation tools should you start with?
For beginners to meditate, it is probably best not to rush into buying any costly equipment. There is no necessary equipment needed to meditate, even though these tools have the potential to greatly improve one's practice.
If you are new to meditation, you might want to start with simpler tools like a candle and using blankets and cushions to support your posture. You can also try some of the above-mentioned substitutes for the meditation tools.
Making meditation a regular, daily practice is the key to reaping its benefits. If you are finding it difficult to accomplish this, consider what might be preventing you. It is common to struggle with discomfort or difficulty focusing. If so, you should think about what meditation tools could help you with this. For example, you could use a mala bead to bring focus and intention to your meditation practice, or you could use a cushion or bolster to allow for greater comfort. Experiment with these tools to find what works best for you.
Will meditation tools improve your meditation practice?
While these meditation tools may make meditation more comfortable, your practice will still require your dedication and commitment. However, if you struggle to commit to a daily practice, enhancing your meditation space with comfortable equipment, warming blankets, candles, and incense is likely to make the experience more enjoyable and inviting.
Is it necessary to use meditation tools?
Meditation tools are not necessarily needed to meditate; however, many people find that they can significantly enhance their meditation practice. For example, a meditation cushion may help you find a more comfortable seated position, allowing you to meditate for longer. Additionally, if you are looking for ways to deepen your meditation practice, you may consider tools such as mala beads or singing bowls to expand your experience of meditation.
If you’re on a budget, what items are best to begin with?
As described above, there are a few ways to substitute for a meditation cushion, a bolster, or an eye mask using rolled-up blankets, pillows, and soft fabrics. However, if you are serious about meditation, a traditional meditation cushion is likely to elevate your practice by allowing you to find the correct posture. Other items may be considered more luxurious additions to an already dedicated meditation practice.
- Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Can Meditation Slow Rate of Cellular Aging? Cognitive Stress, Mindfulness, and Telomeres.
- Pubmed. Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation.