Meditation 2.0

The latest trends in meditation make it easier than ever to find some zen.

Meditation is currently having a major moment. And even though the practice has been around for thousands of years, what's interesting about mediation in 2016 is the way people are doing it. A lot of it has to do with tech.

“We've become accustomed to everything being at our fingertips via technology,” says Megan Monahan, director of meditation at Wanderlust studio in Los Angeles. “As much as meditation requires nothing but you, I think the addition of tech to support a practice can be a great tool,” she says.

Smartphone apps like Headspace are continuing to maintain top-seller status in the app stores—and they’re infiltrating the corporate and pop culture worlds, too. Employees at companies like Google have unlimited access to mindfulness apps, and characters on the Showtime series Billions can sometimes be seen using them in scenes. Delta recently started featuring selections from the OMG I Can Meditate app on its in-flight screens to help calm stressed-out travelers.

Gadgets strictly dedicated to meditation are also proving to be useful tools. Take the Muse, for instance. The sleek, sensor-equipped headband pairs with a smartphone app and monitors your brain activity while you meditate and focus on your breath. It’s similar to a heart rate monitor, and works like this: You listen to a calming soundscape (think rainforest or beach sounds), which gets louder when you get distracted, and lowers when you’re in a calm zone. The device also tracks your progress, so you can see how your meditating improves (or needs improvements) with each practice. “There's an element of fun and ability to track your meditation practice that tech introduces,” Monahan says.

Muse has been on the market since last year, and soon, consumers will find meditation gadgets that involve even more of an immersive experience.“Virtual reality is the future of meditation,” says Suze Yalof Schwartz, founder of Unplug, a modern meditation studio in Los Angeles. (The influx of studios opening in major cities—there’s also The Den in L.A. and MNDFL in New York City—is another big trend.) As VR readers become more popular, Yalof Schwartz sees them being important accomplices to people’s practices.

Tech company Cigna is taking it a step further with its Virtual Relaxation Pod. The cocoon-like chair employs an Oculus Rift headset and headphones to transport you to a Zen garden, tropical beach, or woodland campsite. The contraption recently made its debut during a stint at NYC store Story, where shoppers could spend two minutes in a relaxed, virtual environment.

And what’s next after virtual reality? Yalof Schwartz predicts mediation going even more mainstream. “I think within five years, we’ll see meditation being part of the curriculum in schools,” she says.